Pick-up trucks are known to be utilitarian vehicles, but here in India – due to the rarity of this body style – Isuzu has managed to position the V-Cross as a lifestyle vehicle. For 2019, the company has given it a mid-life refresh and upped its premium quotient with features and smaller touches, all of which go well with its lifestyle image. What’s interesting is that this truck is now available with two engine-transmission options – the familiar 2.5-litre diesel engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox, and an all-new 1.9-litre diesel engine mated to a 6-speed automatic. There are now three variants to choose from – Standard, High (Z) and High+ (Z Prestige), priced at Rs 16.54 lakh, Rs 18.07 lakh and Rs 19.99 lakh, respectively (ex-showroom, Delhi). Out of these, the range-topping ‘Z Prestige’ variant exclusively gets the new 1.9-litre diesel engine mated to the 6-speed automatic transmission and it’s this new variant which we’ll focus on.
What is it?
The Isuzu V-Cross is a typical ladder-frame pick-up truck that’s equipped with four-wheel drive. Few cars command as much attention as this enormous pick-up truck, which towers over hatchbacks, sedans and the modern crop of compact SUVs; and with a length longer than a Mercedes S-class, the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross is simply massive in terms of dimensions. With the facelift, it got new bi-beam LED headlamps with DRLs, a massive chrome grill, and some chrome inserts around the fog lamps. While the Isuzu now sits on larger 18-inch alloys, there’s still no hiding the massive gaps in the wheel arches. Other new bits on the sides include a new step and there’s a shark-fin antenna on the roof. At the rear, the tail-lamps get some LED elements, and the cargo-gate is slapped with several badges, massive ISUZU lettering, and a chunky chrome bumper, making the rear appear a bit too busy. As before, the cargo area, which boasts of a load carrying capacity of 235-kilos, remains uncovered and the bed cladding is in lined plastic.
What is it like inside?
The insides are where most of the changes have been made. For starters, the interiors are now all-black, which go well with its outdoorsy character, and unlike the earlier beige interiors, these won’t show stains as easily. There are many premium touches like some soft-touch bits on the dashboard fascia and over the hood of the instrument cluster. The seats wear new brown leatherette upholstery, which feels nice. However, the faux carbon-fibre pattern might not be to everyone’s taste. Both the front seats are large and comfy to be in, and the driver’s seat also gets electric adjustment.
The cabin still retains a very practical design with several storage areas, and all the buttons and switches are large, and have a very solid, long-lasting feel to them. The touchscreen, although basic (misses out on Android Auto or Apple CarPlay), works well and the sensitivity is rather good. There are multiple charging provisions too – three USB slots and two 12V sockets. Getting into the rear (like the front) is a bit of a trek however, space here is generous. The seat is a bit low-set and backrest a bit upright, still passengers will be comfortable over long journeys (minus the bumpy ride, but more on that later).
In terms of equipment, this range-topping Z Prestige variant gets cruise control, six airbags, ESP, traction control, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, a reverse camera, a new MID, keyless entry and go, which are all among the notable additions.
What is it like to drive?
The talking point here is the all-new 1,898cc, four-cylinder diesel engine producing 150hp and 350Nm of torque, which is 16hp and 30Nm more than the larger 2.5-litre diesel that’s available on the lower variants. Curiously, at a time when all manufacturers are readying their engines to meet BS6 norms, this new 1.9-litre engine is only BS4-compliant. What Isuzu buyers will appreciate is that the core characteristic of this engine is very similar to the bigger capacity unit; if anything this one feels a bit smoother. The bottom-end is almost as nice as the 2.5’s, and once the turbo is at full boost, around 2,000rpm, performance feels strong. Its power band is narrow and by the time the engine spins to 3,200rpm, power begins to taper off. From thereon there’s more noise than movement until the motor hits its 4,200rpm redline. However, this isn’t a truck you’d want to hustle and max out the revs. Because of its strong mid-range the V-Cross diesel-automatic feels like an effortless cruiser. This 1.9-ton truck sprints from 0-100kph in a respectable 13.22 seconds.
Mated to this engine is an all-new 6-speed automatic (a torque converter unit), which brings some much needed convenience while pottering around town. It works well and does its job rather smoothly, However, put your foot down and there is quite a pause before downshifting. What’s nice is that there’s a manual mode, and those who take it off-the-road will particularly appreciate the fact that it holds on to gears in this mode – it will only downshift automatically if the revs fall too low. A peculiar behavior is that while cruising at steady speeds, lift-off the throttle and the revs fall to idling rpm as the vehicle coasts, thus making the cabin extremely silent – get back on the throttle and the revs shoot up a bit more than usual as the power gushes in. Overall, this motor is quite refined but it does get clattery when under load, which means there’s no hiding from the fact that there’s a big diesel mill under the bonnet.
The D-Max V-Cross gets massive 255/60 tyres, which iron out road imperfections and smaller potholes. Despite riding on 18-inch wheels, it even filters road shocks from the larger bumps. What’s really nice is that this pick-up truck exudes an air of indestructibility from behind the wheel, and not once will it flinch while traversing the worst of road surfaces; even in places where roads don’t exist. The V-Cross is typically rear-wheel drive however, it gets 4-high and 4-low modes as well to tackle some tricky situations and reach places where few SUVs can. This isn’t a direct replacement for a hardcore off-roader like the Mahindra Thar, as its large rear overhang hampers its departure angle. If the cargo bed is empty, the rear wheels often struggle for traction in off-road scenarios. In terms of ride quality, there’s plenty of movement in the cabin at all speeds. It feels rather bouncy, especially at the rear when the cargo bed isn’t loaded up. While the D-Max V-Cross uses a hydraulic steering, it isn’t as direct or sharp as some of the monocoque SUVs – this one feels heavy at low speeds and because of its large turning circle, it is a bit ponderous to drive. On the flipside, its heft infuses confidence in the driver at highway speeds.
Should I buy one?
The V-Cross is a tough-as-nails four-wheel drive pick-up truck that can take you to places few other SUVs can; and it ranks quite high when it comes to utility and capability. The inclusion of an automatic transmission and other parking aids has made this large truck a lot easier to live with than before. Still it isn’t ideal as a daily driver due to its massive size, heavy steering and large turning circle. Then, at Rs 19.99 lakh, this truck is very expensive, especially when you take into account its launch price in 2016 – it cost over Rs 7 lakh less than what it does today. Still, there’s a lot more on offer now with new features, a new engine and new automatic transmission, and to really stand-out from the crowd, it’s a price you won’t mind paying.
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