Isuzu took us to a 260-km northern ride-and-drive to La Union on board the 2018 D-Max pickup and mu-X, both of which now offer the small-but-powerful 1.9-liter RZ4E diesel engine. (The venerable 4JJ1-TCX 3.0-liter diesel is still available.)

The drive, which began at the huge Petron Marilao station along NLEX, aimed to unerscore the fuel efficiency of the state-of-the-art RZ4E engine as well as highlight the refined amenities of the latest D-Max and mu-X.

Members of the media were grouped into six teams (three each for the D-Max and the mu-X) and were challenged to consume the least amount of fuel for a 112-km economy run that started from the initial fill-up at Petron Marilao to Petron Tarlac on TPLEX. The winning teams were awarded during the welcome dinner at Thunderbird Resort, after the verification of the results by the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP).

IPC President Hajime Koso lauded the participants for their driving skills and discipline, which optimized the 2018 Isuzu D-Max’s potential for fuel efficiency. “The astounding fuel mileages that all of you got from this economy run, most especially of those who won the challenge, only proves that with the right combination of good driving habits and the efficiency of the RZ4E engine, the 2018 Isuzu D-Max can be the answer to the worrisome increases in the pump prices of fuel. Today’s activity shows that we can still have the pleasures of long road trips without having to get anxious over our fuel consumption,” he said.

Koso added, “The RZ4E is a new-generation diesel engine which has been the result of Isuzu’s over four years of extensive research in BluePower diesel engine technology, and represents our first foray into the lower displacement but higher output engine technology that has become the trend in Europe and in Asia. Even while generating maximum 150ps of power and 350Nm of torque, the 2018 Isuzu D-Max powered by the RZ4E engine—with its over 200 new components—was still able to get a fuel mileage of 23 kilometers per liter from the winning media team.”

The rains induced by Typhoon Inday—and the resultant water on some portions of Tarlac and La Union—didn’t make the drive any easier for both car and driver. But the Isuzus never missed a beat.

I, accompanied by The Philippine STAR’s Angel Rivero and’s Erica de Zuzuaregui, drove an automatic-equipped D-Max with no less than Koso-san as passenger. We achieved 19.7km/l over the economy run protion of the drive—which is actually something of a personal best for this heavy-footed driver.

Power and fuel-efficiency has been further optimized by a 6-speed automatic transmission with sequential shift mode or the manual transmission equipped with the Gear Shift Indicator (GSI), which signals the driver when to shift for optimum fuel economy.

Alsdo notable was the relative riding comfort of the D-Max compared to other pickup trucks. It’s still no sedan but it ranks at or near the top in terms of riding comfort—often a major weakness of most pickups.

Notable among the generous features and attributes of the 2018 D-Max is its passenger car-like interior with the 7- or 8-inch touchscreen AV entertainment system, leather seats, and well-positioned soft pads (for the 3.0-liter variants) or vibrantly accented fabric seats (for the RZ4E variants), as well as multiple storage compartments and cupholders.

An aggressive front end equipped with premium features such as the Bi-LED headlamps with manual leveling controls providing more brightness but less power consumption and longer-lasting LED daytime running lamps (DRL) for added safety.

The touchscreen (8-inch for the 3.0-liter variants, 7-inch for the RZ4E) serves as the focal point for the 2018 Isuzu D-Max infotainment system, complete with Navi system (3.0L variant only), Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, and multiple USB ports.

The 2018 Isuzus also boast generous and advanced safety features such as dual airbags, ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), and the Brake Override System (BOS), a failsafe measure ensuring that the brakes overrides the accelerator if the accelerator and brake pedals are pressed at the same time.

There are five available body colors for the 2018 D-Max with new colors, Sapphire Blue and Galena Gray.

The 2018 Isuzu-D-Max LS with the 1.9-liter RZ4E engine (which comes as a 4×2 only) is priced at P1,179,000 for the manual and P1,249,000 for the automatic. The 3.0-liter variant starts at P1,290,000 for the 4×2 LS MT and tops out at P1,670,000 for the 4×4 LS AT.