THE Isuzu MU-X settled into an easy highway cruise and was much more relaxed cruising at a 100km/h with its newly revised 3.0-litre engine (with 50Nm more torque) and an additional transmission ratio (now a six-speed auto in place of the old five-speed unit).
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Where the MU-X would sit on 1900rpm in fifth gear (with the occasional shift to fourth, where it would rev noisily at around 2600rpm) at 100km/h, the MY16.5 MU-X ticks along in sixth gear at 1500rpm, with the occasional downshift to fifth where it revs at 1800rpm at 100km/h.
When revved, though, the Isuzu is just as clattery and intrusive as before and, while the extra drag of a caravan masks it a little, the Isuzu’s turbo lag hasn’t been reduced.
Aside from initial sluggishness due to turbo lag, the MU-X was a real performance surprise packet. It came third in the group for standing-start and hill climbing, not that much behind the Ford Everest and Holden Trailblazer.
Perhaps there is no substitute for cubic inches, because despite the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport’s slight (3kW) power advantage and two additional gears (albeit biased towards overdrive ratios), the 3.0-litre MU-X hosed the 2.4-litre Pajero Sport in the standing start and hill climb performance figures.
Engine braking was also excellent, with the MU-X just behind the Everest in pegging back speed down the test hill.
Despite being the most fuel-efficient wagon here, the Isuzu has just 65 litres of fuel capacity, netting it a satisfactory rather than outstanding 442km safe touring range.
The wagons’ wheelbases are within 100mm of each other, but at 2845mm the MU-X has one of the longest on test. Its 1210mm rear-axle-to-towball point was one of the shortest, another pointer to good towing stability.
Finally, while the body dropped 30mm at the rear with the ’van hitched up, the front increased in height by just 5mm.
The Isuzu’s suspension, quite plush when unladen, becomes more obviously soft when there’s a caravan hitched up behind. When heading along rough, undulating roads, the MU-X exhibits quite a bit of fore-aft pitching.
Yet there’s one thing for sure – this is one of the most planted, secure towing platforms around, and despite its bouncy shenanigans on some roads, it never feels unstable or unsafe.
Isuzu doesn’t short-change you on weights as some of the other manufacturers do, so you can run with the full 638kg payload while towing to a maximum 3000kg behind the MU-X and still meet the 5750kg GCM maximum.
The MU-X’s side mirrors were a nice squared-off shape, making it easy to attach the towing mirrors.