Isuzu MUX LS-T

Just what we were asking for

If first impressions count, then the confident design of Isuzu’s second-generation MUX isn’t backward in coming forward.

Breaking with previous modest convention, this new generation makes a bold statement of intent. Complimented by chrome and tungsten silver highlights to contrast against an array of optional body colours, there’s Isuzu’s signature horizontal front bars, muscular bulging wheel arches, filled with striking 20-inch machined two-tone alloy wheels dressed in 265/50R20 Bridgestone 684II HT as fitted to our test vehicle.

The minacious bi-LED projector headlights and sharp arrow shaped LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) appear to be looking back at you. Maybe it’s the new MUX’s intrepid display of gutsy aggressive features both front and rear, with strong body contours and a purposeful stance that quickly set it apart from its older sibling and the looming competition. Love it or hate it, opinions are a plentiful commodity, and everyone’s got one. For what it’s worth, I think it’s one of the better-looking wagons currently out there.

The MUX comes in three flavours, each with varying levels of interior resplendence and subtle differences of exterior trimmings. 

Based on Australian Isuzu owners’ feedback in terms of capability and configuration, Isuzu offer each variant in either the rugged off-road ready 4×4 for those big adventures or a blacktop focused, functional and practical 4×2 for those who don’t have the necessity for a 4WD. 

This provides Isuzu customers options and additional savings on superfluous driveline componentry that they might never use.

Isuzu’s indicated drive-away pricing is all-inclusive covering GST, vehicle rego, dealer delivery and stamp duty. Starting with the base LS-M which gets things moving in 4×2 for $54,890 or 4×4 at $61,384. The mid-range LS-U ups the ante with 4×2 at $61,891 or 4×4 for $68,306.

At the head of the pack, there’s the opulently appointed flagship, the LS-T, offering all the bells and whistles with the LS-T 4×2 version interestingly sharing its base price of $68,306 with the mid-range LS-U 4×4. And finally, the full-fat, double-whipped cream edition, the range topping LS-T 4×4 tipping the scales at a fubsy $74,722. Keep in mind, this doesn’t cover any additional cost associated with all the optional extras you’re bound to select along the way as you customise your MUX to your individual tastes and requirements.

However, be sure to check any relevant special offers on the Isuzu website first before talking to your dealer, as there’s a promotion deal on at the time of writing this article whereby you can be in the esteemed top of the range MU-X 4X4 LS-T AUTO for $65,990, that’s less than the mid spec LS-U 4×4 equivalent. Go figure!

With wide opening doors, ingress and egress from the MU-X is made all the easier with quality solid grab handles conveniently placed in a practical location for some additional assistance.

The interior presentation and design styling are worlds apart from its predecessor. 

Decorously covered in soft-touch textures, highlight stitching, all contrasting against elegant piano black and silver highlights throughout the cabin, and set against soft ambient lighting. This new LS-T carries a genuine sense of style and grace.

One feature I liked was the way the interior light illuminates as you walk towards the MUX at night and the convenience of the auto-locking doors as you walk away from the vehicle. No more Doh! moments as you sit down at the restaurant thinking, did I lock the car? There’s even a remote start function, why you ask? Well, being able to fire up the engine and AC to cool the cabin which has been in the scorching sun for 4 hours before you climb in… nice!

Settling into the heated leather accented front seats on our LS-T variant, the first thing I noticed was a comfortable firmness, the padding provides good bolstering for lateral support, a must have if you’re going to get a little more adventurous with the 4WDrive version. There’s good adjustment through the tilt and telescoping steering and the eight-way powered driver’s seat can accommodate taller drivers like my 6’4 nephew or my less vertically impressive wife, allowing them to find the perfect driving position, both supportive and enabling excellent forward and side visibility. However, rear visibility behind the C pillar is a little restricted given the smallish triangular windows; good thing the LS-T comes with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Those of us with back issues will definitely appreciate the combination and ergonomics of the high back rest and lumber adjustment enabling the seat to follow the natural curvature of your back, offering proper support around the neck and shoulder region which helps slow the inevitable onset of driver fatigue when following that dotted white line hour after hour on those long trips, making the driving experience between coffee breaks and the necessary leg stretch all the more enjoyable.

Grab the passenger’s rear door to open the back, and Isuzu have done well to improve the ingress and egress for second and third row seats by moving the centre pillar 25mm forward and stretching the available opening, allowing even yours truly to get in and out with relative ease and maybe a little assistance from those well-placed grab handles. The wide sidestep also provides a stable platform to step onto or off for those of us who are somewhat less agile.

