Whats my concept of an SUV? Big grunting, whiny diesel engine up front, mammoth proportions, unstoppable by most of the things roads throw at it. We got the keys to an Isuzu MUX for a week. Its the new entrant from the Japanese maker into the luxury SUV territory. We’ve found out if it ticks the boxes mentioned above.
Design and Exterior
Mammoth proportions? TICK
This thing is H-UU-G-E. It towers most of the other cars on road today. The design inspiration comes from a tiger, says the brochure. The huge grille with chrome accents highlights the design inspiration; two slit grille with fangs engraved, gives the MUX an aggressive facia. Also, the bumper is contrast colored which houses the LED DRLs and Fog lamps. The quadrilateral headlights look aggressive as well. Pretty intimidating, I might say. The side gets bulging wheels arches, which translates to massive wheel wells. If you’ve followed automotive news closely, you’d know, the MUX is based on the Chevrolet Trailblazer. That explains the resemblance between the two past the C-pillar and at the curve from the sides to the rear. This car has a good looking rear end as well. Like up front, the rear has a contrast colored insert for the bumper, which looks really good, and again, aggressive.The SUV also sits on 17 Inch dual tone alloy wheels.
Standing from a distance, you realize that its a clean design, not many curves and lines passing over the body; yet, it all beautifully comes together. And trust me, you’re going to look out of the window in the name of checking, and you’re going to admire the looks (like I did!!).
Once you clamber up the car to get in, you are in for a lot of space. The interior is finished in beige and and black, which looks rich. The seats get leather upholstery, and are soft and comfortable. You do notice that the front seats are not as contoured and look thinner than what you see in big SUVs these days. A gentleman at the dealership, when we picked the vehicle, told us that Isuzu has given special attention towards the design of the seats; the aim being to keep the driver steady at his place, without him tossing about and having to adjust himself again and again when the vehicle is taken offroading. And he’s right. Thin as they might look for seats of a full size SUV, they’re very supportive and comfortable.
But, the cabin, overall, lacks the premium feel you expect from anything that costs upwards of the ₹20 lakh mark. This is not a ‘wrap-everything-in-leather’ interior that is pretty much being standard in this category of vehicles. Also, the design of the dash looks a bit dated for 2017. You get a touch-screen infotainment system, which is responsive and responds well to touch inputs. But, you don’t get satellite navigation and other modern connectivity stuff (read Android Auto/ Apple Car play). The circular design for the buttons takes some time to get used to. The controls on the steering don’t look like they belong to a premium SUV either. You do get another screen integrated in the roof for rear passengers to watch movies and videos on the go. The gear lever gets brushed aluminium and leather treatment, and a nice weighted feel.
There’s acres of legroom for the middle row, as also a reclining back rest for the middle row bench seat. You won’t be complaining of sore butts or numb thighs on long journeys. Third row seating is best for children though, and not tall ones at that.
Overall, the interior is a comfortable place to be in, but needs a more minimalistic approach and more leather, I’d say.
Engine and Performance
The MUX gets a whiny diesel motor, which makes noises that tickle my enthusiast and diesel-noises loving brain. 3 litre, 4 cylinder turbo diesel. 177 horsepower and 380Nm of torque are the numbers it gives. And it is mated to a 5 speed AMT.
Now, Isuzu is known for their reliable diesel engines around the world. The brochure of the MUX has the graph showing the power delivery and horsepower and torque curves. Car-guy turn-on stuff!
This big motor is loud! More so, at low gears. Get past the lag and the car hauls hard. The power delivery is smooth and linear, and as the graph I mentioned earlier shows , you get a consistent torque in the powerband which makes this big girl seem quick on its feet. The fan is loud , and as much as I like it owing to my love for loud cars, their will be folks who would complain of it being a noisy motor. Haters gonna hate though, and personally, we love the engine here. Also, 380NMof torque sounds less in this category. But does it feel so when you actually drive it? Not at all! Numbers apart, what really matters is the nature of torque delivery. And this engine, past the 2500 mark has a strong torque punch.
Talking of the transmission, which is a 5 speed sequential here; this one’s not really the quickest transmission around, and not the most responsive either. But that’s because the world now has experienced dual clutch transmissions. It doesn’t shift at times when you want it to, which can be a problem if you’re overtaking and need a downshift. Don’t assume that its lazy though. All the little nags are occasional. And hey, you can always slip it into manual and take command of the transmission. If you stop comparing it to dual clutches, its a good transmission. Here’s for the purists who’d put the car in manual, for offroad purposes:
- Gear Ratios
- 1st – 3.520
- 2nd – 2.042
- 3rd – 1.400
- 4th – 1.000
- 5th – 0.716
- Reverse – 3.224
- 4×2 – 3.727
- 4×4 – 3.727
On the whole, we loved the powertrain, with all the little faults it has.
Ride and Handling
Given the size and category of this car, I shouldn’t be needing to mention that potholes are not an issue while driving in this thing. All the bad roads and the irritating Indian potholes are dealt with very well. The ride here is plush and planted as well. Of course, there is body roll, (Its an SUV, it has to have it!) but it is very well controlled and not the frightening types. What surprised us the most is the high speed stability, and the feeling of being planted when carrying some considerable speed into corners and curves. The tyres and suspension work together really well to control the body movements through corners.
When we had the car with us, the Rain Gods were either too pleased with Maharashtra or were lashing out at it. Now, isn’t that perfect for going out on really bad, slushy, mud roads? Thats what we did. Slip the car into 4H and I had set out to take on a very slushy road leading to a hilltop. While all others in the car dug into the seats and sat like scaredy cats, I ploughed the mud and bad undulations in the MUX. The steering here is a powered RACK AND PINION, did I mention? Turn-on #2!! That folks, means I was gonna feel all the mud getting churned down there through the steering wheel. Its raw and direct feedback, which gave me a lot of confidence to go through all the mud and trenches. All the others in the car (all of them thoroughly experienced at all kinds of driving) were sure of me getting it stuck. And boy, no I wasn’t going to, because of the feedback I was getting. The car lets you know exactly whats happening underneath the tyres and the body. Impressed, totally impressed!
Well, rack and pinion means the steering is gonna be heavy, and it is. But you get used to the weight and it doesn’t really make your hands ache. You are going to get stuck in city traffic given the size of this car, but the steering doesn’t stress your muscles out though being heavy.
Raw, Loud, Huge is what the Isuzu MUX is. Yes, the interior could have been better. Yes the car is loud and you get a lot of engine noise in the cabin. Yes the transmission tends to be lazy at times. But hey, Sports Utility Vehicle isn’t it? As a petrol-head, I’m going to go ahead and say, I love the car for the small niggles it has. You get the reliability of an Isuzu engine, and you get a lot of car for the money you give. Buy this one for the raw appeal this car has. Car makers are pushing to make their vehicles as driver friendly as possible by giving many electronic gimmicks and fancy user interfaces and stitched-to-perfection interiors. Cars this old-school are diminishing at a fast rate, and we’re happy that Isuzu is having one such up for sale.