Tank Commander

It's mission accomplished as The Isuzu D‑MAX smashes the MAX RUN CHALLENGE record

Words: Steve Kealy

Photos: Bruce Garland & Harry Suzuki

It's a question motorists ask regularly: "How far can I go on one tank?" No matter how efficient modern vehicles get, the rising cost of fuel makes economy a serious issue. So Isuzu UTE Australia called on off-road rally legends Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki to find out how far they could push the latest D‑MAX. But this was a very different challenge for the pair, whose normal drives in the Dakar Rally involve charging flat out over mountains, deserts, raging rivers, border crossings—and in the past, gun-toting bandits.

Fact File

Max Run Challenge

Vehicle: D‑MAX 4x2 LS Crew Cab auto
Drivers: Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki
Fuel: One 76L D‑MAX tank of Caltex Vortex diesel
Start: Goondiwindi, QLD
Finish: Red Cliffs, VIC
Result: 1697.3km covered
Fuel efficiency: 4.47litres/100km

This time, Garland and Suzuki were tasked with driving across regular Australian roads to see how far a D‑MAX could go on a single tank of fuel.

While the D‑MAX has blitzed the challenge in the past, the interesting thing was always going to be how the new 4x2 LS Crew Cab auto transmission ute would go.

Out came the maps to find a route that would be as kind to fuel consumption as possible—flat, straight roads. Goondiwindi in Queensland would be the start, heading towards Broken Hill in New South Wales.

The vehicle was given a regular service, filled with premium oils, just as an Isuzu UTE deserves, and then topped up with Caltex Vortex diesel before being sealed by the RACQ.

And no, this wasn't a hand-built competition vehicle like Garland and Suzuki are used to—just a regular fleet car with about 16,000km on the clock. Preparation was limited to a thorough polishing and tyres pumped up to maximum recommended pressures as per the handbook. Despite normally being the navigator, Suzuki ended up doing a lot of the driving—across three 12-hour days. "I am the lightest—only about 60kg—so Bruce made me drive. I think he's about 100kg—too heavy!" he jokes.

With the air-con off, windows and vents closed and no extra weight in the car other than a two-way radio, concentration was a big part of the challenge.

Garland found his stints behind the wheel less than riveting, explaining, "Driving to a speed and rev limit is not the most exciting drive in the world!" With a back-up ute carrying a drum of fuel for when the inevitable final drop was consumed, the team made their way through the changing outback scenery.

Using just its standard trip computer to measure instantaneous fuel consumption, the D‑MAX was driven at a steady pace, only stopping for meal and rest breaks—and a random herd of cows that wandered onto the road.

With Goondiwindi a distant memory and Broken Hill passed and forgotten, the D‑MAX drifted along, burning about 4.5 litres per 100 km for hour after hour. A 76-litre tank and an abstemious thirst meant the drive would always be a long one, but even Garland and Suzuki, who have been Isuzu UTE competitors, engineers, tuners and ambassadors for years, were surprised when they finally hit Red Cliffs near Mildura in northern Victoria and the D‑MAX finally slowed gracefully—and silently—to a halt, bone-dry, a massive 1697.3km from Goondiwindi.

Journey Planner

Find out how far you can go

Planning a road trip? We have the perfect way for you to plan your journey and work out how much fuel you will need to get you there and back, and you don't even need to own a D‑MAX or MU‑X. All you need to do is put in your own vehicle's fuel economy and the price of fuel you pay at the pump, it's that easy.

Plan your next journey

THE winner

A little bit of homework went a long way for Noosa's John Goodman— 1697.3km in fact. And that was the precise number that saw him win an Isuzu D‑MAX 4x2 LS Crew Cab Ute, a year's supply of Vortex Diesel from Caltex and a $2000 Turu Travel Voucher in the Max Run Challenge competition.

John successfully guessed the distance that Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki would travel when they set off from Goondiwindi in their D‑MAX. John did his sums though, looking at the history of the event, the roads the pair would travel and bearing in mind the gear they would take. Far from being a stab in the dark, John hit the target spot on—along with three other contestants among the 55,000 entries! He was suitably delighted when he was drawn out as the winner and already has plans for a trip to Rockhampton and Far North Queensland in his new D‑MAX.

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