Earlier in October, Isuzu Malaysia introduced a new addition to their successful Isuzu D-Max (RG) pick-up truck called the 1.9L 4×2 AT Plus. This means the drivetrain has been reduced to just rear-wheel drive, but feature the high-riding height of a pick-up truck.

It was mentioned that only 28% of nationwide pick-up truck owners surveyed said they frequently used the 4×4 system on their pick-up trucks, making a large percentage of owners never actually engage 4H or 4L modes which is just a flick of the switch.

Making the pick-up truck a 4×2 drivetrain means the central transfer case (where the 4H and 4L come to action), the front differential and all its connections are absent. Of course, in the interior, the switch-on-the fly 2WD to 4WD switch is not available too.

Manufacturers usually quote the usage for 4H and 4L modes “when roads or surfaces become icy, steep slopes, rough, sand, mud and where require significant traction.” Thus, 2WD is purely fine for normal driving on ordinary roads and highways.

So, does this mean a lower overall cost of ownership when selecting a pick-up or large SUV with a 4×2 drivetrain? We went to take a look at the numbers and it’s rather disappointing.

The ladder frame and chassis of the all-new Isuzu D-Max (RG)

Savings in scheduled maintenance

For the latest Isuzu D-Max (RG) 1.9 AT, servicing and maintenance costs for the first 100,000 km involve the usual lube changes, air filters, power steering and brake fluid replacements. There are two intervals- every 40,000th-kilometre or 48 months, as well as the first 10,000 km where the drivetrain differential fluids are replaced.

It is only at these 40,000th-kilometre/48-month servicing intervals that see savings in maintenance, where the 4×2 requires just the rear differential fluid change costing RM23 less. Throughout 100,000 km of ownership, the three differential fluid changes (10k, 40k and 80k km) on the 4×2 only see a total savings of RM69 compared to the 4×4 variant.

We are not comparing the Mitsubishi Triton 4×4 AT and the Mitsubishi Triton Quest 4×2 MT low-rider as the drivetrain technologies are of different eras and thus not a proper representation of savings.

UMW Toyota meanwhile sold the second-generation Toyota Fortuner 2.4VRZ (GUN155) in both 4×2 (October 2017) and 4×4 variants. They also perform differential (front and rear plus the transfer case) fluid changes at the 40,000th-kilometre/24th-month interval and the 4×2 sees a larger saving of RM120 per visit or a total of RM240 over the course of 100,000 km of ownership.

Front drive shaft of 4×4

Having a 4×2 drivetrain, however, saves the maintenance cost of replacing the front driveshaft dust covers and other associated wear and tear items.

Savings in fuel consumption

Since there are less hardware, with the Isuzu D-Max 1.9 4×2 AT Plus claiming a weight reduction of 85 kg from the simpler drivetrain, one would wonder if there is a change in fuel consumption. Unfortunately, there is no data available for the Isuzu D-Max 1.9 4×4 AT, while the 1.9 4×2 AT returns a commendable diesel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100 km.

Data is however available in Australia for both the Isuzu D-Max 3.0 with 4×2 and 4×4 drivetrains, with the 4×4 consuming 3.9% or 0.3 litres more diesel per 100 km travelled.

For the interest of today’s comparison, we will use a figure of 6.5 litres / 100 km or 0.3 litres more for the 4×4 drivetrain in the Isuzu D-Max 1.9 AT 4×4. Throughout the same 100,000 km example above, the 1.9 AT 4×2 Auto Plus sees a savings of approx. RM615 in diesel fuel bills at the current B10 pump prices (RM2.05).

There you have it, the potential savings from using a 4×2 versus a 4×4 pick-up truck (or used Toyota Fortuner 2.4VRZ) during the vehicle ownership of the first 100,000 km is rather minimal. Nonetheless, savings to a business or trades’ person impacts the bottom line and thus it is always good to know.  

The Isuzu D-Max 1.9 Auto Plus 4×2 AT priced at RM100,999 is RM6,000 cheaper than the 4×4 variant. It is also the most accessible Japanese high-riding pick-up truck with automatic transmission and larger 17-inch wheels.