A bit like Vegemite, the first impression raised when you encounter a Mahindra Pik Up is love or hate – with one motoring journalist saying it had looks “only a mother could love.”
Being a good bastard (I think that’s what the wife called me!) and knowing that the good buggers at Isuzu NZ were sending me the latest D-Max to review, it was time to tackle the list.
Our steed for the week was the range-topping D-Max X-Terrain, which arrived in a dark grey cloak with sharp lines, looking like something the baddies would be driving in the latest James Bond movie.
Replacing the outgoing D-Max that had served NZ for around eight years, the latest version is a new vehicle from the ground up. Isuzu hasn’t set out to replace items that aren’t broken, but has added features and refinements that bring it bang up to date, achieving a 5-star ANCAP safety rating along the way.
The chassis has been beefed up, incorporating higher grade steel, making it both lighter and more rigid than the old model. Overall, the D-Max is 30mm shorter overall, but 30mm longer in the wheelbase.
The new 3.0 litre turbodiesel gets 10kW more power, now 140kW, and 20 Nm more torque, now 450Nm, with an instant impression of more low down grunt that comes into its own in off-road situations. The powerplant does what it says on the tin and while its numbers might seem a little low compared to the competition, it has plenty of grunt for all conditions.
A six-speed auto transmission mates with a 4WD set-up that is now more refined, alongside a selectable diff-lock and a hillside descent control function. A trip into the lower paddocks to deal with an old tree didn’t present any problems. And, if it did get wet, the D-Max’s wading depth of 800mm would have made things a breeze.
The top-end variant – in reality, a street fighter in the same vein as the Ranger Wildtrak – is the apex of a range that encompasses 15 models, from the entry-level LX base through LS and LS-M variants, most of which feature HD chassis and suspension componentry giving 3.5 tonne towing capacity and 970kg payload.
Out on the Waikato’s rural roads, that 5-star ANCAP safety rating becomes apparent by way of functions such as active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assistance and new centre console air bags. Easily adjustable to suit all sizes, comfortable, well appointed seats carry some good quality cow hides and offer plenty of room for front and rear seat occupants, while the overall fit and finish in the cabin appears to gone up a couple of notches and sits up there with the best.