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Isuzu shakes up large SUV segment with new MU-X

Towing, tech could distance Isuzu MU-X from ute-based SUV rivals, from $47,900 + ORC

30 Jul 2021

THE second-generation Isuzu MU-X has arrived to shake up Australia’s large SUV segment with sleeker looks, a plusher interior and a comprehensive safety tech suite that belie its beefed-up 3.5-tonne towing capacity and off-road touring capabilities.


Again available in three specification levels, each with a choice of two-wheel or selectable four-wheel-drive and priced from $47,900 before on-road costs for the LS-M 4x2, sales of the new MU-X are expected to be weighted toward the top end of the range.


To capitalise on this, Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) has launched the new MU-X 4x4 LS-T with an introductory driveaway price of $63,990, representing a significant discount over the regular recommended retail sticker of $65,900 before on-road costs.


It is likely to tempt buyers out of the mid-spec LS-U that is $59,900 before on-roads in 4x4 guise or to step up from the 4x2 LS-T to the 4x4 as all MU-X variants kitted out with the four-wheel-drive system carry a $6000 premium over their rear-drive counterparts.


Pricing of the entire MU-X range has increased significantly, with the LS-M going up by $4000 for the 4x2 and $2700 for the 4x4, the LS-U 4x2 and 4x4 have risen by $7600 and $6300 respectively and the LS-T has soared $9800 in 4x2 guise with regular pricing of the 4x4 range-topper getting an $8500 lift.


Isuzu now firmly bridges the gap between Mitsubishi’s value-packed Pajero Sport and the more ambitiously priced but critically acclaimed Ford Everest, as well as the ageing but still segment-dominating Toyota LandCruiser Prado from which IUA hopes to steal market share.


The new model’s sleeker looks, improved interior and higher technology levels could also better enable IUA to poach punters away from urban-oriented offerings from Mazda, Kia and Hyundai, as well as Toyota’s Kluger and Fortuner.


Speaking at the online MU-X media launch, IUA general manager of sales Ben Jaeger said that although early adopters were likely to go for the LS-T, “we feel all grades will have a particular market in which their aim is to maximise the opportunity”.


Defending the price rises, IUA director of sales, marketing and fleet Koichiro Yoshida said the company “had no intention” of alienating existing MU-X customers who may have been originally attracted to the old model’s value-oriented offering.


“From the competitors’ point of view, and the value and specifications point of view, I think this pricing is appropriate,” he said.


Mr Jaeger added that the new features, capabilities and comfort levels of the new MU-X lent it “a much broader appeal to a wider audience”.


Key to this appeal – apart from the less truck-like aesthetic inside and out compared to its utilitarian predecessor – will be towing capacity, as IUA says around half of its customers use their vehicle to haul various types of trailer. 


SsangYong Rexton aside, the only SUVs with 3500kg braked towing capacity available in Australia are significantly more expensive than the MU-X, all variants of which can now tow 500kg more than the outgoing model.


For those towing long or heavy trailers, IUA is also offering a factory-approved weight distribution hitch for the first time, which is designed to be compatible with the SUV’s active safety systems.


Similarly, two types of extendable towing mirrors with blind-spot monitoring compatibility are also offered as a dealer-fit accessory along with an official IUA electronic trailer brake controller and the usual array of bull bars and nudge bars.


A gross combination mass increase of up to 250kg brings the total to 5.9 tonnes on both two- and four-wheel drive variants, with the new MU-X also offering the highest gross vehicle mass of any IUA product to date, at 2.7 and 2.8 tonnes on two- and four-wheel-drive versions respectively.


Front and rear axle capacities have been respectively increased by 100kg and 50kg respectively, now 1450kg and 1700kg, while roof payload is up 40kg across the range, to 100kg.


Modernised inside and out, IUA has equipped every second-generation MU-X with an exhaustive standard safety and driver assistance technology package.


