Simon Lai heads to Moreton Island for the launch of the Isuzu I-Venture Club
It’s a great feeling to own a new vehicle and it’s even better to know how to use it to its full potential. Isuzu Ute recently launched their I-Venture Club a training program designed as an introduction to four-wheel driving for new owners.
The Isuzu Ute I-Venture Club provides guidance in the basics of 4WD under expert instruction in Isuzu’s two and only models the D-MAX ute and the MU-X SUV to get accustomed to the vehicles’ off-road capabilities.
I went along to see what it’s all about on south-east QLD’s Moreton Island to try out the same experience as a new club member would.
The fleet of cars were loaded onto a dedicated car ferry at Brisbane Port we were on the sandy white shores, wasting no time driving straight onto the beach.
The group of Isuzu’s we had at our disposal were a mixture of the automatic MU-X, crew cab D-MAX and the limited edition D-MAX X-Runner available from $51,990 and comes with some extra features you can check out here. Participants would take their own vehicles with them in the normal drive program.
We drove in convoy following behind the lead black D-MAX. All cars are connected by radio and instructions, directions and local knowledge will be shared through the system.
The drive took us along the island’s beaches driving on the water’s edge, through small water crossings, and sandy tracks in the interior. It’s mainly flat but you’ll confront some slight gradients and hard sand and soft sand. Well, basically a lot of sand.
Because of the soft terrain the emphasis is on the importance of tyre pressure with the advice to deflate our tyres to around 18psi to provide more surface area and contact with the sand.
The other important consideration in 4WD is gear selection. The Isuzu models are equipped with real 4WD capability (unlike ‘city’ SUVs) but more importantly have low range gears.
This is another set of gears that are geared lower to provide more torque to help you get out of those tight situations in steeper or wetter conditions.
Throughout the day driving techniques and how to get yourself out of bogged situations using a snatch straps were also touched on.
Both the D-MAX and MU-X handled what was put in front of them as well as would be expected from the 3.0L turbo diesel engine (the same in both models) though, aside from two people, we weren’t carrying a load. It deals out 130kW of power and a more than adequate 380Nm of torque to move it over difficult terrain or tow a mate out of a fix.
Neither vehicle struggled and were easy to drive however suspension was a little harsh after taking the uneven terrain into account.
Having said that, there was nothing too challenging in the drive and I would have preferred more varied terrain (limited by the location). But keeping in mind the course is for novices and the inexperienced it’s more than sufficient and covers the basics of 4WDing on sand.
The I-Venture Club is a great initiative to attract potential buyers while providing handy information and at a cost of $250 per vehicle for a day’s training is not a bad investment. Not to mention you can’t really complain about the picturesque location.
Isuzu says they planning to roll out the program in more locations around the country and train dealerships to run their own local courses. But whether or not the company will open it up to existing owners is yet to be seen.
Isuzu Ute are making a concerted effort to change their position in the market and their brand image by appealing to the off-roading and passenger vehicle market.
A new advertising campaign in tandem with the I-Venture Club are encouraging people to get out into the outdoors and have an adventure.
But it may be hard to have a finger in both pies.
The D-MAX is still a ute and the MU-X, while practical and not bad looking, is a bit bland on the inside and struggles to compare with the comfort features found in other SUVs and 4WDs.
And though they are separate entities, most associate Isuzu with trucks and other commercial vehicles and it may prove difficult to create a distinction and erase the public’s perceived association between the two.
Honestly, I was just happy to have the opportunity to drive on a beach with the sand and scrub on one side and the vast expanse of ocean on the other. You can do the same – you’ll just have to buy an Isuzu.