Isuzu delivers an MU-X to the Max with its versatile second-generation wagon.
Fun fact: Australians buy more Isuzu MU-X vehicles than any other global market, bar Thailand. The rugged 4x4 wagon’s popularity here has endowed Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) with some unexpected negotiating clout, enabling it to request a unique specification that gives Aussie buyers more of what they’ve asked for.
And what’s that exactly? According to IUA towing capability is a fundamental requirement for about half of all MU-X customers, hence why the second-generation model, released in July 2021, boasts a raft of enhanced features that make it an all-round better load hauling rig.
These include a stronger body-on-frame chassis, heavily re-engineered coil-sprung multi-link rear suspension, and increased front and rear axle load ratings (+100kg and +50kg respectively), all of which help underpin a braked towing capacity of 3500kg with 350kg ball load.
That’s up 500kg and 50kg up respectively on the old model and puts the MU-X up there with the best in its class, giving it a clear advantage over rivals like the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Prado, and Toyota Fortuner.
In addition to beefing up the Ute-based wagon’s towing ability, Isuzu also focused on improving comfort and space with this second-generation model, adding more premium features, and specifying the latest advanced driver assistance and safety technologies, including standard fit Trailer Sway Control on all variants.
The MU-X range comprises both 4x2 and 4x4 models, all with a six-speed auto transmission as standard, with three grades in each drive configuration – LS-M, LS-U and top shelf LS-T. The manufacturers recommended list price (MRLP) for the rear drive models range from $47,900 to $59,900, while opting for all-paws hikes that by $6k on each variant, meaning a price spread from $53,900 to $65,900.
In addition to its handsome D-Max inspired styling the MU-X is also now stronger and safer, thanks to increased use of high-tensile and ultra-high tensile steels, along with nearly 160 additional spot welds in key areas. Under its skin, the chassis makes extensive use of high-tensile steel, with larger chassis rails, an additional lateral crossmember, and new rear subframe cradle. It all adds up to a stronger chassis and greater body rigidity, which bodes well for towing and general durability.
The flagship LST’s standard equipment over and above its well-equipped lesser siblings includes quilted leather-accented seat upholstery, quilted leatherette centre console and door trims, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, LED interior ambient lighting, 20-inch machined two-tone alloys, remote engine start, auto-dim rear-view mirror, and tyre pressure monitoring.
Adding to the MU-X’s showroom appeal is a modern and attractive cabin that’s neatly finished and features improved amenities and connectivity. Mid- and high-spec models boast a 9.0-inch high-definition infotainment system, while the entry model gets a 7.0-inch display.
Smartphone mirroring via Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay is standard across the range, as is DAB+ radio. All models bar the entry model boast a decent quality eight-speaker sound system and navigation, while the base model makes do with four speakers.
Making life at the wheel of the LST easier and more enjoyable is standard steering tilt and reach, height adjustable front seatbelts, proximity entry, push-button start, front and rear park sensors, reversing camera, a power tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, rotary 4WD selector switch, and simple device pairing.
With seating for seven in a slightly wider and longer body that also sits on a longer wheelbase, the new MU-X offers interior space that should please families and those with extended touring in mind. The second row is quite generously proportioned, while row three is passable for adults in short stints but well suited for children. Access to the third row has been improved and there’s air conditioning across all seating rows with roof mounted directional vents in both rear rows and fan controls in row two.
With the third row folded away into the floor, there’s a generous 1119 litre (SAE) cargo area that expands with the second row flat folded to a capacious 2138 litres (SAE). Like most seven seaters, cargo area with all rows in use is limited, in the MU-X’s case its just 311 litres (SAE) which is still roomier than the old model and enough for a folded pram or the golf clubs.
Like the new D-Max which raised the bar for standard safety features in the Ute class, the MU-X is comprehensively equipped with Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance (IDAS) suite of technologies, plus eight airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, and a centre front airbag to help prevent driver and passenger contact during a crash.
Included in the IDAS suite for all models are autonomous emergency braking, turn assist with AEB, post-collision braking, forward collision warning, mis-acceleration mitigation, traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, driver attention assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. A maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, tested to the latest and most-stringent standards covers all versions.
Also like the D-Max, the new MU-X is motivated by a substantially re-engineered 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine married to a new and faster-shifting six-speed auto. The combination proves itself on or off-road to be quite smooth and willing, with 300Nm of torque available from just above idle at 1,000rpm and maximum torque attained between 1,600 and 2,600 rpm.
A new transfer case, beefed up driveline components, a standard rear diff lock that can be engaged when in low range at speeds below 8km/h, and improved 2H/4H shift-on-the-fly operation, are among the driveline upgrades. There’s also a Rough Terrain Mode, which is an off-road biased extension of the electronic traction control system, aiding driveability in slippery or rough conditions.
Wading depth has increased to 800mm, thanks to a revised engine air intake using a labyrinth of sealed airways and repositioning of the differential breather hoses to vent above the new wading depth. Unique to the Australian spec MU-X is a prefabricated pathway in the internal wheelhouse panel making life simpler for those wishing to plumb in an engine snorkel.
Ground clearance and approach and departure angles have all been increased aiding off road progress, as does the new model’s increased suspension travel.
The MU-X never even looked like faltering during our off-road test in a local state forest, the 4x4 easily tackling a variety of conditions including steep climbs and descents on loose surfaces, plus some badly rutted and washed-out areas. The wagon’s good low range crawling ability and engine braking can be further complemented by hill descent control when needed, while the easy to modulate throttle provides good control over the application of power when negotiating off-road terrain.
Other mechanical upgrades over the previous MU-X include bigger more powerful brakes, and an electric park brake with auto-hold function. Isuzu also claim to have improved the handling, ride quality and load carrying capability courtesy of redesigned suspension front and rear, suspension re-tuning including revised spring rates and stabiliser bars to suit Australian conditions, and a new electric power steering system.
We found the LST’s steering to be quite light and easy, be it around town or on the open road, though at times a touch more road feel would have been welcome. Otherwise, road manners were by Ute-based large SUV standards an agreeable blend of decent ride quality and secure dynamics.
A six year/150,000km warranty is standard, while servicing costs under IUA’s capped price program have dropped by around 12% compared to the old model. With a scheduled 15,000km/12-month service interval, the first seven services tally up to a reasonable $3,373.
There’s no doubt the new MU-X will continue to appeal to its traditional demographic of adventurous Aussies who tow, or want a spacious family touring vehicle. But with its more upmarket qualities, additional refinement, and safety it’s also likely to have broader appeal.
The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.