What car do you think Wesley Snipes would drive?
Can you see the star of Demolition Man pottering about in a Prius? No, neither can I.
What’s needed is something a bit more bruitish. Perhaps even a little tricked out.
Step forward purveyor of fine goods wagons, Isuzu, and their usefully utilitarian D-Max pick-up.
Borrowing the title of Wesley’s 1998 vampire romp and chucking five grand’s worth of goodies in its general direction has resulted in this, the Isuzu D-Max Blade.
It’s got “get out of my way, blood sucker” written all over it. We think Mr Snipes would approve.
Available in either Cosmic Black or Splash White, the Blade rides on a set of grey 18-inch alloy wheels cool enough to have their own name – ‘Shadow’.
Styling tweaks include a matte grey front grille, black door handles, black roof bars, a black rear bumper, chunky side steps, and a holy water dispenser for dealing with those pesky vamps. Oh, wait, that last one’s an option.
Speaking of options, there’s a choice of either an Aeroklas hard-top or a Mountain Top roller cover, but whichever top you choose, there’s an under-rail bed liner included. Handy for stopping your swords and crossbows from damaging the load bay.
That load bay is slightly shorter but a little wider than that of a Toyota Hilux, and can easily accommodate a Euro pallet between the wheel-arches. Maximum payload is 1,063kg, and the D-Max follows that up with impressive towing credentials, with a 3.5 tonne rating for a braked trailer, beating the Hilux by 700kg.
Inside, the Blade gets heated leather seats, climate control that’s operated by single chunky dial in the centre stack, and a Pioneer stereo and navigation system with reversing camera.
Compared to the Hilux, the D-Max has more interior space on offer, although in common with the Toyota the Isuzu’s steering wheel only adjusts for height, not reach.
Many of the interior plastics feature a smooth finish that no doubt makes them easy to wipe clean if you get blood… I mean, dirt, on them, but that also makes them scratch easily.
Still, everything’s in largely the right place, and the instruments are clear and easy to read if you’re prone to wearing sunglasses at all times of the day. There’s also a well-featured trip computer that even includes a screen to report on the status of the DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter).
Finding storage for crosses and UV bullets shouldn’t be much of an issue, with not one but two glove-boxes, one of which has its own power point, plus there’s another cubby on top of the dash and a couple of slots for phones and other gadgets.
The Pioneer navigation system does everything you could reasonably ask of it, and includes full UK post code recognition, although next to Toyota’s Touch & Go system it does look a little dated.
Ferrying your accomplices from one vampire safe-house to the next shouldn’t yield too many complaints, with the rear seats offering a healthy if somewhat upright seating position. The seat back can be folded forward to create a flat load surface, or the seat bases can be flipped up and tied back for carrying larger items. Plus there’s a pair of small underfloor compartments, although one is home to the jack and other tools.
Lugging all this about is Isuzu’s 2.5-litre twin-turbodiesel, and it produces a suitably robust 163PS and 400Nm of torque – 20PS more than the 2.5-litre unit in the Hilux and only 6PS less than Toyota’s 3.0-litre. In both cases, though, the Isuzu has more torque – almost 60Nm more, in fact.
It’s also more efficient, with CO2 emissions of 192 g/km compared to 203 for the 3.0-litre Hilux, with an official economy figure of 38.7mpg compared to the Toyota’s 36.7mpg.
Couple that with a 69 litre fuel tank and a 600-mile theoretical range and there’ll be little reason to cut short a night’s vamp hunt before dawn arrives, and even at the 34mpg we recorded during our testing, that’s still a range of around 530 miles – a figure we’d struggle to achieve in the Hilux.
On the road, the Blade’s power-plant feels strong, if a little laggy off the line in first gear, but once it’s rolling the D-Max feels suitably urgent as you rifle your way through its six-speed ‘box.
A five-speed auto is available, and while the six-speed manual shifts cleanly enough, it’s not as precise as the Toyota’s five-speed unit, and sixth gear is particularly tall rendering it an overdrive gear best reserved for flat motorways.
Whichever transmission you choose, the D-Max’s cabin isn’t what you’d call quiet, but at least the noises emanating from the engine bay are appropriately truck-like. There’s quite a bit of wind noise around the doors, too.
It rides with a little more composure than the Hilux, its dampers seeming to have a better fix on the body’s movements, and although there is still a tendency to crash over cat’s eyes and pot holes, at speed it feels incredibly stable. That’s despite the almost complete lack of feedback through the hydraulically-assisted steering, although that’s a trait that won’t be a surprise to anyone who’s driven a pick-up before.
Should Mr Snipes find himself chasing blood-suckers away from the tarmac, he might need to make use of the part-time four-wheel-drive system. It’s electronically engaged via a dial mounted by the gear-lever and this allows the D-Max to be switched into 4WD mode at speeds up to 60mph. Switching into low-range requires the truck to be stationary and in neutral.
It’s a mechanically simple 4×4 system, which is just the way we like it, but while the Hilux has an electrically-engaged locking rear differential on 2.5-litre models and a limited-slip diff on the 3.0-litre, the D-Max has neither, and despite the presence of an electronic traction control function it’s not difficult to spin up a rear wheel on slippery surfaces.
If you’re into stats, the D-Max matches the 30-degree approach angle of the Hilux, with a 23-degree departure angle compared to the Toyota’s 22, and a breakover of 22 compared to 25 of the Toyota.
Ground clearance of 235mm beats the 212mm of the Hilux, and although Isuzu don’t quote an official wading depth, the air intake’s location inside the front wing should offer good protection.
If you’re in the market for a new pick-up and have both the Hilux and D-Max on your shortlist, by now you’ll have probably started to build up a picture of swings and roundabouts – some things the D-Max does better, other things are done better by the Hilux.
The Toyota perhaps has the more hard-wearing cabin, for instance, while the D-Max has more space. The Isuzu has more ground clearance, but the Hilux does a better job of maintaining traction. And while the D-Max feels more urgent on the road, its gearing means it’s nearly four seconds slower to 60.
Fortunately for the D-Max, there is one area where it scores a clear victory over the Toyota, and that’s price. The Blade special edition is priced at £24,995 CVOTR or £29,938 including VAT. Kit a Hilux out to a similar level and you’ll be looking at around £31,500.
Not only that, but just like those vanquished by Mr Snipes, the Toyota is looking a little long in the tooth now, whereas the D-Max – and the Blade in particular – feels much more up-to-date.
|Entry-level Price||£23,043 (Premium DCab)||Price as tested||£29,938 inc. VAT|
|Engine||4-cyl twin-turbodiesel, 2499cc||Transmission||Six-speed manual|
|Power||163PS @ 3,600rpm||Torque||400Nm @ 1,400-2,000rpm|
|0-62||16.0 secs||Top speed||112 mph|
|Economy||38.7 mpg||CO2||192 g/km|
|Dimensions||5295 x 1860 x 1785 (LWH)||Kerb Weight||1978 kg|