Isuzu MU-X VS Lexus NX
- Reversing camera as standard
- Suspension upgrade
- Off-road capability
- No AEB
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Still noisy when driven hard
- Stylish new exterior
- Top-shelf safety offering
- No need to start ticking options
- Infotainment system is very fiddly
- Not too much in the way of updates here
- F Sport looks far more sporty than it is
While MY17 MU-X signalled a massive change for the better in Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) SUV line-up, this year is more of a subdued affair.
Last year heralded the arrival of a new 3.0-litre engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and upgraded Aussie-specific suspension, as well as styling tweaks; MY18 MU-Xs get extended service intervals and a new exterior colour.
It’s a clear case of IUA applying a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to its popular ute-based SUV.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
If Elon Musk could somehow harness the speed at which the new-car market moves, intergalactic space travel would no longer be an issue. Forget hyper-sleep pods and one-way trips that take decades, he could instead be tanning on Mars in the time it takes you to pick up milk.
And that's because new models come and go with a pace that makes the speed of light feel like dial-up internet (or worse, the NBN), and that throws up all sorts of challenges for manufacturers.
Case in point? The good folk at Lexus, who have just launched their updated NX into the premium mid-size SUV segment. And with new suspension, a touched-up grille, some cool new safety stuff and better in-car technology, it all sounds like pretty good news.
Except that, while Lexus has been nipping and tucking, key competitors like Audi and BMW, have been working on all-new models. So the question now is, has this mid-life freshening made the NX cutting-edge enough in the face of all this new competition?
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
The MU-X is a solid SUV wagon and it only continues to gain more appeal and, with it, a growing legion of fans. You certainly see a lot of them around – in the bush, in the suburbs and on city streets.
It’s not flash or posh but it’s a very practical daily driver or weekend tourer and performs very well in the real world. The top choice for me remains the LS-T.
Is the MU-X your kind of SUV? Tell us in the comments below.
Enough to keep the Lexus feeling fresh in a competitive market, this mid-life update also adds plenty of value to the NX equation. Whether improved standard safety, a longer warranty than its key competitors and a fresh new face will be enough to drag buyers out of other all-new models remains to be seen, but it certainly helps keep the NX from showing its age.
Is the Lexus NX edgy enough to tempt you away from its German competitors? Let us know in the comments below.
This launch marked no noteworthy styling changes in the MU-X, inside or out. It remains a blocky but good-looking unit, blending a bush-ready appearance with styling that doesn’t look out of place in an urban setting.
Build quality and fit and finish seem as sturdy as we’ve come to expect from IUA’s mainstream offerings.
If no news is good news, then things are looking great for the NX. Fortunately, then, Lexus' little SUV always cut a fine-looking figure on the road, and the small changes keep it looking sharp.
So, new stuff; the pinched-in-the-middle spindle grille of other new-look Lexus product makes an appearance, and does give the front end a cool and vaguely menacing appearance. The grille is the big news, but there are also new headlamp clusters, new alloy wheel designs and new chrome-tipped exhaust tips on the F Sport models.
Inside, the changes are significantly smaller. There's a larger keypad for Lexus' infuriating infotainment system, new interior colours and a bigger, easier-to-read clock. Put it this way, when part of the headline news inside is new, more ergonomically designed air-con buttons, you're not talking huge changes.
But the cabin still feels a bit of a mixed bag, if we're honest. The screen has grown, which is good, but Lexus persists with this weird mouse-pad style system to control it, which, despite being made easier to use this time around, is still plenty fiddly, and feels out of date compared to some of its competitors.
The MU-X’s cabin, unchanged, should remain an easy place in which to travel. It’s roomy enough for everyone.
The second row is a 60/40 split-fold with a fold-away centre armrest. The third row is a tight fit for adults but that’s nothing unusual in most seven-seaters.
There is 235 litres of boot space when the third row is up, expanding to 878 litres when the 50/50 split-fold third row is folded flat. When the second and third rows are down, there is 1830 litres of space.
The MU-X has 12 cupholders, 18 'storage solutions' (door compartments with bottle bulge, coat hooks, rear cargo organiser box, etc), USB ports (front and rear) and three 12V power outlets (centre dash, glove box and rear cargo area).
The MU-X has a braked towing capacity of 3000kg, 750kg unbraked.
The 4640mm long and 1870mm wide NX is actually pretty spacious wherever you sit. Up front, there are two cupholders separating the driver and passenger, along with a strange box-shaped storage space with a (somewhat suspicious) mirrored lid. There's also a central storage bin, which, in the upper-tier models, is also home to a wireless-charging pad, along with a power source and USB connection.
