PORT ELIZABETH – Do you feel like you're always just missing the cut? Trying to reach the points goal on some reward programme, earning enough to qualify for that mortgage on your dream home, or being able to afford that special edition double cab bakkie? Now, thanks to some clever marketing from Isuzu, the X-Rider Black limited edition is available for only R426 000; dramatically undercutting any special-edition rival in its segment.

The concept

In the case of rival's special-edition offerings, the additional special-edition bling, go-faster stipes and updated interior is often added to a top-of-the-range 4x4 double cab model costing in excess of R600 000. In the case of the Isuzu Black, the base is a humble 2,5-litre, X-Rider rear-wheel drive version. Throw in classy black metallic paint, 18-inch black alloy wheels sporting all-terrain rubber and black roof rails and Isuzu Black makes quite a style statement, punching above its price tag.

Getting inside (via key-less entry) one notices the black leather seats with red stitching, the 8-inch touchscreen and black inserts on the door panels. Red “X-Rider” accents lift the otherwise sombre ambience. The manual air conditioning and absence of cruise-control buttons on the steering wheel are give-aways to this D-Max's lower-tier placing.

Conservative power

The Black edition is powered by the 100 kW, 320 N.m 2,5-litre turbodiesel unit. It obviously lacks the top-end punch of the 3,0-litre D-Teq (130 kW/380 N.m) unit but the in-gear acceleration is closer to that of its big brother than expected, owing to  a torque deficit of just 60 N.m. Subjectively, the unit also seems slightly more refined and the claimed fuel consumption is 7,7 L/100 km (although we saw an indicated figure of closer to 10 L/100 km on the launch route).

On the road

The driving experience is typically Isuzu-old-school, with the sturdy, long-throw manual transmission (the only option for the Black) enforcing the fact. There is no reach adjustment on the steering wheel and the ride over the bumpy roads surrounding Port Elizabeth is jittery, falling some way behind that of its rivals. It is obviously an ageing product, with the international reveal of the replacement taking place towards the end of the month. That's not to say it's a bad vehicle as it feels solid from behind the wheel and the D-Max's mechanical reliability is proven. Factor in the strong brand loyalty of the customer base and it's little surprise the Isuzu still sells in excess of a 1 000 units each month.

Summary

The venue for the glamourous evening function of the Black was not at some exclusive or expensive location but held in the Isuzu factory. This not only showed journalist the cleanliness and order inside the impressive facility, but it also brought another point home: you do not need to be a celebrity (or earn their salary) to experience a chic event, or indeed drive a “black tie” bakkie. In this sense, Isuzu needs to be congratulated for launching a fitting swansong to the present D-Max line that allows normal folks to also make the cut.



FAST FACTS

Model: Isuzu D-Max 2,5 TD Doube Cab X-Rider Black 
Price: R462 000
Engine: 2,5-litre, inline four, turbodiesel 
Power: 100 kW @ 3 400 
Torque: 320 N.m @ 1 800 N.m 
0-100 km/h: n/a 
Top Speed: n/a 
Fuel Consumption: 7,7 L/100 km 
CO2: 203 g/km 
Transmission: 5-speed manual 
Maintenance Plan: S5/90 000 km