Thursday 24 May 2012

Road - Messing about in Mud

New bodywork is exceptionally attractive
Phew, it was hot in the quarry. It was like the inside of a Sumo wrestler's jockstrap. You could see the heat, or it might have been steam, rising from assorted footwear all around. Fortunately it was a wide open and airy place so cheesy smells were not an issue!

Anyway, the lads from Jason Sharpe Motorsport had designed a pretty impressive off-road course in the base of the quarry and despite the heatwave, there was plenty of water around turning the limestone sand to cement coloured claggy mud.

Apart from the usual elephant footsteps (to show off the axle articulation), ultra steep inclines and declines (tackled with all feet off the pedals) and boggy holes (illustrating the impressive traction) there were a couple of daunting slopes to test the rollover angle.

Apparently, anything over 47 degrees will tip a D-Max on to its ear, and these were 46.5 degrees. At least they felt that way. The Isuzu was more inclined to slip sideways than roll, but it didn’t, although anyone who had taken a full cooked breakfast earlier this morning would have been regretting it, as it slopped around inside.

Admittedly much of the course could have been tackled in two wheel drive, but it was easy to switch between four wheel drive and lo-ratio 4WD with the turn of a dial, even on the move. Electronics have taken much of the fun and skill (guesswork?) out of serious off-roading these days, but on the other hand, it has made the exercise a lot safer, especially for numpties.

There was one really scary drop that I thought would have defeated the D-Max. It consisted of a run along the top of an embankment then a sharp 90 degree turn over the steep slope. It was so steep, that as the pickup turned round and dropped down, the front offside wheel was pawing the air until the weight transfer dropped it down simultaneously lifting the nearside rear wheel completely off the deck. In other words, for some of the manoeuvre, the pickup was travelling in two wheel drive mode because the other two weren’t doing anything at all.

I really thought I was going to end up like a Swiss roll inside a tin box, but on the basis that this was someone else’s vehicle, I’m game for anything. The pickup slipped and slithered worryingly during the turning manoeuvre, but as soon as the four wheels bit the dust, the electronics started clicking and clattering like a couple of old gossips with badly fitted dentures and slowed the descent to a much more controlled fall off a cliff.

That was impressive. So too was the trip down an L shaped ‘canal’. It’s one thing driving down a canal, it’s quite another not knowing what’s around the corner. Again, the self preservation mode kicked in and I could relax knowing that the team had already driven through it and were sure there were no sump-crackers hidden under the surface, or alligators sunning themselves on the banks waiting for the tinned food to arrive – and get stuck!

In other words, the new Isuzu D-Max is a hugely capable off-roader, but very few owners will ever take it to this extreme. On the other hand, it’s reassuring to know that when the snow falls or flood levels rise that certain pickup owners will still be able to get to Tesco’s.

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