Step into the back seat, and head-, leg- and toe-room (behind my 172cm driving position) is generous enough for longer trips, and the pull-down divider that separates the rear seat is home to two more cupholders, with room in each of the four doors for bottles.
There are vents (but no temperature controls) for backseat riders, and an ISOFIX attachment point in each window seat, but there are no power or USB ports on offer.
Boot space is an easy-to-load 500 litres, and that number swells to 1545 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
Price and features
There are seven variants in the MY18 MU-X range: the 4x2 LS-M auto ($42,900), 4x2 LS-U auto ($45,200), 4x2 LS-T auto ($48,900), 4x4 LS-M auto ($50,200), 4x4 LS-U manual ($50,400), 4x4 LS-U auto ($52,500), and 4x4 LS-T auto ($56,200). All are seven-seater SUVs.
The base-spec LS-M’s standard features include 7.0-inch touchscreen with USB and Bluetooth streaming, reversing camera and rear park assist sensors, LED daytime running lights, gun metallic front grille, bi-LED projector headlights, colour-coded door handles and side mirrors, hill descent control, air-conditioning, power windows, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
The LS-U gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen, chrome front grille, door handles and side mirrors, as well as side steps, rear cabin cooling vents, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The LS-T also gets leather-accented seats, passive entry and start system, six-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, roof rails, tailgate spoiler, chrome muffler tip and 10-inch DVD screen for rear passengers.
The MY18 MU-X is available in seven colours: 'Cosmic Black Mica', 'Obsidian Grey Mica', 'Havana Brown Mica', 'Silky White Pearl', 'Splash White', 'Titanium Silver' and the new 'Magnetic Red Mica' option.
The NX still arrives in three trim levels; the entry-level Luxury, the performance-styled F Sport and the top-of-the-range Sports Luxury, and there are two unchanged engine options; a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol unit (which is fitted to 300-badged cars) or a 2.5-litre hybrid setup (in the 300h-badged vehicles). The NX is still available in two- or all-wheel drive.
Sadly, though, the extra kit has come at a cost, with price increases across most of the range.
The entry-level (although it sure doesn't sound like it) Luxury cars will set you back $54,800 for the NX 300 and $57,300 NX 300h in two-wheel drive, climbing to $59,300 and $61,800 respectively if you spring for the AWD models.
New stuff includes auto-dipping wing mirrors, a bigger 10.3-inch multimedia screen controlled through a larger and allegedly easier to use remote-touch controller, a shark-fin antenna and new interior colour and material choices. That all joins the existing 18-inch alloy wheels, 10-speaker stereo and leather-trimmed seats.
The big news, though, is the standard inclusion of the Lexus Safety System + package across the range, but we will drill down on those details under the Safety sub-heading.
Step up to the F Sport trim and the cost of entry climbs to $60,800 for the NX 300 and $63,300 for the NX 300h in two-wheel drive (the first time that's been offered), and $65,300 and $67,800 for the AWD cars.
And for that money you'll add a new variable-suspension set-up (a system borrowed from the Lexus LC500), along with four driving modes and performance dampers at the rear. Inside, expect a vaguely sporty focus, with new paddle shifters, metal pedals and new scuff plates. A wireless phone charger arrives here, too, along with a head-up display, heated and cooled front seats and better multi-LED headlamps.
Outside, the sporty wand has been been waved over the F Sport's exterior, with more aggressive front and rear bumpers and a reshaped grille.
Finally, the NX range tops out with the Sports Luxury, which is only available with AWD and will set you back $73,800 for the NX 300 and $76,300 for the NX 300h.
That not-insignificant investment buys you the same variable suspension setup as the F Sport cars, but adds some genuine niceties like a leather-trimmed interior, a full-colour head-up display and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson stereo. You'll also find a moonroof (which is a sunroof, in case you're wondering).
Engine & trans
Yes, the model name climbing from 200 to 300 suggests bigger engines and more power, but both under-the-bonnet options are unchanged for this facelift.
The 300-badged cars arrive with a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, producing 175kW at 4800rpm and 350Nm at 1650rpm. It pairs with a six-speed automatic, and can drive either the front or all four wheels - the latter adding about 60kg to the kerb weight. Expect a 7.3 second sprint to 100km/h in FWD cars, and a 7.1 sec sprint in AWD models.
The 300h cars make use of a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine good for 114kW at 5700rpm, and that pairs with an electric motor that lifts total outputs to 147kW and 270Nm. And it's here where the benefits of all-wheel drive shine, with the all-paw cars fitted with a bonus motor at the rear, producing an extra 50kW and 139Nm - although that bonus power is only intended to help with initial traction, and doesn't impact overall outputs.