This includes autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, post-collision braking, forward collision warning, unintended acceleration mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function that can hold the vehicle stationary for up to five minutes, traffic sign recognition with intelligent and manual speed limiters, lane departure warning and prevention, lane-keep assist with emergency lane keeping, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and driver attention assist.


Dusk-sensing LED headlights and rain-sensing wipers are standard range-wide, the LS-U and LS-T adding LED fog lights and flat wiper blades with integrated washer jets. All have a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, the top two grades adding front sensors.


If none of this tech avoids a collision, passengers are protected by front, side, full-length curtain, knee and front-centre airbags. ANCAP has not yet rated the new MU-X.


Also helping keep things on the straight and narrow are more predictable dynamics and reduced bodyroll – particularly when laden or towing – courtesy of stiffer springs, re-tuned dampers and longer, chunkier sway bars.


These upgrades are applied to independent front double wishbone suspension inherited from the D-Max and a much-modified version of the five-link coil-sprung rear set-up of the previous MU-X.


As well as better ride, dynamics and off-road axle articulation from the new suspension, noise insulation and cabin sealing are said to have taken a significant step up in the quest for improved refinement and reduced noise, vibration and harshness levels, while modifications to the fuel pump and cam timing gear help to quash engine rattle.


On that note, the overhauled 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine is shared with the D-Max, generating 140kW and 450Nm – 10kW/20Nm more than before – with additional emissions control hardware and a tune designed to maximise the spread of low-range torque for extra off-road control and better general driveability.


Combined-cycle fuel consumption on the new model has reduced from 8.1 litres per 100km to 7.8L/100km on two-wheel drive variants but increased from 7.9L/100km to 8.3L/100km for those with four-wheel-drive. An 80-litre fuel tank is 15L bigger than before, increasing theoretical range to more than 1000km.


Revisions have also been applied to the six-speed Aisin automatic transmission, with quicker shifts, improved ratio selection logic and redesigned lubrication with thermal management for optimised viscosity under hard use and reduced wear from cold.


The second-generation MU-X has grown 25mm in length and 10mm in width over its predecessor, but its roofline is 35mm lower, while ground clearance has increased by 10mm on the LS-M (now 230mm) and 5mm on the LS-U and LS-T (to 235mm).


Overall dimensions are now 4850mm long, 1870mm wide between the mirrors and either 1815mm or 1825mm high (LS-M and LS-U/LS-T respectively). Wheelbase has grown by 10mm to 2855mm, reducing front overhang by 10mm, to 895mm.


This has improved approach angles by 5.2 degrees, to 29.2 degrees on the LS-U and LS-T, and by 5.3 degrees to 28.6 degrees on the LS-M.


Despite an extra 25mm of rear overhang, departure angles are up between 1.3 and 3.0 degrees depending on variant, now ranging from 26.4 degrees on the LS-T, 26.9 degrees on the LS-U and 27.6 degrees on the LS-M.


Ramp-over angles have also been boosted by 3.9 degrees on LS-M, now 22.6 degrees, and 3.6 degrees on the LS-U and LS-T, now 23.1 degrees. Turning circle is now 200mm tighter, at 11.4 metres, and all 4x4 models now come wish a rear differential lock and terrain mode for the traction control system.


Maximum wading depth is now 800mm due to what IUA calls a “a labyrinth of sealed airways” leading to the engine air cleaner, as well as differential breathers with vents positioned well out of harm’s way to avoid water ingress during creek crossings.


A new composite tailgate is 5kg lighter than the old one and opens 35mm higher to 1850mm – with powered remote opening and closing on LS-U and LS-T – so that taller people can stand beneath it when loading and unloading. The boot lip is also 35mm higher, now flush with the load surface that has a redesigned underfloor storage compartment.


Boot capacity has increased when the second- and third-row seats are in use – now 311L (up 68L) and 1119L (up 25L) respectively, although with all seats folded the capacity has shrunk by 24L, to 2138L.


