We love comparing a base model head-to-head with a flagship variant – it’s the best way to find out where manufacturers are getting cheeky with their pricing strategies.
Sometimes, all you need is the base model, while other times, especially with a package like a 4×4 wagon, it can be a more necessary upgrade due to the inclusion of off-road gear.
All we know is that it’s easy to get carried away with a potentially unnecessary temptation, and we’re here to investigate whether upgrading to the range-topping MU-X is worth it or not.
Today, we’ll be putting Isuzu’s entry-level LS-M 4×4 and the range-topping LS-T 4×4 under the microscope to see if you’re missing out on anything important on the base model, or digging too deep into your pocket for the flagship.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M: Specifications
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 140kW3600rpm / 450Nm@1600-2600rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed auto
Drive type: Part-time RWD/4WD
Wheels: F & R: 17×7.0, 255/65
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 2070kg
Power-to-weight: 14.78:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.3L/100km
Our consumption: 8.4L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 80L/DieselPower efficiency: 16.86kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.01 seconds*
0-100km/h: 9.81 seconds*
60-110km/h: 7.78 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.92 seconds at 133.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.718g*
100-0km/h braking: 42.04m in 3.43 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.148g*
Decibel at idle: 50*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 79*
Starting price: $54,900
*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: How much does it cost?
Isuzu’s most affordable 4×4 variant of the MU-X, the LS-M, is priced from $54,900. Step up to the LS-T and you’ll lighten your wallet to the tune of $65,990 (both before on-road costs).
You can also get all three variants of the MU-X – LS-M, LS-U, LS-T – with a 4×2 system, which drops price tags back to $48,900, $55,400, and $61,400, respectively.
For reference, a Ford Everest 4×4 Trend with seven seats will set you back $65,590, while Mitsubishi’s range-topping Pajero Sport is priced from $62,440.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: Interior & packaging
On the styling front, the LS-T inherits the LS-U’s magnetite finishes for the side steps, roof rails, bumpers and a tungsten silver front grille which makes a bolder first impression than the base model, but it’s not what you’d call transformative.
Inside, the cabin barely changes between the base model and the range-topper, with the exception of leather-like upholstery that extends to the dash and the door surrounds, and without the cheaper-feeling PU steering feel on the LS-M.
The LS-M also comes with cloth seats while the LS-T shows off with its heated, black leather seats; we’ll leave it up to you whether that’s a good or a bad thing, depending on back-sweat levels dictated by ambient temperatures in your neck of the woods.
While the cabin design fails to excite, the sheer size and practicality of the cabin makes it a great place for families and road-tripping grey nomads. With ample storage areas, acres of headroom in the first and second row of the cabin, it’s not hard to see why adventurous Aussies have been flocking to the MU-X.
The second and third rows pick up air vents in the base LS-M (in the ceiling), with easy access into the third row for passengers via a folding mechanism for the second row bench. A pair of ISOFIX anchors and top tether mounts support growing families.
The MU-X’s 311L of boot space with all three rows standing means you can fit a decent amount of cargo behind seven people in the cabin, which expands to a very healthy 1119L with the third row folded.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: Powertrain & handling
Power for both the LS-M and the LS-T comes supplied by the same 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel kicking out 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, switchable four-wheel drive system and a locking rear differential.
The engine is a noisy little thing, and the six-speed auto can have some dim-witted moments, though the overall performance gives you a decent heaping of torque with fairly civilised on-road manners, though not class-leading.
Buyers looking to hit the ground running, the base LS-M has all the kick and hardware you need to hit the dirt, with its 17-inch alloys wrapped in relatively tall 255/65 tyres.
Opt for the LS-T and you’re picking up a set of larger 20-inch alloys wrapped in road-going rubber, measuring 265/50, which fill up the arches nicely, though this comes at a price. The larger alloys tend to emphasise the MU-X’s bulky, un-athletic stature on the road and impact the overall ride quality. It makes the base model more attractive as a daily driver.
Sacrificing ride comfort seems questionable for a package designed to head around Australia with a caravan in tow, and makes the 17-inch wheels seem a more appropriate starting point.
Having said that, the MU-X is a strong performer on Australian roads, remaining well-behaved and civilised for a body-on-frame 4×4 thanks to a lightweight steering rack that makes town driving less of a chore.
The ride could use some extra damping for country roads, though the platform itself feels stable, substantial and more than up to the task of managing every kilogram of its 3500kg braked towing capacity.
In our near-1000km test with both MU-X variants, we averaged 8.4L/100km fuel economy figures – very close tot the official rating of 8.3L/100km. The official rating is higher than the Pajero Sport (8.0L/100km), and thirstier than the Toyota Fortuner (7.6L/100km) and the Ford Everest 2.0TTD (7.0L/100km).
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: Key attractions/reasons to buy
The MU-X’s underpinnings mean that while it can double as a family wagon, it’s been designed with a rugged and adventurous soul that isn’t afraid to get its toes dirty.
The platform isn’t the best in its class when it comes to sheer off-road prowess, though for the money, its skills are immense and Isuzu’s durability credentials are some of the best in the segment.
The MU-X also makes for one of the most spacious seven-seaters in its class, with a third row that can handle a medium-sized adult without an issue, so there’s no guilt in throwing a couple of kids in there on a long trip.
There’s also a bucket load of active safety gear, with the base model only missing out on front-mounted parking sensors though retaining the lion’s share of features, while the six-year warranty out-performs its direct competitors when it comes to long-term peace of mind.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: Key considerations before you buy
The only major downside of picking Isuzu’s entry-level LS-M is the infotainment display, which sits absolutely engulfed by black bezels as a constant reminder that you cheaped-out.
The extra 2-inches of digital real estate is pretty damn noticeable when you switch over to the LS-T, though we’re not convinced its enough to upgrade, especially when you’re dealing with Isuzu’s mediocre (at best) infotainment UX which feels miles behind the rest.
We’d argue, though, that the most important things about the MU-X as a whole come fitted as standard to the LS-M base model, namely the beefy turbo-diesel powertrain, capable suspension package and locking rear diff.
The rest of the cheese atop the LS-T pizza comes in the form of the interior-focused upgrades and the larger alloys.
On that note, Isuzu is far from a segment leader when it comes to interior layouts, so even with the most premium interior touches, the LS-T is still behind the class when it comes to cabin tech.
The range-topper could really use some extra tech, even some basic additions like a wireless charging pad or a surround-view camera to help bring it closer into line with rivals and assert a more dominant stance over cheaper variants.
We’d be more convinced the upgrade were necessary if there were some hardware absences in the base model, or special features in the LS-T. But it’s all the same kit underneath.
2023 Isuzu MU-X LS-M & LS-T: Video
How does it rate against its rivals?
If we were throwing down our dollars tomorrow, we’d pick up the LS-M, use the extra for some off-road upgrades and skip the long waitlists for the LS-T in the process. There’s no denying the MU-X’s impressive versatility as both a family package, a weekend off-road warrior and a long-distance towing powerhouse. For the money, we can’t think of a better option.