Genuine seven-seater off-roaders that can tow a boat or caravan are typically prohibitively expensive but this newcomer is relatively good value.

The new model is a lot dearer

There are three models in the MU-X range – LS-M, LS-U and LS-T – each available as a rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The entry LS-M is about $52,000 drive-away, which is about 10 per cent more than previously. The LS-T 4×4 tested here is currently $63,990 drive-away, which makes it more appealing. While it misses out on the rear DVD of the previous model (who uses DVDs these days?) it’s otherwise more generously appointed, with a 9.0-inch central screen incorporating wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an impressive arsenal of active safety gear that includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking and speed-sign recognition.

It’s based on a ute

As with many genuine seven-seat four-wheel-drives, the MU-X shares its architecture with a ute – in this case the popular D-Max. It has unique rear suspension to suit the different requirements and expectations of a passenger vehicle, with more emphasis on comfort than load carrying. The 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel shares some hardware with the engine of the same capacity in the previous MU-X and D-Max (as well as Isuzu trucks). Its 140kW and 450Nm outputs are respectable rather than class-leading. Hearty low-rev pull ensures easy acceleration and the engine meshes nicely with the six-speed auto. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for with honest, everyday usability.

Rugged conditions don’t face it

Unlike most SUVs, the MU-X is designed to go off-road. That means compromises for owners in city driving. The steering isn’t as sharp as car-derived SUVs and it gets unwieldy if you push hard through corners. The upside is you can bound over speed humps and once you hit the gravel it’s got the underbody protection and wheel travel to ensure easy progress. It can wade through up to 800mm of water, in part thanks to breathers on the differentials. Low-range gearing, a lockable rear differential, and a rough-terrain mode for the traction control minimize your chances of getting bogged.

The new model tows more

The MU-X is often used for towing and this latest one can carry half a tonne more than its predecessor, with a capacity of 3.5 tonnes. That’s big news for families and gray nomads wanting to hit the road with a boat or trailer, although it’s worth remembering you’ll be seriously limited on what you can carry if you’ve maxed out the tow capacity. The LS-T 4WD we drove can only carry 225kg of people and luggage if you’ve got a 3500kg trailer in tow. If you want to do heavy-duty towing the base two-wheel-drive LS-M has the best payload at 365kg.

The tech is hit and miss

There are some cool features in the new MU-X. The doors lock automatically when you walk away from the car and the four USB ports are handy for keeping gadgets running. The central infotainment screen also looks the business but there are some menus and icons that aren’t always logical and there’s no dial for the volume. The audio quality isn’t the best either. The lane-keeping assistance can also be erratic, making it less useful on freeway cruises.


PRICE $63,990 drive away

ENGINE 3.0-liter 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/450Nm

WARRANTY/SERVICING 6 yrs/150,000km, $2215 for 5 years/75,000km

SAFETY Eight airbags, auto emergency braking, radar cruise, lane-keeping and blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert

THIRST 8.3L/100km

CARGO 311-119 litres

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