Mightier New MU-X

WRITTEN BY: David Wilson

PHOTOS BY: David Wilson & Drew Symonds

Only a few years ago, venturing off-road was only possible by roughing it in a 4WD with little to no comfort and half the amenities of a typical road car. 4WDs have since evolved and now pack comfort with clever technology to make light work of any terrain. Advances like a Rear Differential Lock, an off-road calibrated Traction Control System and an electronically controlled dual-range drivetrain make off-roading more enjoyable and allows just about anyone the ability to get out there and back home again.

In my day job, I get to drive every single 4WD available, it’s been that way for nearly thirty years, and I can honestly tell you that I believe there is currently no better SUV in the 1-tonne category. So, with that praise, it comes as no surprise that I think the All-New Isuzu MU-X has the potential to carry over the crown for the 8th consecutive year, as the best-selling ute-based SUV in the Australian market.

We know that with the addition of IDAS (Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System)—the combination of Active Safety, Passive Safety and Driver Assistance technologies—that the new D-MAX and now MU-X have become amongst the safest vehicles ever seen on our roads. Employing a 3D stereo camera and microprocessor safety system with twin rear mounted radars, that’s able to compute thousands of “live” driving inputs in the blink of an eye, it’ll help keep you in the middle of your lane and anticipate peril likely before you’ve seen it.

Being an existing MU-X owner, you can’t help but be impressed with the changes wrought on the new model. It’s better in every department.

I won’t bang on about the creature comforts except to say it is quieter, smoother and features welcomed luxury appointments to make long hauls all the more appealing. But I will crow on about the steering, because the new D-MAX and MU-X are easily the best turning 4WDs bar none, both on and off-road. And off-road is where the new MU-X is stellar.

Recently I delivered our latest round of Isuzu UTE’s I-Venture Club training program—available exclusively to Isuzu owners—at the South Australian venue Eagleview 4x4, via Mannum, out the back of the Mount Lofty Ranges. I was thrown the keys of a brand-new MU-X LS-T 4x4 in Cobalt Blue a couple of weeks before, exploring the potential of that vehicle on sand and mud—coming away mightily impressed. For the big hills of Eagleview, I swapped it out for an LS-U in Obsidian Grey to see what it looked like and how it handled across the exhilarating undulated tracks and the rocky terrains at this spectacular SA location.

The terrain at Eagleview is predominantly rocky and very steep, which I like to call the perfect test-bed for the All-New MU-X's trio of brake-Traction Control System (TCS), electromagnetic Rear Diff-Lock (RDL) and the new Rough Terrain Mode (RTM)—which are all standard across 4x4 MU-X models.

The tuning revisions applied to TCS on the new model now mean we have two states of tune, one for on-road in 2WD High-range (2H) and 4WD High-range (4H) and operate in a typical speed range of 2,000rpm or more for high-speed loss of grip moments (a wet bitumen road or a loose dirt road). Off-road and at slow speeds in 4WD Low-range (4L), the system now applies brake pressure to a spinning wheel at a more productive speed, at around 1,100rpm. This is a huge improvement and makes the MU-X more adept in firm conditions whether they be rocky or dirt.

Rough Terrain Mode further enhances driveability and torque transfer when the terrain becomes even more of a challenge. A button depress tells the brake algorithm to sharpen its pencil, chiming in with a superior brake pressure input from just off idle with no delay. If you were rock-hopping across a yawning gully you’ll notice with RTM activated that there will be an instant response—transferring torque to the wheels with the most traction and trimming wheel rotation before it spins and contributes to a loss of drive. TCS in its traditional form however relies on wheel spin to occur to trigger a response, but RTM cuts any delay to a minimum. That is a huge advance.

All of this brake-traction refinement is backed up ultimately with a new, for MU-X, Rear Diff-Lock (RDL). This has previously been the ultimate ‘get-out-of-gaol-free” card, a button depress on the approach to a difficult piece of track locks both back wheels together, dialling out the differential action and thus limiting any undesirable wheel spin. Isuzu has elected to cancel any brake-traction inputs that might have gone to any of the wheels once the diff-lock is engaged, so you’ll be relying on the mechanical grip the rears are providing. This is why in some conditions RTM might get you a better result. So basically, the MU-X prepares you for any outcome.

There’s no denying that away from coastal and inland desert sands, the combination of these three technologies will get you a superb result as you claw your way up a steep hill or across a ravine. In sand, the use of 4L gearing and tyre pressure reduction with both Traction Control and Rough Terrain Mode disabled will get you to your favourite spot. So I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again—the All-New MU-X is mightier than ever before, and I can’t wait for you to experience it for yourselves. 

Discover more about the All-New MU-X here.

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