The second-row seats are comfortable too, they provide good hip and leg support. With increased width, there’s plenty of room for two adults or even three large teens across the back, with ample shoulder and head room. Growing families may appreciate the fact that they can fit three child restraint seats across the second row, thanks to top-tether anchorage points mounted on the back of the seat, with two ISOFIX points on the outer seats.

Based on my testing and time spent in the second row; fold down the centre arm rest, recline the seat back, adjust the head rest to your liking, drop a mocha into the clever pop out cup holder, plug in the iPad into the easily accessible USB ports, double tap Netflix, and you’ll get no complaints from adults, teen or kids being chauffeured to the next family adventure.

But it’s the third-row seats that get the gong. Pretty much every vehicle I’ve tested in the past sees compact third row seating relegated to Wednesday and Pugsley, but not so much in the MUX. It goes without saying, don’t expect to place Lurch back there for hours on end, but you’ll easily accommodate Gomez and Morticia in comfort thanks to much wider seats, also with recline function and even extra toe room. For shorter trips, you’ll even be able to squeeze in Uncle Fester by himself, with little to no complaint. It’s genuinely a functional 7-seater that’s ideal if you wanted to take the entire gang out for a ghost and ghouls family reunion or to the next Monsters Comic Con.

Storage practicality abounds in the MUX. Lift the LS-T electrically operated rear hatch either by the dashboard, key fob or buttons on the tailgate and with the third row in place you’ve got a reasonable 311L of storage, more than enough for a light holiday shop at the Bunbury markets to pick up those last-minute treats as you head down south. I really liked the clever cubby storage under the floor for providing quick easy access to bits and bobs; puppy leads, drink bowl and bottle, or maybe a rain jacket and compact umbrella if going out in inclement weather. Lay that third row down when not needed and storage jumps to an impressive 1,119L. It’s a commodious space for boxes, cases, travel bags and all manner of sporting equipment or gardening gear from Bunnings or transporting even the largest of fur kids.

Want bigger? No problems, easily tumble the second row forward in the one action flip and fold motion that also makes it a cinch for kids to access the third row by themselves, and the MUX’s internal carrying capacity becomes cavernous with over 2,100L of space. Slide in long, large awkward items like a mountain bike, trestle table, surfboard, or step ladder, and still easily close the rear tailgate. But a glaring omission on a premium wagon of this nature was the lack of a hands-free foot wave underneath or fob sensing to open the door when your hands are full. However, I did like the fact you can preset the opening height for lower garages, and the remote opening is automatically disabled when hooked up to a trailer, so no accidental mishaps with the door crunching into the front of your caravan.

Clever design now sees the rear deck flush with the door opening, meaning loading gear is even easier. And for dap spots, there are twin glove boxes, a decent sized console and drink bottle holders in all doors. I’m so happy to see that Isuzu has retained those legendary cup holders below the front dash outer vents. Every vehicle should have these! And there’s even a place for your coffee or lemon and apple slushy in the third row.

Keeping the interior cool, there’s dual zone climate control and passengers will appreciate the conveniently placed roof vents over the second and third row seats. There’s even a fan speed control above the second row to adjust air flow for the rear, great on those hotter days and to help ensure your furry friends get to ride in supreme comfort. For charging, the MUX provides 12-volt power outlets in the lower instrument panel and rear most cargo area (perfect for hooking up a small car fridge) and there’s dual rear centre console USB charging ports on the second row to provide plenty of power for game consoles or iPads. But nothing for third row occupants, which is an oversight, given it will most likely be kids and teens back there—the ones most likely to be the biggest users of USB connectivity.

Our LS-T variant had the larger option 9-inch touchscreen display as standard with wireless Apple CarPlay letting you leave your phone in your pocket, but no wireless charging—so you’ll need to plug in your phone to a USB port just like Android Auto, if you want to keep it charged—Doh!

The screen doubles for the reverse camera display, and it comes with built in GPS.

I’ll admit cranking up your favourite Spotify play list across the 8-speaker surround sound audio system pumped through the all-new JVC Kenwood speakers really rocks; pun intended.

As for the driver, you’re further pampered with keyless push button start, a soft touch gear lever and elegant leather steering wheel containing cruise, audio, and voice recognition controls. 

I did like the gauge cluster design consisting of clean, crisp analogue speedometer and tacho with a neatly placed colour 4.2” customisable multi-information display in the centre, providing an array of information and the ability to configure key vehicle systems via the steering wheel toggle switches.