The hybrid engine pairs with a CVT auto and can be had in two- or all-wheel drive, but performance times aren't quoted.
We spent very little time in any new models and we’d have to drive a MY18 MU-X for a week or more to get a good handle on real-world fuel consumption but Isuzu claims the MU-X gets through 7.9L/100km (combined) in 4x4 LS-U and LS-T guises, 8.0L/100km (combined) in 4x2 LS-M, and 8.1L/100km (combined) in 4x2 LS-U and LS-T and 4x4 LS-M.
Every MY18 MU-X has a 65-litre fuel tank.
You'll be utterly unsurprised to hear the hybrid version is the easiest on fuel, sipping 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the claimed combined cycle, and 5.7 litres should you opt for AWD. Emissions (C02) are a claimed 131g/km, 133g/km for the all-paw cars.
The turbocharged petrol will use 7.7 (2WD) or 7.9 (AWD) per hundred kilometres claimed/combined, and emissions are pegged at 178g/km (2WD) or 184g/km (AWD).
Running 20 psi (pounds per square inch) in our Bridgestone Dueler or Toyo Open Country tyres, the Isuzus handled everything on the 4WD loop with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, plowing through mud puddles and more.
No surprise at its efficacy on rough terrain because the D-Max and MU-X work off the proven '4X4 Terrain Command' system, operated via a dial near the auto shifter, and which can be switched on the move from 2High to 4High at speeds of up to 100km/h.
To engage 4L you need to be stationary.
The MU-X is 4825mm long, 1860mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1860mm high (the 4x2 LS-M is 1825mm high) and has a 3095mm wheelbase and 1570mm track. It has a 11.6m turning circle. Kerb weight is listed as from 1992kg (4x2 LS-M) to 2157kg (4x4 LS-T).
All MU-Xs except 4x2 and 4x4 LS-M models (220mm), have 230mm ground clearance. All MU-Xs except 4x2 and 4x4 LS-M models have 24 degrees approach angle (LS-M: 23.3), 25.1 degrees departure angle (LS-M: 24.6), and 19.5 degrees ramp-over angle (LS-M: 18.7).
The MU-X retains the benefits of the previous generation’s hill start assist (designed to hold gear during climbs) and hill descent control (which maintains engine-braking speed on downhills and is able to be regulated with acceleration or braking).
Underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid/splash shield on every MU-X; and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge on all 4x4 models.
It's anything but an overhaul, but the little changes don't dent the NX's on-road appeal.
While genuine sportiness still feels elusive, we tested the NX over a huge variety of road surfaces, and it always felt connected and involved, if never quite sporty.
Yes, the tyres will moan and the front end will begin to push wide if you insist on asking too much of it, but drive it as 99.9 per cent of its owners will surely do and the suspension (re-tuned in the entry level model, or all new in the top-tier cars) does an absolutely fine job of sorting out bad road surfaces, while still offering enough dynamic poise to keep you confident on twisting roads.
Lexus tells us that a key focus for this update was ride and handling - hence the suspension adjustments and upgrades - and general NVH (in other words, how quiet and comfortable it is in the cabin), and while it's possibly not quite as cocooning as we were expecting, the cabin is still a nice and refined place to spend time.
In short, it remains an easy and trouble-free drive, only now with plenty of bonus safety stuff that will step in if required.
The MU-X has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from April 2017.
Standard safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, traction control and EBA (emergency brake assist), 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control', plus three top-tether ISOFIX child-seat points in the rear seat.
The NX's safety credentials can't be questioned, with this mid-life update sharing the best of the safety kit right across the range.
Every NX now gets the Lexus Safety System+ package as standard, which includes AEB, active cruise and a lane-departure-warning system. All that stuff joins blind-spot motoring, rear cross-traffic alert, trailer-sway control and an upgraded reversing camera with a new widescreen mode.
The Lexus NX received the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash tested in 2015.
Servicing is recommended at 12-month/15,000km intervals. Prices are: $350 (at 12 months/15,000km), $450 (at 24 months/30,000km), $500 (at 36 months/45,000km) $450 (at 48 months/60,000km) and $340 at 60 months/75,000km – for a total cost of $2090.
The NX is covered by Lexus' four-year, 100,000km warranty, and the Japanese brand will offer you a loan car during each service, or pick up and drop off your car from your home or work. Which is lovely.
Service intervals are pegged at 12 months or 15,000km, with the first one free of charge.