DRIVEN: Isuzu D-Max X-Rider takes on three-day Garden Route road trip

Published Mar 20, 2024


By: Mpho Mahlangu

Now in its second generation, the popular X-Rider nameplate now continues in the D-Max, which we recently spent three days behind the wheel of along the beautiful Garden Route.

Although it wasn’t all plain sailing the new model left a lasting first impression on us.

Landing early in the morning in George after a red-eye flight out of the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, we were immediately greeted by a fleet of brand new X-Riders waiting to be taken on the journey that lay ahead.

Three colours were on offer for us to choose from, namely Splash White, Red Spinel and Islay Gray, with Mercury Silver set to join the colour palette from April 2024.

I opted to hop into an Islay Gray unit as it complements the X-Rider exclusive details rather nicely.

Unique styling inside and out

Exterior wise, there’s no denying how striking the X-Rider is.

Though based on the D-Max LS model, the X-Rider is easily distinguishable thanks to its LED headlamps and daytime-running lights, a gloss black grille with red ‘Isuzu’ lettering, ‘X-Rider’ badging around the vehicle, black door handles and mirror covers, 18-inch diamond cut alloy wheels and a black ‘Isuzu’ decal on the tailgate.

Stepping inside the cabin, the X-Rider retains the features found in the LS model, with the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel with a red ‘Isuzu’ badge, red accent elements on the doors and dashboard, red stitching on the gear selector and seats, red ‘X’ embroidery on the leather seats, and model exclusive X-Rider floor mats.

The model also receives a dark headliner. Our road trip tunes were taken care of by a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Setting off from George airport, we pointed the bonnet of the X-Rider to Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, where we’d enjoy an almost three-hour midday game drive. Although I had selected the option of a game-drive myself, I was a tad sceptical about seeing game in the middle of the day with temperatures north of 33 degrees Celsius.

To my surprise, lots was in store of us, with the likes of waterbuck, impala, a pair of lions, giraffes and many more out and about for us to see.

After a relaxed and informative game-drive, we refuelled our bodies with lunch and cold beverages (non-alcoholic of course) and set off once more in our steeds.

1.9-litre engine could use more grunt

Under the bonnet of the X-Rider lies the fuel efficient 1.9-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel mill which we drove from Waterfall in Johannesburg all the way to Signal Hill in Cape Town on one tank of diesel.

The oil-burner in the X-Rider produces 110kW and 350Nm of torque and is mated to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. One can choose between a 4x2 manual, 4x2 automatic or 4x4 automatic. Most of our trek was completed in the 4x2 automatic, which for most people may be sufficient.

Traversing twisty stretches of gravel roads proved to be an effortless task for our steed, with minimal to no fuss whatsoever traction wise. Comfort off the beaten track was also particularly respectable, with Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) levels kept relatively low.

Cruising on the open road was particularly pleasing once at the national limit, however, approaching steep inclines proved to be the X-Rider’s Achilles heel. These instances were perhaps the only moments where one would wish for slightly more power.

Frugal, and great around town

On the other hand, however, we saw the best fuel consumption figures on the open road, with the lowest figure sitting at the 10L/100km mark.

In and around town is where the X-Rider comes into its own. It offers more than sufficient grunt for overtaking manoeuvres and thanks to the standard fitment of rear park assist, and a rear-view camera, tight space manoeuvrability woes are kept minimal. Our final judgements are however reserved for in-depth testing at altitude in Gauteng.

On the safety features front, the Isuzu X-Rider boasts driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags, curtain airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, ABS brakes, electronic brake distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), electronic stability control (ESC) with traction control, hill start assist (HSA), hill descent control (HDC) and trailer sway control (TSC).

With the X-Rider range kick starting at R640,500 for the 4x2 manual model, this represents only a R55,000 premium over the standard LS model, which in that context makes the X-Rider quite an appealing value-for-money proposition considering the niceties you gain. The X-Rider 4x4 automatic is priced at R659,200, with the range-topping 4x4 automatic priced at R740,700.

However way you look at it, there’s no denying that the Isuzu D-MAX X-Rider positions itself as a well-packaged product with hard-to-beat value-for-money.

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