IUA claims to have improved entry and egress for the second and third rows by moving the B-pillar 25mm forward and making the seat folding mechanism for third-row access easier to operate.


The two third-row seatbacks are 105mm wider than previously, with the seat bases now 41mm wider, with a 10.6mm increase in toe room for those in the very back as well. The second- and third-row seats also have 12 levels of backrest adjustment, providing up to up to 22 degrees of recline.


IUA does not quote a second-row seat width figure but claims it is wider and will now easily accommodate an adult between two child restraints, or three child restraints provisioned by top tether anchorages in all second-row positions and ISOFIX connections in the outer second-row positions (the previous MU-X had ISOFIX in all three second-row seats).


Sharing a dashboard design with the D-Max, all MU-X grades have a touchscreen multimedia system with DAB+ digital radio, voice control, wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity (but no wireless phone charging) and Android Auto via USB connection (three USB ports and two 12V outlets are provided).


The base LS-M has a 7.0-inch touchscreen and four-speaker audio and the upper two grades have a 9.0-inch unit with native sat-nav and double the speaker count for a surround-sound setup using JVC Kenwood hardware.


There is also a 4.2-inch information display on all variants between the analogue instruments – which get some extra bling on LS-U and LS-T – providing digital speedo, trip computer and active safety information, as well as navigation directions on the LS-U and LS-T.


Ceiling vents cater for the second and third row of all MU-X variants – with rear occupant fan control – and dual-zone climate control is standard on the LS-U and LS-T. Air-con efficiency is aided by a windscreen coating that filters the sun’s infra-red and UV rays, with the top two grades also having rear privacy tints.


All have remote central locking with push-button start, the LS-U adding keyless proximity entry and locking while the LS-T goes further with remote engine start. Carpet floor coverings are standard range-wide, while only the LS-M has polyurethane steering wheel and gear selector knob (other grades get leather, with the range-topper having an illuminated gear knob as part of its LED ambient lighting).


The LS-M has 17-inch alloy wheels with Dunlop all-terrain tyres, the LS-U has 18-inch rims and the LS-T rolls on two-tone 20s – IUA’s biggest yet – with the latter two both using Bridgestone highway rubber. The LS-T also has tyre pressure monitoring.


Other cosmetic differences include black mirrors, door handles and grille on the LS-M whereas the LS-U and LS-T have body-coloured mirrors and door handles plus a silver and chrome grille, and chrome window trim.


Cloth interior trim on the LS-M and LS-U is supplanted by quilted leather seats and matching leatherette on the door trims and centre console in the LS-T. The LS-U and LS-T also gain piano black, chrome and silver interior highlights over the base model, as well as electric driver’s seat lumbar support.


The LS-T also has heated front seats and eight-way powered driver’s side adjustment.


A total of 12 cupholders and bottle bins are provided across the three rows – with bigger ones in the centre console courtesy of the move to an electronic park brake with auto hold –  as are smartphone shelves drawers and cubbies, plus map pockets for the second row, and two gloveboxes, a centre console bin and coin drawer up front.


New paint finishes available comprise Basalt Black mica, Mercury Silver metallic, Cobalt Blue mica, Jasper Brown mica and Moonstone White pearl (the latter two available only on the top two grades). Mineral white, Obsidian Grey mica and Magnetic Red mica are carried over from the previous MU-X.


The MU-X continues with IUA’s six-year, 150,000km warranty with up to seven years’ complimentary roadside assistance cover if maintenance is kept up at Isuzu dealerships.


A seven-year capped-price service program costs a total of $3373, averaging $482 per year, with intervals of 15,000km or 12 months. IUA claims this is around 12 per cent less expensive than the first-gen MU-X.


2022 Isuzu MU-X pricing*

4x2 LS-M (a) $47,900
4x2 LS-U (a) $53,900
4x2 LS-T (a) $59,900
4x4 LS-M (a) $53,900
4x4 LS-U (a) $59,900
4x4 LS-T (a) $65,900

*Excludes on-road costs

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