Cars > Encounter

Experiencing the new Isuzu D-Max and Mu-X on and off the road

How are these vehicles when it comes to safety and off-roading?

The group had an early start to the day. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

While crossovers are becoming more popular for city driving, pickups and similar sport-utility vehicles still have the edge for more rugged uses. Isuzu Philippines has just updated the D-Max and the Mu-X, and it invited us for a drive to Clark to try out their features.

Among of the selling points for modern cars are advanced driver assistance systems. While brands usually have a fancy name for this, Isuzu simply calls it ADAS. The automaker was pretty eager to showcase them to the point that it closed off parts of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium so we could try them out.

The D-Max feels more nimble than the Mu-X. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The 10-inch infotainment screen is legible, but it can also be distracting. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
With four people inside the D-Max, some cargo had to be transferred to another Mu-X due to lack of space. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Guiding the ADAS is a Smart Duo camera at the front, which makes use of dual 3D sensors for better depth perception and a wider field of view. The first feature that was tested was the pedal misapplication mitigation.

This kicks in when there is something in front of the car, and the driver accidentally goes on full throttle after shifting from park mode and disengaging the electronic parking brake.

When activated, the throttle is disengaged so the vehicle doesn’t suddenly and unintentionally accelerate. Trying it out myself, the feature worked as described with the car coasting even with the gas pedal being floored.

There was a short slalom course for us to feel the driving dynamics of the cars. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
The red light is the forward collision warning at work. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT
Can you see the orange icon of the blind spot monitoring? PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The next feature that was tested was the autonomous emergency braking (AEB). This works in conjunction with the forward collision warning (FCW), where the driver hears a beeping noise if the car detects something nearby up front. And if no action is taken, then the vehicle will automatically slow down.

You would appreciate this if you’ve ever been hit or nearly hit by a car while crossing the street. But during my testing, the AEB isn’t as proactive as I’d like since it waits until the last minute before activating.

Because of this, I’d beat it to the punch by prematurely stepping on the brakes. And even the others had difficulty out of force of habit. Also, the car has to be running at a speed of at least 35km/h, so if it dips below that, then the feature won’t work.

We appreciated the convenience of these minor features. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The adaptive cruise control (ACC) allows the driver to set a cruising speed as well as the following distance. And if the vehicle in front slows down, then the car automatically adjusts. This is pretty convenient as there’s no need to keep your foot on the gas pedal.

But it wasn’t exactly designed for bumper-to-bumper traffic like in the city. According to an Isuzu representative, the Mu-X will only wait up to five minutes from a complete stop before disengaging ACC, while the D-Max’s waiting time is even shorter at two seconds. That’s supposedly because the former has an electronic parking brake instead of a manual one.

Frequently checking the side mirrors for oncoming vehicles is a habit of good drivers. However, there are times when people forget, which is why blind spot monitoring can be helpful. Orange indicators on the side mirror light up in case of oncoming vehicles. But it’s positioned at the outer edge.

So, by the time your eyes glance at it, it would have been pointless—since you would’ve scanned through the entire side mirror. Also, it could be improved if there were an auditory signal like with the FCW.

It's as if these photos were taken straight out of a movie like 'Jurassic Park.' PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

The highlight of the trip for me was the off-roading along the Sacobia River. Last time I was in the area, I was on my gravel bike. So, I was curious what it would be like to experience an SUV in its proper habitat. Isuzu takes pride in being a truckmaker known for the durability and the reliability of its vehicles.

According to the company, 4×4 enthusiasts will benefit from the 4JJ3-TCX engine, the underbody chassis protection, the one-piece aluminum driveshaft, and a built-in inclinometer on its 10-inch infotainment system. But since I did not get the opportunity to get behind the wheel, I only got to experience it as a passenger.

In spite of having gone through rocks, volcanic ash, and streams of water, all units made it to Acea Subic Beach Resort with no problems. Upon rolling up to the hotel driveway, the staff was curious about where the group had come from.

The Isuzu Mu-X and D-Max look like capable off-roaders. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

In the end, I learned that while cars such as the Isuzu D-Max and Mu-X aren’t best suited for city driving due to their size and weight, they’re good for out-of-town trips especially when there’s off-roading involved.

Just because these are truck-based vehicles doesn’t mean they can’t be comfortable, especially with the creature comforts present. It’s impressive how autonomous cars are getting these days because of ADAS. But systems like these aren’t perfect, so drivers shouldn’t be completely dependent on them.

NOTE: Only the LS-E variants of the Isuzu D-Max and Mu-X have ADAS.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.