By John McCredie

After taking the D-Max LSU for a drive last week, this week we are having a drive of the top of the range D-Max X-Terrain.

The X-Terrain features coloured guard flares and matching coloured grille. It also has a nicely matched and sleek Aero bar on the back with a roller tooneau cover.  The tub also comes lined, but as we’d find out after our off road trip, the roller cover and rear doors are not dust proof and on a dusty road, your gear is going to need a clean once you reach your destination.

There’s also a walk away door lock system with remote engine start and keyless start button. We didn’t try the remote engine start, but It’s probably a feature you’ll only use on the hottest of days when you can start the car AND the air-con before getting in.

The wheels on the X-Terrain and also the LSU are 18” with Disc Brakes on the front and Drum brakes on the rear.

Under the bonnet and just like the LSU we previously drove, the new engine in the D-Max is a 3 litre common rail, direct fuel injected 4 cylinder intercooled turbo diesel. It has 140kw of power and 450Nm of torque with maximum torque achieved at just 1600 rpm.

The other big difference between the LSU and X-Terrain is the leather seats that are in this model, and, unlike the LSU, all the seat adjustments are electric. The seating positioning and the seats themselves are nice and comfortable and we really enjoyed driving this car on the bitumen.

Speaking of driving it on the bitumen, just like the LSU we drove last week, the X-Terrain handles well and felt very stable pushing it through the corners. We are in a 6 speed auto and from 3rd gear up, the torque converter in the gearbox locks up to help with fuel economy.

My first impressions of this ute was that it was quiet with no noticeable vibrations, but now I’ve had an opportunity to take it on a longer drive, you can feel engine vibrations in certain rev ranges and when you push the revs up higher, the engine noise is more noticeable than when we did our tests of the LSU around the Sydney Suburbs.

Cruising along on a country road in the X-Terrain is a pleasure and with all the creature comforts in the cabin, it would be a great vehicle to take on a long trip.

For our off-road journey, we’ve come west of Sydney to the forests surrounding the Lost City. This area suffered from the recent bush fires and quite a bit of the bush in this area is still suffering from the affects.

The first thing I noticed when we hit the dirt road was how stiff the suspension is. You tend to feel every bump in the road and in some cases, we did experience a bit of bump steer. We did have an empty load and so you can expect the suspension to act differently once you throw some luggage and a bit camping gear in the back of the ute.  These vehicles are designed to carry a load, so it’s not surprising they’re not ideal empty, but we have driven other new utes, like the Triton that in my opinion are better in this area.

There is a few things I really like about the 4WD design elements of the new D-Max. One of them is the steel under-body protection with a sump guard and a transfer case guard that are a good size and well positioned to provide good protection.

One of the things that always concerns me when testing any new car in the bush are side steps. The ones on the D-Max look great and match in well to the vehicle styling, but I was pleased to find that on our first test track we were well clear of all of the obstacles and not once did we scrape them.

The ground clearance is a decent 240mm, which is more than a similar Hilux or Triton and will clearly help keep the side steps in good condition.

The hill start assist worked a treat when climbing up a few of the tracks and we tried out the hill descent control and it too was easy to use and kept the car at a nice even pace coming down the section we tested it. Sometimes the hill descent can be a bit too fast, but the travel speed of the D-Max hill descent was ok for my liking.

Traction control for off-roading has been standard in 4WD’s for many years and is getting better all the time, and we found the traction control in the D-Max working well over the undulating ground and small rock climbs. It’s not quite as good when it lifts a wheel and sometimes struggled to get forward momentum and I think the traction control isn’t as good as other cars I’ve driven off road, including some much older model 4WDs.

But, there is a rear diff lock and when we had it engaged, it climbed up all of the obstacles with ease.  The rear diff lock is also a standard feature on all of the 4 wheel drive models in the range.

Low range is easily selectable with the dial on the centre console and this disengages the traction control.  You can go from 2 High to 4 High at speeds of up to 100km, but as expected, you need to be stopped and in neutral or park to change into low range. With the diff lock on, the low range capability of the D-Max is very good and we felt exceptionally comfortable over all of the ground we covered in our short off-road test.

In this model, the wading depth is 800mm which is a good depth for most 4-wheel drive trips that the average family will do. We didn’t get to test it on a water crossing, but the specifications state that this wading depth is only applicable when the car is moving at 7km/h or more. Otherwise the depth is just 350mm. So, this is something to consider if you decide to stop or you get stuck, in the middle of a river.

For the final part of our short off-road adventure in the new D-Max, we’ve found a few slippery areas with mud and a few small climbs to try out. The standard tyres on this model and across the 4wd Range is a Highway Terrain tread. Obviously, this isn’t ideal for serious 4 wheel driving and your first purchase after buying a D-Max will probably be a decent set of all terrain tyres.

  • The front approach angle on the X-Terrain is 30.5 degrees.

  • The ramp over angle is 23.8 degrees

  • The departure angle is 24.2 degrees

The X-Terrain managed to navigate the mud and slippery surface quite well. We are in 4 high without the diff lock on, and the this is where I noticed the traction control not working as well as it could. I think there is some improvements that could be made in this area to help with wheel slippage.

We’ve only had one day to try out the all new D-Max X-Terrain off road, but it felt very capable, comfortable and stable on the tracks we covered.  The suspension on this ute is the only thing that I didn’t like, but it is very similar in feel to one of the most popular utes on the market.

As I mentioned earlier, this D-Max is a 6 speed auto, but there is also a 6 speed manual option. The gearing works well off road, but you can put it into manual mode to select the gears yourself if required. But for our whole off-road trip, we didn’t feel the need to change into manual mode and left the electronics in the gearbox in charge of gear selection.

In conclusion, the off-road capability of this 4WD ute is very good and perfectly suited to most tracks and conditions that the average 4WDer is likely to tackle.

If you’re looking for a 4WD Ute that is feature rich, with an extensive list of safety systems, handles well and looks great, then you should definitely add the D-Max to your test-drive list.