When you want to launch a new product that boasts of 19 percent greater fuel efficiency over its already super-efficient predecessor, how do you showcase it to the world? Simple; you fill up the tank, shut it and drive it an un-imaginable distance like say, from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur without refuelling. Sound unthinkable? Well, Isuzu Malaysia did it recently in the Dura-Miles Challenge 2007.
Using the all-new Isuzu D-Max that features loads of improvements including the new 3-litre i-TEQ Super Commonrail engine that boasts of more useable torque among its key benefits, Isuzu Malaysia decided to embark on a journey down a road few would dare to venture.
“The new D-Max on paper was more fuel-efficient. We had already proven the capability of the old model previously and we thought we should try to achieve something even more significant with the new car,” said CEO of Isuzu Malaysia Kyoya Kondo.
The Isuzu D-Max became synonymous with fuel efficiency having been proven both by customers, the media and by Isuzu Malaysia in fuel-efficiency runs conducted in Peninsular Malaysia and in Sabah and Sarawak.
The original feat was conducted in 2005 when Isuzu Malaysia first introduced the 2.5-litre 4×2 D-Max. This version served as an ideal vehicle for those who wanted the versatility of a pick-up truck but also wanted to enjoy the fuel efficiency that come with all Isuzu vehicles.
A test D-Max was driven from Kuala Lumpur down to Johor, back up the highway to Kedah before heading down to KL, clocking a distance of 1,401km on its 76-litre tank of diesel.
As this run was conducted primarily on the North-South highway, it was felt that perhaps more challenging conditions were needed and a drive from Kuching and Kota Kinabalu via Brunei was conducted. The drive was through numerous towns and cities, a variety of terrain and perpetual battles on single-lane trunk roads with huge timber trucks and buses really tested the capabilities of the cars.
Significantly, the drive in East Malaysia in April last year covering a distance of 1,290km was achieved together with a 3-litre 4×4 version proving that despite the larger displacement and greater power output the Isuzu D-Max was the true inflation beater.
“We wanted a new challenge for the new D-Max and during a meeting, someone came up with an idea to drive from Bangkok, the spiritual home of the D-Max all the way to KL. Everyone had a good laugh as it sounded impossible but then the room became serious and soon, the idea for the Dura-Miles Challenge became reality,” said project coordinator Wan Zaqi Zacary.
Two cars were taken fresh off the plant floor and driven to Bangkok for its route-finding mission and to evaluate the feasibility of the project.
“We were quite confident that the 2.5 litre would make the journey as it had already been proven to be the fuel economy standard. However, the 3-litre was really put to the test as not only did it need to complete over 1,500km in the journey, it also had to contend with heavy traffic in Bangkok, lorries and buses along the main road in Thailand and of course, the possibility of civil unrest in the southern parts of Thailand,” added Zaqi.
The first trial run proved invaluable as the drivers could see just how difficult the challenge would be and according to rally co-driver Bernard Chin who was tasked with driving the 3-litre 4×4 version D-Max, the conditions were as diverse as it could get.
“It was nothing like the route we drove from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu before. The traffic here is much heavier and being the main artery between Bangkok and the south, there are many trucks and buses along the route. Around the numerous towns and villages, you have a lot of heavily-loaded pick-ups carrying everything from pineapples to copra, stacked 20-feet high so it can be quite chaotic,” he said.
On the morning of the 2nd July, 2007, the two Isuzu D-Max had their fuel systems and engine operations inspected by observer Taufik Abu Bakar, Technical Officer from the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM) who was on hand to ensure that the cars were standard units, driven on their own power and that no refueling was carried out throughout the journey.
After the vehicles’ fuel system and bonnet were sealed, the event was then jointly flagged off by CEO of Isuzu Malaysia Kyoya Kondo, Director of Isuzu Operations (Thailand) Ms Panatda Chennavasin, General Manager of Isuzu Operations (Thailand) Hisao Ito and Deputy Managing Director of Ung Nguan Tai Auto Sales Co Ltd Teerayuth Pitaksith at the latter’s Isuzu sales outlet on Rama II Road in Bangkok.
First off was the 2.5-litre D-Max driven by Isuzu Malaysia’s Planning Executive Lee Han Kee followed by the 3-litre and the AAM observer in a third car. The cars clocked approximately 750km on their first day, arriving in Thung Song, a small town at the cross roads linking Trang, Nakhon Si Tammarat and the main highway south for the night.
The next day, the cars crossed the border into Malaysia and made the second overnight stop in Sungai Petani before driving on the third day for Kuala Lumpur.
“I was quite nervous towards the end because the fuel warning light came on near Behrang and it was quite unnerving driving with so little fuel left in the tank,” said Lee.
The management team of Isuzu Malaysia had already gathered at the Jalan Duta toll gate, all ready to greet the cars with bated breath and a sigh of relief came when Chin, in the lead car announced their arrival with a “hello Kuala Lumpur” over the walkie-talkie.
“This is an amazing achievement for the D-Max, especially considering the new 3-litre that drove the total distance of 1,501km is a 4×4 model. It is a real testament of the prowess of the new 3-litre i-TEQ Super Commonrail engine that offers the optimum balance of power, refinement and fuel economy,” said an elated Kondo.
Said an impressed Taufik Abu Bakar having been witness to the feat, “it is remarkable that the D-Max was driven throughout the journey with just one tank of fuel. I would not have believed it had I not seen it myself.”
Following the achievement, the AAM presented Isuzu Malaysia with a certificate acknowledging the feat and this was presented by AAM’s Chairman YM Tunku Datuk Mudzaffar Tunku Mustapha to Mr Kondo at the AAM’s office in Kuala Lumpur.
This remarkable achievement in the Dura-Miles Challenge clearly underlines the frugal nature of the Isuzu D-Max and proves beyond doubt that in any condition even across nations, the Isuzu D-Max is the true inflation beater.