One aspect that seemed odd was the yellow greyish tint to the clear cover. In direct sunlight it impeded visibility of the gauges. Below the main screen is an LED readout for the dual climate control settings, with a neat row of stylish and pleasingly tactile toggle switches to control various A/C functions.

Driving around town the 11.4m turning circle and electric steering provide a light, nimble response for negotiating busy shopping centres, or multi-storey carparks. However, on the open road at higher speeds, the steering feel becomes nicely weighted, responding smoothly and directly to driver input, making lane placement a pleasure. Cabin noise is reasonably well suppressed thanks in part to the extensive use of sound-deadening materials throughout the vehicle.

Ride comfort and vehicle stability are very good for a vehicle this tall. The suspension system dissipates all but the biggest of bumps and road surface irregularities, ensuring minimal impact on cabin serenity whilst retaining control and poise. This can be largely attributed to the MUX’s new suspension configuration and ladder-frame chassis design, as shared with the robust D-MAX ute. Made from high-tensile steel, Isuzu has further increased this new MUX’s rigidity, strength, and most importantly load-carrying capacity.

Towing capacity is now class-leading 3.5 tonne, with an additional 50kg for GVM and 250kg for GCM on our test MUX LS-T. 

Even axle loads have increased with an additional 50kg to the rear axle, and an impressive 100kg to the front. 

This has been strategically done to accommodate the probability of additional accessory weight, bull bar, winch etc. And how about a prefabricated pathway in the inner-guard for easy installation of an engine snorkel—a unique Australian-specification to save owners time and money during the fitment process.

Finally, a manufacturer who understands how owners will use and customise their vehicles.

Where the two platforms differ is in the rear end configuration. The MUX, unlike the ute, uses a different rear-subframe that houses a newly revised five-link rear coil-spring suspension setup. Combined with the all-new front double wishbone design utilising high-mounted upper-control arms, stiffer spring rates, and dampers valved for varying terrain surfaces plus a thicker anti-roll bar as seen in the D-MAX. The end result is improved control of body roll during cornering, less pitch back and forth under acceleration or braking, especially when carrying a load. All of which translates to improved overall vehicle composure, handling and dynamics when loaded up and on the open road.

Under the hood, and now standard across the MUX range, lives the new 3-litre, common-rail, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine coupled to an intuitive 6-speed automatic transmission. Gear shifts are not only smoother but quicker and more efficient, meaning the auto can exploit the available torque of the new 3L to maximum effect.

Whilst the 3L might not be the quietest kid on the block, especially when stretching the tacho in the upper rpm range in very soft sand, it’s how it delivers torque that makes it impressive for off-road excursions or towing duties. Producing a respectable 140kWs at 3,600rpm and a solid 450Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,600 rpm, these figures belie the driving characteristics of the MUX’s capability. Recently, I got to haul a moderate sized camper trailer down around the southwest, large enough to make an impression on the 3L but nowhere near its stated towing capacity. I must say I was suitably impressed with how well the 3-litre acquitted itself.

What’s impressive is that you have 300Nm available to you at 1,000rpm, just off idle.

Getting away from the lights and keeping up with the ebb and flow of traffic wasn’t accompanied by car horns or frustrated sports car drivers. But it’s the mid-range where you notice the 3L’s subtle determination to keep things rolling in a relaxed and stress-free manner. It will deliver 400Nm of torque from just 1,400 rpm, all the way through to 3,250 rpm.

That’s an impressive delivery of strong, usable torque over 1,800 rpm—the result is confident towing and great off-road crawling ability. With an indicated drinking habit of 8.3L/100 given the now larger 80L fuel tank; the MUX should be good for 900 to 1,000ks.

Obviously, load up the back, connect the boat, camper, or caravan and that indicative figure will head south. Always do your own calculations between bowsers to better understand how your setup and configuration will influence fuel consumption.

But not all MUX’s will get to play only on the black top, and we wanted to get a feel for the MUX 4×4 in a more natural environment. Traveling corrugated secondary gravel roads, the improvements of the 5-link, solid axle, coil rear-end really shone through. The damping rates improved control over coil compression and rebound, allowing the MUX to maintain control and confidently ride across the bumps rather than shudder and shimmy uncomfortably.

At the simple twist of a dial, you can operate Isuzu’s Terrain Command mode selector. This will allow you to move between 2WD and 4WD high range at up to 100kph. Or stop the vehicle and then push down and rotate the selector to engage 4WD low range.

