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Off-road rivals or also-rans? The Isuzu MU-X and GWM Tank 500 to lead the charge against the new Toyota LandCruiser Prado, but can they really take down the king?

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The new Prado will be entering a tough competition
The new Prado will be entering a tough competition

The new Toyota LandCruiser Prado will be entering into some tough competition when it officially launches in Australia, with two new off-road SUVs ready to take the icon's crown.

The current-generation LandCruiser Prado has legend status in Australia, and the all-new model will be hoping to keep its title, while both the new Isuzu MU-X and GWM Tank 500 will be hoping to steal it.

But are these new SUVs from China and Japan destined to be rivals, or mere also-rans?

Isuzu MU-X

The new Isuzu MU-X promises to be tough off road.
The new Isuzu MU-X promises to be tough off road.

There's little mystery surrounding the incoming MU-X – except for exactly when Isuzu will launch it here – with the tough-as-nails Japanese brand having already launched the new D-Max ute in Australia, which gets the same suite of updates.

So we know, for example, that the trusty 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine will remain the flagship choice, and shouldn't receive any power upgrades, meaning you can expect 140kW and 450Nm.

The Prado will also launch with a familiar engine, Toyota's 2.8-litre turbodiesel, producing some 150kW and 500Nm.

What is new for the MU-X, though, is a styling freshen-up, with the family-ready SUV improving its boxy design with a sleeker and more stylish look, a new grille, more modern lighting and a fresh alloy choices.

In the cabin, a tech overhaul sees the MU-X enter the modern era with a 9.0-inch central screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – with manual controls for volume and tuning so you don't need to dig through on-screen menus – as well as a 7.0-inch digital dash.

Capability should remain at the heart of the MU-X, though, with 4x4 models expected to continue with '4x4 Terrain Command', '2-High', '4-High' and '4-Low', a rear-diff lock and an improved 'Rough Terrain' mode which helps with grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

You can also expect seven seats, a 3.5-tonne towing capacity and art least 800mm in wading depth and 230mm ground clearance, too.

Isuzu is yet to confirm launch timing for the new MU-X, but we're expecting it to land in dealerships in 2024.

GWM Tank 500

The GWM Tank 500 is an off-road hybrid hero.
The GWM Tank 500 is an off-road hybrid hero.

Chinese brand GWM is dialling up the off-road credibility with the Tank 500, and it's shaping as the Prado's most interesting competitor.

While Toyota in Australia is persevering with its trusty diesel engine in Australia (for now...), despite a punchy iForce Max hybrid being offered internationally, GWM is ditching the diesel and going all-in on a petrol-electric powertrain.

Like the MU-X, it offers seven seats across three rows, but where it gets little more unique is under its hood, where a 2.0-litre petrol engine pairs with an electric motor to deliver some 255kW and 648Nm. That is a lot of grunt.

Better still, GWM reckons you'll see 8.5 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, which means its 80-litre fuel tank should deliver a driving range of just under 950kms. It's around 920kms between Sydney and Brisbane, and under 900kms from Sydney to Melbourne, meaning you could theoretically complete both on a single tank.

Pretty good, and even more so when you consider that the Tank 500 is more LC300 sized, and will offer a wading depth of 800mm and a three-tonne braked towing capacity.

Also adding to its off-road credentials are its body-on-frame ladder chassis design, high- and low-range gearing and a rear diff lock.

The Tank 500 starts from $66,490 drive-away for the Lux trim, and tops out at with the $73,990 drive-away Ultra, which makes it a bit of a bargain, too.

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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