It’s not necessary that something utilitarian can’t be fun. Sure, a horse might be quite adept at pulling a carriage, but straddle that thing and you’ll be holding on for dear life. Pick-up trucks seem to have that same intoxicating effect. They may look like stretched-out SUVs, but underneath lies a beastly creature, ready to lug your stuff around. The D-Max V-Cross from Isuzu is one such beast. It has the comfort and refinement of an SUV, a flatbed to lug around whatever you see fit, rugged go-anywhere potential and behemoth proportions.
Tata and Mahindra have taken a crack at this segment before with the Xenon XT and the Scorpio Getaway. Isuzu even introduced the D-Max earlier in 2014 with a single cab, and though it was very capable, it felt very basic in comparison to other modern SUVs. Also, it could only be registered as a commercial vehicle (CV), which kept it beyond the reach of private owners. But now, with the double-cab D-Max V-Cross, Isuzu has dipped into the niche segment of private pick-up trucks. Yes, a similarly priced SUV could do most things the V-Cross does, in less of a utilitarian get-up. But wouldn’t transporting that dirt bike just look so much cooler when displayed outside?
From afar, the V-Cross has that typical bulky pick-up truck silhouette and it’s got a strong road presence. It shares its hardware with the Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV and elements like the doors and windows are the most obvious common bits. Up front, it sports a muscular, chromed front grille that’s flanked by large, pulled-back projector headlights.
The storage bed of the V-Cross integrates well with the cabin, and is lined with a durable, waterproof hard-plastic layer. There are also four solid metal hooks around the cargo deck, for tie-downs, that’ll keep your stuff from flying off.
Climbing into the tall V-Cross is easy, thanks to the well-placed steps on either side. Once inside, you’ll realise the front seats are relatively large and comfortable. The seat is manually adjustable, and so is the steering wheel, but only for tilt. The dashboard is well laid out and solidly put together for a pick-up truck, and the central console bears a stark resemblance to that of the Chevrolet Trailblazer. The instrument cluster sports analogue dials for the tachometer and speedometer, and also gets a digital display that provides fuel and trip information and tells you which 4x4 mode the car is in.
The Isuzu also gets a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that is equipped with USB, aux and Bluetooth connectivity. However, the lack of rear parking sensors or camera makes reversing this large vehicle quite a task. The real surprise, though, is the amount of space in the rear seats. Despite looking deceptively small, there’s lots of legroom, headroom and width, and there’s even a central armrest. The only niggle here is that the seats are a bit low set and upright.
Even though the V-Cross’s 2.5-litre engine produces a reasonable 136hp, it churns out a whole 320Nm of torque. Twist the key in the ignition and the diesel engine growls and vibrates to life, but soon settles into a relaxed idle. The V-Cross pulls smoothly off the line and you’ll notice that the gearbox and light clutch work relatively smoothly. Refinement is quite remarkable, given the purely utilitarian disposition of its predecessor.
While driving through crawling city traffic, its size does prove to be a little bit of a handful, a feeling that’s amplified by its slightly vague and heavy steering. The front suspension, coupled with the big, 70-profile tyres soak up bumps pretty well. However, with a completely empty cargo bed, the rear feels very light. As a result, you can expect some bounce at the rear end when going over bumps.
Highways are where the V-Cross really comes into its element, as there’s always plenty of pulling power on tap to make a getaway. It handles speeds surprisingly well and there’s just a little bit of float at really high speeds. There’s a rotary dial that allows you to shift when on the go, from 2-wheel drive to 4-high and 4-low mode which helps when tackling extra tricky terrain. It’s relatively easy to operate, and coupled with a generous amount of ground clearance, you can really expect the V-Cross to go almost anywhere.
At Rs 12.91 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the D-Max V-Cross is pricier than the competition. But given the space and refinement, it really is more car for your money. It performs decently and comes with most of the creature comforts expected from an SUV in this price bracket. And with its go-anywhere hardware, the V-Cross really is a car that will encourage you to get out and explore. Sadly, there are very few people who would look beyond an SUV and understand the recreational potential of a double-cab pick-up truck. Sure, it may be too big for our roads, but driving around the city is not what the V-Cross was made for. Was it?