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An Isuzu official has promised even the standard version of the new D-Max will be “close to” the Ford Ranger Raptor in terms of both “toughness” and off-road ability.

Speaking to CarsGuide, Isuzu spokesperson Eiji Mitsuhashi suggested the Japanese firm’s reworked bakkie would be highly capable off the beaten track.

"This new D-Max has a 3,0-litre turbocharged engine, and [will be] close to Raptor in terms of toughness or off-road capability," Mitsuhashi told the publication.

The new-generation model – which will be built both in Thailand and here in South Africa (the latter recently being confirmed as part of a R1,2-billion investment) – is powered by a “newly developed” version of the familiar 3,0-litre turbodiesel engine, with peak outputs hiked to 140 kW (at 3 600 r/min) and 450 N.m (between 1 600 and 2 600 r/min).

It also gains an electromagnetic rear differential lock, while revised suspension and steering (with tilt and telescopic adjustment on the column) ostensibly result in improved “driving stability”.

Interestingly, Mitsuhashi wouldn’t comment directly on the possibility of Isuzu one day building a full-bore rival for the 157 kW Ranger Raptor, which boasts off-road upgrades such as Fox dampers, coil-over rear suspension, a strengthened chassis frame and BF Goodrich tyres.

"This is very close to research and development, so we cannot say. For now, we just want to focus on the launch of the new D-Max. In the future, maybe, but we cannot say anything clear about this possibility at this moment," he said.

Isuzu Motors South Africa says it is “engaging” with the brand’s head office in Japan in a bid to secure production of the new-generation D-Max at its Struandale factory in Port Elizabeth.

The new D-Max (once known here in South Africa as the KB) was recently revealed in Thailand, where it will be produced for a number of export markets. However, the outgoing D-Max is currently also built in South Africa. And the local arm of the Japanese firm is keen to switch over to the new model.

“We are currently engaging with Isuzu to build the next generation of bakkies in South Africa and anticipate that we will get the final approvals for this investment later this year [2019],” Isuzu Motors SA told CARmag.co.za.

“Isuzu is committed to this market as demonstrated by its decision to take over the light commercial vehicle operations as well as the balance of shareholding in the trucks business in South Africa, making this its first fully owned manufacturing and distribution subsidiary outside of Japan,” the firm added.

In February 2019, Isuzu Motors SA officially launched its consolidated truck and bakkie manufacturing plant in Port Elizabeth after an investment of some R27-million.

In mid-2018, the company hit a 40-year manufacturing milestone in South Africa, with the very first locally built Isuzu-badged bakkie having rolled off the production line back in 1978.

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