Isuzu are the oldest Japanese commercial vehicle manufacturer. They’ve been manufacturing vehicles since 1916.
In the UK they are known for their tough, hardworking, dependable commercial vehicles, predominantly pickups.
In recent years they've become more practical, more comfortable and nicer to drive. This was helped by the continually increasing company car users tax bills and the fact that a pickup is a commercial vehicle and as such, attracts a low, flat rate of tax for the user.
This has led to a whole new category being spawned; lifestyle.
A lifestyle pickup is a vehicle that is like a luxury 4x4 inside but has the practicality of a pickup. Just about every manufacturer has a toe in this water and has a lifestyle variant in their range.
Isuzu have a couple of contenders that fall into the lifestyle arena; the awesome D-Max AT35 Arctic truck and the D-Max Blade.
The AT35 is really the top of the tree, and too extreme for most, whilst the Blade is very nice, very well engineered with great driving manners and equipment, if a bit subtle.
To capitalise on the lifestyle sector, Isuzu have created their secret weapon. It's called the XTR.
This is a UK exclusive model and is aimed squarely at those customers who like to personalise and modify their trucks. Aftermarket modifications are a big thing with many customers opting for wide arches, sidesteps, suspension modifications and much more. As a result, there are now a plethora of companies that offer drive in, drive out services.
Think of Isuzu's XTR as a factory modified truck. That means that all of the components used are certified, tested, safe and warrantied.
I was invited to test the XTR on the UK launch…...and test it I did.
Our first leg was a 20 minute road drive to familiarise us with the truck. I've driven quite a few pickups and love them. Generally they offer the road manners of a 4x4 but with the practicality of a pickup. Gone are the days of a harsh, utilitarian work tool.
We arrived at the first off road section in the pouring rain. This was a wood somewhere in North Wales.
Now, I've done a bit of off roading over the years but this was another level. We were guided through a very serious and challenging off road route that took the XTR to, and past, it's limits. Rain had pounded the track making it a treacherous and precarious route.
We experienced everything from inclined, hairpin turns that lifted wheels, to fallen trees and hidden tree stumps that threatened to break the axles. Deep mud and pools of water meant that grip was hard to find and the XTR slipped and slithered along the track, often in mud so deep it was resting on the sturdy side steps. With patient, technique and guidance, we made it through, demonstrating very well how unbelievable this thing is off road.
From the woods we headed to an old quarry for a different kind of off road experience. This was an old slate quarry so slippery, and with a surface that moved and changed as you travel over it. Large rocks, small sharp shards of slate and everything in between. Here we traversed some very steep inclines and declines that really tested the hill descent, off road traction control and low range gearbox to the limit. Some of the drops were so steep I had to brace myself against the windscreen while the rear axle went light. I can honestly say the off-road capability of the D-Max XTR is incredible. It left me speechless (apart from several expletives I won't mention here).
I mentioned before that Isuzu's XTR is here to compete with the aftermarket custom builders. In this sector image and customisation are key. Isuzu have met these objectives head on with sophisticated and aggressive styling, Increased capability and bespoke specification. This is a factory custom pickup with handpicked custom and performance parts.
Externally there is an aggressive body kit consisting of front bumper guard, bonnet protector, headlight surrounds and big wheel arch extensions. A new rear bumper and light frames and raptor coated tailgate spoiler. Decals are optional but I like them and the bigger the better. There's also some cool, unique and durable new side steps.
Isuzu have carefully selected some very cool and serious upgrades for the XTR; Pedders lifted suspension and brakes with green springs and calipers, a new rear anti-roll bar and vented and slotted front brake discs with kevlar ceramic pads.The longer suspension articulation means they had to design a new top wishbone to ensure the geometry worked. It's this kind of engineering that sets the XTR apart from aftermarket modified vehicles. Suspension is set up with springs and shock absorbers tuned for a more comfortable and refined ride. 17” bespoke XTR alloy wheels wrapped in 32" Pirelli Scorpion™ all terrain plus tyres do a brilliant job on and off road.
Inside there are leather and suede bespoke XTR heated seats, infotainment system and everything you would expect from a luxury SUV. It's a lovely place to be.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of a good pickup. I really like the way they drive, you feel safe and people give you room. You're not constantly pressured and bullied by other road users. The XTR is well equipped, incredibly capable, it looks fantastic and is well priced, starting at £33,999 CVOTR. You can have a manual or auto. I prefer manual off road but auto on road. Isuzu have created a secret weapon for sure here. It's a serious piece of kit and I expect will sell very well. It deserves to.