Isuzu I-Venture Club : Moreton Island experience review

When you buy into a brand, it’s nice to get that warm and fuzzy feeling when your brand remembers you after your purchase. Isuzu has followed this philosophy with the launch of the I-Venture Club.

The I-Venture Club is an Isuzu Ute Australia initiative designed to give owners an opportunity to put their vehicles through their paces in an off-road environment with professional tutelage.

CarAdvice was invited to attend an I-Venture Club event in Queensland, which started in Brisbane and ventured across Moreton Bay to Moreton Island — a sand driving, off-road mecca.

Fittingly, Isuzu provided a range of vehicles to evaluate, including the Isuzu D-Max, Isuzu MU-X and new limited edition D-Max X-Runner. During normal events, owners would use their own vehicles.

The day started with a ferry trip from the Port of Brisbane on the MICAT ferry. The MICAT ferry runs twice daily most days of the week, offering a food and beverage service on board during the 90-minute journey.

We used the transit time to drop our tyre pressures and ensure they were suitable for sand driving. Given the speeds you can travel at on the beach, the recommended tyre pressure is around 18-22psi.

Lowering tyre pressure allows the tyre to sag slightly and offer a greater contact patch with the surface, which is especially useful for sand driving.

The ferry ride over to Moreton Island also gave the group a chance to get a brief introduction to four-wheel driving by four-wheel-drive expert, David Wilson. David walked the group through the basics of engaging/disengaging four-wheel drive and also explained the different modes (high and low range), along with situations where they should be used.

Once the ferry landed at Moreton Island beach, it was all hands on deck as the vehicles left the ferry. Engaging high-range four-wheel drive as we moved off the boat was a necessity given how soft the sand became after more than 20 vehicles left the ferry.

If you have never driven on sand before, it’s an exciting and challenging experience. We were literally thrown in the deep end as we leave the ferry, working the steering and throttle to ensure we didn’t get stuck.

Within minutes, the vehicles that left the ferry disappeared, giving us a chance to marvel at the absolute beauty of what was in front of us. I’m happy to claim that we are the luckiest people on earth, living in a country that offers pristine beauty just a stone’s throw from a main city.

The group of Isuzu vehicles stayed in communication using CB radios, allowing the lead vehicle to communicate with each car and for general banter to ensue.

We started our drive day in the Isuzu MU-X LS-U. Built off the D-Max platform, the MU-X uses a coil-sprung five-link rear suspension system, giving it versatility for off-road driving with the added benefit of ride comfort.

Isuzu’s entire range in Australia is powered by the company’s own turbocharged diesel engine. Producing 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque, the 3.0-litre, four-cylinder engine is mated to either a five-speed automatic or a five-speed manual gearbox.

Despite weighing in at just over 2000kg, the MU-X proved very capable on sand. The engine’s torque curve hits early and remains flat through to the top end of its rev band. This ensures there is little need to rev it out to get results.

There were some elements of terrain that teamed sand with water. These required the use of the MU-X’s low-range gearbox. The low range gearbox multiplies torque output at the axles. This allows the car to make better use of its gears at low speeds on rough terrain.

One particular river crossing was deep enough to submerge the entire front end, highlighting the MU-X’s impressive 600mm wading depth.

Around lunchtime we stopped near the Cape Moreton Lighthouse — the first lighthouse built in Queensland. We used this time to eat a gourmet lunch, watch a vehicle recovery demonstration, because recovery is a crucial factor in sand driving.

It’s easy to get stuck on sand and even easier to lose your car if the tide turns against you. That’s why it’s important to have the correct recovery gear and a thorough knowledge of how to use it.

Our expert instructor David was able to guide the group through correct recovery technique and a few tips of the trade — often things you would never think about, such as using a rigid object between snatch straps to prevent them knotting, or to use a lower gear in the vehicle being recovered to prevent it running into the recovery vehicle.

After the demo, we spent some time checking out the limited edition D-Max X-Runner (priced at $51,990 driveaway) which is limited to 360 units, and is well on its way to being sold out. The X-Runner comes with unique front and rear skirts, a leather interior, satellite navigation, alloy sports bars, piano black interior trim and a first-in-class keyless entry and start system.

While the X-Runner isn’t mechanically any different to other D-Max variants, the model offers thousands of dollars of extra kit at a lower drive-away price than its LS-Terrain donor car.

Behind the wheel, the D-Max X-Runner impressed just as much as the MU-X. Despite lower tyre pressures and dollops of throttle, the D-Max was unfazed by changes of direction on sand, as well as moving between the soft sands of the beach to inner-island tracks.

Without a load on board, the D-Max can get quite rough over bumpy terrain. This is an inherent trait of commercial vehicles that use leaf spring rear suspension. It also highlighted just how comfortable the MU-X is, given the two vehicles share most components.

The day ended with a cross-island journey back to the MICAT ferry, which was waiting to transport us back to the mainland.

Our day experiencing the Isuzu I-Venture Club showed us that it's a sensational initiative by a company that is quickly gaining popularity and sales in Australia. Isuzu is running these day trip journeys across Australia. Participation is limited to 12 vehicles (with up to three occupants in each) and includes breakfast and lunch.

As the club gains in popularity amongst owners, Isuzu expects dealerships to commence their own local programs to cater for those that didn’t make the lottery for the first batch of trips.

If this trip was anything to go by, owners are in for a jam-packed day full of four-wheel driving under professional instruction. It’s well suited for everyone from beginners right through to seasoned experts.

For more information, check out the Isuzu I-Venture Club website for details. You can also read our Isuzu D-Max review or Isuzu MU-X review here.

Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the driving experience by Isuzu and Paul Maric.

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