Let me first start by apologizing to all those diesel double cab owners that I’ve cursed death upon while driving on the highway. This curse usually happens when I’m doing a law-abiding 120km/h in the fast lane and some chop in big double cab approaches so fast from behind that I’m almost positive he’s hasn’t seen me, that or he wants to see if bumping cars is as fun as it looks in the movies. Until I drove Isuzu’s new KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2 I was convinced these guys were just complete idiots. Now however, I’m giving at least 97% of them an apology (this is SA after all, there must be a percentage that was doing it on purpose). I ended up doing the exact same thing to a few cars during my test week and every single time was by accident. Like with all cars, in top gear on a long road, you get to a certain speed where the motor feels at it’s most comfortable. The speed, the revs and the engine noise all sync up just right and the ride becomes effortless and smooth. The problem with this in the Isuzu KB300 D-Teq 4x2 is that this perfect synchronicity puts the speedo at a touch under 140km/h. Oops.
After I realized this I did make a mental note to make sure I kept my eyes on the speedo and didn’t drive by feel. The cruise control function helped with this task too luckily. Weighing in at 3100kg and being a pretty large and imposing presence on the road, you’d expect the Isuzu KB300 D-Teq 4x2 to have a decent amount of power, and it does, in spades. This is thanks to a 4-cylinder Common Rail Direct Injection diesel motor with a pretty big 2999cc of displacement; a turbocharger was bolted on for good measure adding some healthy positive boost. The result is a power output of 130kW at 3600rpm with torque up at a very usable 380Nm from as low down as 1800rpm. Isuzu claim it does 9.9-litres/100km on the Urban Cycle and the on-board info screen confirmed exactly that, so this D-Teq is nice and efficient and a topped up 80-litre tank will easily get you to the coast from Jo’burg with no stops needed.
The 5-speed auto gearbox on the 4x2 is brilliant. I think every vehicle this size with such good torque needs to have an auto transmission. It makes the task of driving this big double cab an absolute pleasure. Crawling along in traffic simply requires your foot to lift off the brakes and when things clear up and you jump on the gas pedal and it kicks down so smoothly that the only real indication that any cogs have been swapped is the noise of the increasing revs and accompanying engine noise. Well, that and being pushed back in the seat a little. 380Nm feels great.
Another place the automatic transmission made me smile was on sand roads. Granted I didn’t cover vast distances on sand roads, but one Sunday afternoon I went exploring all the roads between the old plots in the North that I’ve always wanted to have a look at but couldn’t thanks to the 60mm ground clearance of my daily drive. The KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2 sports a 220mm ground clearance with a 30-degree approach angle and a 22.7-degree departure angle. Even the roads that were in a sad state thanks to the monsoon-style rain we’ve had lately were easily driven on. Like in a 4x4, the 4x2 crawls along quite nicely. I’m pretty sure that if the terrain really got rough the electronic diff lock would sort things out. This Isuzu will happily take you to that pub at the top of Sani Pass (for the views, not the beer - drinking and driving is for the brain-dead!). There’s also that handy 600mm wading depth just in case any streams are flowing stronger than expected. Being a press car and with my only off road experience being limited to a single afternoon at Bass Lake, I wasn’t going to put the diff lock and the wading depth to the test. Luckily the KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2 not only sports the Hi-ride suspension, Isuzu have also fitted it with a skid plate guard, an engine sump guard and a fuel tank guard, so it’s pretty well protected, there’s not really anything the urban jungle can do to hurt things.
Keeping occupants safe is another thing, the KB300 has all the right bits in all the right places; ABS, EBD, side impact protection bars, seat belt pre-tensioners, a collapsible steering column, an accident auto door unlock function and an array of airbags (driver and passenger, front seat sides and curtains). So the cabin is safe, but it’s also a really cool place to be. The new dash layout, seats and interior trim all work great, especially in the task of making you forget you’re in a ‘bakkie’. It’s comfortable, in every way, there’s great space, all the controls are easy to reach and their position feels right. One thing that got me was the volume button for the infotainment; it’s on the right of the unit when it’s usually found on the left of a unit. On the plus side I found some stations I’ve never heard of. It does make you drive safer though because it makes you use the multifunction controls on the leather steering wheel. Keeping you in that comfort zone is the brown leather seats and automatic climate control and keeping you informed is the multi-info display in the centre of the clocks. As I said, it’s a nice place to be. Other features include two 12-volt power supplies (one in the top cubbyhole and one in the centre console), the aforementioned radio tuner (with RDS, FL CD player, MP3 functionality, aux functions for USB and iPod) and integrated Bluetooth for that handy hands-free function.
The Isuzu KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2 is large. I spent a fair bit of time on some long road trips in my mate’s older model KB and this new one just feels bigger. It’s 5.294m long, 1,860m wide and 1.790m high with a load box that measures in at 1.483mm long by 1.534m wide and its 465mm deep. Let’s just say that you can travel with the whole family, all their luggage and the kitchen sink if you think it deserves a holiday with you – that bin can carry 1133kg. The test car was fitted with Isuzu’s heavy-duty tow bar, which lets you add another 750kg with an unbraked trailer or a 3500kg with a proper brake-assisted trailer. Luckily the big KB has PDC, which I made extensive use of. In my week with the KB I also learned something new – with vehicles this size it’s much easier to alley dock than to park facing in.
The new KB300 looks great too. The new angular projector headlights and that fat chrome grille really are in your face. The colour coded front bumper, chrome rear bumper, chrome door handles and chrome mirrors make for great finishing touches, as do the nice and bright LED combination taillights. On that Isuzu Hi-rise suspension and with the new style 17-inch alloys, the side steps give the overall impression of ruggedness. I like it, a lot. One of my mates reckons he’ll never buy something this size if it’s not a full 4x4, and I thought he was right until I used this Isuzu KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2. It can go most places your average Joe would want to go and while staying in his comfort zone, the electronic diff lock would probably only be used to show off to his mates at a braai. This is the perfect vehicle for city slickers who like to visit the bush with the family or for those who live on plots and farms who like to travel in complete comfort.
The Isuzu KB300 D-Tec LX Auto 4x2 retails for R453 400.00 when I last checked on www.isuzu.co.za and it comes with a 5-year/120 000km warranty & roadside assistance, a 5-year/Unlimited kilometer anti-corrosion warranty, a 5-year/90 000km service plan and service intervals are scheduled for every 12 months or 15 000km.