Driving over slippery undulations and lifting the occasional wheel for a little airtime, we engaged the MUX’s Rough Terrain Mode switch. An enhanced extension of the already improved Traction Control System (TCS), this electronic driver aid will maximise drivability by optimising the vehicle for challenging, slippery, rough conditions. What became quickly evident was how this further enhanced the accuracy of the MUX’s already effective traction control system. 

Reacting quicker and less aggressively to wheel slip, avoiding that snatch and grab reaction of lessor systems, which can so often impede forward momentum on slippery surfaces. Instead, the MUX paused momentarily, slowly arresting wheel slip and audaciously redirected torque to the wheels with traction to slowly move forward and past the obstacle. Mind you, it’s very comforting to know that should things get difficult, your MUX is also equipped with an electromagnetic locking rear differential.

As far as off-road credentials go, the MUX has an approach, cross over, and departure of 29, 23, 26 degrees respectively. Plus, a wading depth of 800mm and 235mm of ground clearance. But the Achilles heel for off-road success wasn’t so much the MUX’s own capability as its unsuitable tyres. HT tyres are designed for quiet smooth highway operation and that’s exactly where they should stay.

With a 5-star ANCAP safety rating; when it comes to the very latest and best in driver aided safety systems, Isuzu has thrown the book at this new MUX. 

Honestly, if it’s missing an option, it’s probably because it hasn’t been invented yet!

Isuzu’s comprehensive Intelligent Drive Assistance System (IDAS) suite has eight-airbags including a centre-airbag, Autonomous Emergency Braking with Turn Assist featuring pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control… 

I’d need another few pages to list them all.

There are so many well thought out aspects that I really liked about the MUX—and I give a great deal of credit to Isuzu for incorporating so much feedback from their loyal customer base. It really is a vehicle fit for purpose whether that be touring, towing or adventure 4WDring, and the array of well thought out genuine accessories to meet the individual needs of owners shows that. From the base LS-M to the range topping LS-T, there’s a spread of luxury and trimmings to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets.

Yet no one vehicle is perfect. With an asking price of $75,000 for the flagship LS-T, I’d have liked the inclusion, or at least option, of a 360-degree camera with off-road modes. Some buyers who enjoy the finer things in life may question, “No sunroof”?

Why not proper all terrain tyres on all 4×4 MUX variants, allowing owners to change to road tyres once worn out if they aren’t using 4WD? Rather than placing additional cost on new owners to upgrade to more appropriate rubber because they want to use and enjoy the available capability of their new 4×4.

Lastly, as reliable and proven as is the part time 4WD system, it’s lacking the modern flexibility of AWD and the benefits that provides.

The MUX comes with a comprehensive 6 year or 150,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus 7 years Roadside Assistance if completing scheduled services at any participating Isuzu dealer using Isuzu’s capped price servicing, covering the first 100,000km or 7 years of ownership, which equates to a total of $3,513 over the seven-year period. Add in Isuzu’s advanced intelligent driver assist system and a full 5 Star ANCAP rating; and it stacks up to be a comprehensive package.

It’s hard not to see the obvious rewards and benefits in choosing a vehicle from the MUX range as a competent and very practical family 4×4 capability SUV, or 2WD if you’d prefer, as Isuzu has given you the option to choose.

Based on Isuzu’s demonstrated commitment to their customers to incorporate real world practicalities and upgrades from MUX owners in each new edition, then it’s highly likely we’ll see these upgrades in subsequent models. Who knows, maybe a V6 to go head-to-head with Ford’s new Ranger and Everest? With Isuzu’s huge wealth of experience and expertise in trucking; things could get very interesting indeed.

Model: Isuzu MUX LS-T

  • Price: $74,722
  • Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
  • Output: 140kW/450Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic
  • Fuel: 8.3L/100km
  • Safety rating: ANCAP 5 Stars

Drive Editor - Ray Cully

Drive Editor – Ray Cully

About our Motoring Editor: Ray has been passionate about all things automotive since he first started collecting Matchbox and Hot Wheels models when he was five. Since leaving his executive role at General Motors (GM), he’s been sharing his driving experiences with Australian audiences for nearly 20 years, commencing his automotive journalist career with a popular WA-based magazine and was writing his own column in The West Australian for 8 years.

Ray’s strong love of automotive engineering and clever design has seen his articles and photography featured in prominent national magazines in Australia and the UK. He loves sharing his passion with other drivers, including via a long running stint as Senior Instructor for Land Rover Experience, providing training and education for new vehicle owners.

Recently Ray has been presenting on TV shows including Ready for Adventure and the very popular Caravan and Camping WA, to showcase some of the great products, vehicles and companies that make getting out and exploring Western Australia that much more enjoyable.