Isuzu: 2014 MU-X and D-Max 4×4 LS-T review

Isuzu: 2014 MU-X and D-Max 4×4 LS-T review

Isuzu Ute first introduced its luxury specification seven-seat MU-X SUV to the New Zealand market just in time for the National Fieldays, and the one-size-fits all variant is available from dealerships for $65,990.

Just when you thought the market for the traditional body-on-frame ladder chassis 4×4 wagon was going to die off, Isuzu Ute (and joint venture development partner GM) came up with a D-Max (Colorado) based 7-seat wagon that gives the ageing Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Challenger, and Ssangyong Rexton some much needed competition.

Come late 2015 there will also be the Ranger-derived all-singing, all-dancing, Ford Everest 7-seat 4×4 wagon to contend with, but for now the MU-X sits slightly above the Rexton, and Challenger in retail price but well below the Prado.

There is still a market for an old-school towing vehicle such as the MU-X and a 3000kg (braked) towing capacity is not to be dismissed lightly by the private buyer or a business owner looking for a dual-purpose vehicle for work and leisure.

Fold all the rear seats down and the MU-X turns from people mover into a massive station wagon that will swallow more than enough boxes to move half a townhouse – we know, as we’ve done it!

The body shape may be shared with the Holden Colorado 7, but the MU-X has a different nose and taillamp treatment, and there is the robust Isuzu truck-derived 130kW/380Nm 3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine under the hood which is mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.

The Colorado 7 might have a more powerful 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel unit (147kW/500Nm) and a six-speed transmission, but the MU-X has a different suspension tune than the Colorado, and is much better off for it, with a softer and more compliant ride both on-road and off-road.

I also found the cabin of the Isuzu was a lot quieter than the Holden particularly at open road speeds, the MU-X engine may not have the same outright grunt as the VM Motori-sourced unit under the bonnet of the Colorado 7 but its a lot less noisy on acceleration.

We were informed by Isuzu Ute that MU-X is an acroynym for Multi Utility – Xtreme, which might at first seem a bit absurd but once you’ve spent some time behind the wheel you soon appreciate the finer points of this vehicle.

For a start it’s got a huge amount of standard equipment, including leather upholstery, satellite navigation, bluetooth telephony, powered adjustment for the drivers seat, privacy glass, reversing camera, climate-controlled air conditioning, CD/DVD entertainment system with drop-down 10-inch screen for rear passengers, chromed power exterior mirrors, aluminium side steps, 17-inch alloy wheels, and matte silver roof rails.

The MU-X shares much of its dashboard architecture and design with its Holden cousin but the quality and finish of the Isuzu looks and feels a cut above the GM product.

My four-wheel-driving in the MU-X has been limited to extricating myself from a boggy paddock known as the Mystery Creek car park, and driving across the rocks and sand of Faulkner Bay for the photos seen here, but this wagon has some serious off-road capability.

You can shift on the fly from two-wheel-drive to high ration four-wheel-drive at driving speeds up to 100km/h, but engaging low ratio four-wheel-drive requires the vehicle to be stationery and the gearbox in neutral position for the system to engage.

Activating low range automatically disengages the traction control system (for obvious reasons, sometimes you need a bit of wheel spin to actually get traction on low friction surfaces). The MU-X has approach and departure angles if 30.1 and 25.1 degrees respectively, and with its generous axle articulation, it will tackle most off-road situations with ease.

Built tough not rough

2014 Isuzu D-Max front 3:4The same can be said for the D-Max LS-T 4×4 automatic double cab utility. It too shares the mountain-goat ability of the MU-X, as well as much of its luxury specification for the retail ask of $60,990.

With more and more 4×4 Utes doing double duty as work and family vehicles, more and more brands such as Ford, Holden, Mazda, Toyota and all are adding an upmarket specification to their range, and Isuzu Ute is no exception.

The LS-T builds on the already comprehensive spec of the LS 4×4, adding leather upholstery, powered driver’s seat, touch screen navigation and audio, surround sound audio, and reversing camera. It shares the same alloy wheels as the MU-X as well as the silver capped power exterior mirrors and aluminium side steps.

Despite having a proper leaf-sprung rear-axle rather than the coil-sprung set up of the MU-X, the D-Max LS-T surprised us with the quality of its ride and handling on-road and off-road. Once again, just like the MU-X, the D-Max has a more compliant suspension tune than the Holden Colorado and a much quieter interior.

While the D-Max LS-T can only accommodate five-passengers, the well-side body has a payload of 1000kg, and it has a towing capacity of 3500kg.

Approach and departure angles are similar to the MU-X, the LS-T has an approach angle of 30 degrees and a departure angle of 22.7 degrees so it too is a veritable mountain-goat off-road.

Both of these Isuzu Ute models offer plenty of specification, safety features, amenity and on and off road capability, the choice of the two will simply come down to the type of luxury workhorse that best suits the buyers wants and needs.

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