SOMETIMES timing is everything and the moment my firewood supply dwindled away to almost nothing coincided perfectly with the arrival of the Isuzu D-Max pick-up.
The latest second-generation model was launched earlier in 2021 and Isuzu has got the mix between working vehicle to put in a shift on a building site and family truck with all the trimmings just right.
There is a choice of trim levels, body styles, transmissions and drive systems, but the D-Max is only available with one engine - a1.9-litre, 164ps diesel unit delivering 360Nm of torque. And it does the job very nicely indeed.
We tried the range-topping V-Cross version with a double cab, 4x4 ability and an automatic gearbox. While this model is aimed at the lifestyle pick-up driver as it has all the everyday luxuries of a high-end SUV, it can still put in a shift when necessary.
So, when the wood supply needed topping up, it was the ideal vehicle to load up. And although the ride and handling are impressive generally, they get better with a full payload in the back.
Costing Â£39,244, the V-Cross D-Max boasted a wealth of on-board tech, including an eight-way powered driver's seat that can be heated, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, a nine-inch colour touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a CD player, DAB radio, an eight-speaker sound system, along with front and rear USB ports.
It's certainly a vehicle that attracts attention with its muscular styling and the V-Cross is kitted out with gun metal finishing touches, 18-inch gun metal alloy wheels and distinctive light clusters.
An area where the latest D-Max has improved considerably compared to its predecessor is the day-to-day handling.
The outgoing vehicle was quite fidgety and was not the most composed pick-up out there. New D-Max, however, delivers a comfortable driving experience and offers good road holding through the faster country lanes.
The latest transmission delivers 25 per cent quicker gear changes than the old model and our D-Max could complete the 0-62mph sprint in 13.0 seconds, topped out at 112mph while delivering a combined 30.7mpg with carbon emissions of 241g/km.
It does get quite noisy under heavy acceleration which is not really surprising, but with direct steering, the D-Max is happy cruising on motorways, firing along the B roads or weaving through busy town centre traffic.
It is very able when faced with off-road terrain with three 4WD configurations - 2H is for rear wheel drive only, 4H delivers drive to all wheels in a high gear ratio for slippery surfaces and finally, the 4L provides drive to all wheels in a low gear ratio for more extreme off-road challenges.
It can wade through water up to 800mm deep and carry a payload that ranges from 1,070 to 1,205kg depending on body style as well as towing a trailer or caravan weighing up to 3,500kg.
Another important plus factor in the D-Max's favour is its weight of 2,030kg. All pick-ups weighing above 2,040kg must be driven at ‘goods vehicle' speed limits which are 10mph slower on single and dual carriageways to avoid unexpected fines.
There is ample room in the back for two or three passengers to sit comfortably and the new version has an extended wheelbase which results in extra cabin space. There are plenty of storage compartments scattered throughout the vehicle including 10 cup or drinks holders, a deep cubby box, double glovebox, sunglasses holder and a small compartment next to the driver's door.
The vehicle secured a maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating with features including forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, cruise control, plus eight airbags on the double cab versions.