Wilder­ness

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Feature - PETER BARN­WELL

VERY few SUV or four-wheel drive own­ers take their ve­hi­cles off road, let alone into de­mand­ing ter­rain.

Isuzu Ute is try­ing to change that with the I-Ven­ture Club, which it claims is the only of­froad ad­ven­ture club of its kind in Aus­tralia run by a ve­hi­cle maker. It runs de­mand­ing multi-day wilder­ness drives with ex­pert guides.

The 4WD spe­cial­ist sells just two ve­hi­cles here, the D-MAX ute and the MU-X five-door wagon. They share the 3.0-litre turbo diesel with five-speed man­ual or auto trans­mis­sions.

Both ve­hi­cles are on ro­bust lad­der chas­sis and have more than 200mm ground clear­ance.

Cars­guide was in­vited on a four-day ad­ven­ture into the Flin­ders Ranges, which was over­sub­scribed soon after it was ad­ver­tised on­line. The club can cater for 10 ve­hi­cles but Isuzu staffer Marc Scott says there were about 50 ap­pli­ca­tions for the Flin­ders run.

“Many were from women wish­ing to tick off a real out­back driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with their hus­band shar­ing wheel time,’’ he says.

Bris­bane re­tirees Narelle and Bruce Bow­den took their D-Max on the Flin­ders trip — they were “sold” on the con­cept after a More­ton Is­land ad­ven­ture three years ago.

“We spend about six months of the year away from home ... look­ing for ad­ven­ture,” says Narelle. “We re­ally en­joy get­ting off the beaten track.”

Ian Day and 13-year-old son Jay­den from Moss Vale, NSW, took the fam­ily MU-X along for the Flin­ders drive be­cause of, Jay­den says, “all the cool things to see and do”. The teen had his first drive along one of the many pri­vate dirt roads en-route.

It costs about $1300 a head for the Flin­ders Ranges ad­ven­ture, in­clud­ing guid­ance and off-road coach­ing from ex­perts Dave Wilson and Drew Sy­monds, “glamp­ing” for two nights at Wilpena Pound Re­sort and a night in shear­ers’ quar­ters at Bendleby Ranges homestead.

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