The Isuzu MU-X facelift is just another full-size SUV in this crowded space of seven-seater premium vehicles. It might lose in terms of pedigree and lineage that the Toyota Fortuner offers, or modern equipment that the Ford Endeavour, Skoda Kodiaq or even the Mahindra Alturas G4 for that matter provide. However, it makes up with its preposterous size and muscularity. Then, there’s its sheer simplicity, old-school charm and off-road capability that excited us. No wonder then, when they say MU-X, it means ‘Makes U eXciting’.
Under its high and long bonnet, is a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine which churns out 174bhp of power at just 3,600rpm and 430Nm of torque at 1,800rpm. Well, it has proved itself to be a good highway mile muncher or a family freighter. But now, through our off-road tests, we see if it can double up as a capable off-roader.
Out on the road, it was pretty clear that this turbo-diesel isn't a powerhouse for just darting in. More so, considering this slow-spooling engine that makes plenty of noise and a slow automatic gearbox. Then, there's no hiding the bulk too. So it wasn't a surprise when it took a fair bit of time to get to the 30kmph mark. Loose soil and grass made it even difficult for it to put up some appreciable times. But, with ample torque, it shouldn't ever be a problem to maintain the required momentum off road.
Now, getting to a dead halt from 30kmph in this very terrain and condition was pretty apparent for this big brawny SUV. All the muscle, huge presence and heavyweight were very vocal of the fact that things would get difficult for it. And it was soon confirmed as the vehicle portrayed plenty of nose-dive under hard braking and continued to drag itself for 27 feet. After all, a car that shakes when braking makes you nervous. The soft-feeling brakes and H/T tyres here further didn't help inspire enough confidence on the muddy surface.
Once anyone goes off the road with a huge SUV like this, it’s imperative to pick the way over precarious terrain and keep an eye where the SUV is stepping. Our slalom course tests exactly this. The larger footprint of the MU-X meant it had to take larger turns on the narrow track. In fact, it also had to be reversed once to put it back in place, where it lost a lot of time. And then, there's plenty of play in the steering wheel which isn’t quick. So we wriggled it enough only to put up a time of 46 seconds.
With four turns lock-to-lock, it’s obvious that slight movement of this steering wheel will not have many effects in changing direction. This is the case for many 4WDs of this type. But then, with a high front-row seating position, will it be comfortable for a passenger off-road? Our beaker test rightly examines this. Sure, the MU-X’s seats are spacious enough to fit drivers/co-drivers of most shapes and sizes. Also, the soft coil springs at each corner absorbed just about anything that the harshly rutted trail with turns threw up. But, with the continuous bob and rock akin to most ladder-on-frame chassis cars, this Isuzu spilt 60ml of water, which is quite a lot, hinting at the amount of side-to-side movement of passengers at slow speeds.
Off-Road Hill Climb
What's off-roading without a hill climb thrown into the mix? With a high hood, tall stance and no 360 cameras, we thought it would be difficult for this mammoth to take on the hill-climb challenge. But this robust ladder-frame chassis, a capable 4x4 set-up and the nice and big wheels’ articulation made much more sense here. Despite not having that nuggetty off-road rubber, this SUV showed sure-footedness. And with the 4L mode engaged, it was just unstoppable even in the steeper section of the rough climb by just dislodging the stones that came its way.
So there it is, the Isuzu MU-X isn’t flamboyant, but discreet. It’s not the one that will thrill the inner child within you, but bring out the mature, responsible traits out of you. Particularly, when there’s so much moving bulk to control. And even though very heavy, it’s so supple over bumps, and despite the movement, more forgiving on your body. It’s genuinely a good off-roader that doesn't have an amped-up image of ruggedness but is still robust, capable and respectable. Be it friends or family, you can just take them along for a road trip in the MU-X, which will traverse the countryside roads or the lack of them without any fuss.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi
Click on the links below to find out how these SUVs fared in our tests.