2006 Isuzu Ascender 2WD (579)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Isuzu Ascender 2WD 5-passenger SUV (the industry EPA classes SUVs as “Special Purpose”, which means what? This is the most common of vehicles today. I expect a forklift would be special purpose or even a Hum Vee, but SUVs?).

This is built on the Chevy TrailBlazer platform so the Ascender is a sister. GM has spawned many cars over the years in the USA and today they have reached out their tentacles far and wide around the world. As you probably know, Saab is also a GM company and in this class, the Saab 9-7X is also built around the Chevy TrailBlazer platform. Jeff (at GM) tells me the rumors of GM’s demise are greatly exaggerated. I know, Jeff, but there are a lot of folks who think the Japanese are better carmakers and even better business managers generally. Well one only need look at Sony who has hired a new western CEO for help turning that company around. The fact of the matter is GM has been around longer and has, as Merkel puts it, “GM is a powerhouse of automotive design talent”. Merkel was a design engineer for Chrysler at one time and appreciates talent of that kind.

As a journalist I have been to several GM events and I believe the foreign carmakers have only managed to wake a sleeping giant. GM is a force to be reckoned with and a seasoned adversary. Asleep you ask? Indeed I believe the whole US auto industry was lulled to sleep because they dominated the industry for so long. Pearl Harbor was one wake up call, but only two short decades later the Japanese war machine turned its attention to economic warfare in the form of automobiles. Their economic attack worked so I suspect we can safely refer to Walt Kelly’s Pogo quote that “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

I thought the entrance of Japanese cars to our shores was a good thing in the 1960s and still do. But now it is high time we supported American carmakers. They have, once again earned our trust.

And you know, that support includes cars like this Isuzu (Japanese), which is co-produced by GM (American). And gee, I’m sure glad I liked this Ascender. I’m test driving the Trail Blazer as I write this and just got out of the Saab 9-7X. I’ve turned them all upside down and indeed they are sisters three.

Handling & Performance:

Like the Saab this Ascender has a softer ride than the Trail Blazer with its stiffer suspension and thus handles better. The TrailBlazer I’m testing is a rocket ship with a 6.0-liter V8. The Ascender is an inline 6 and no slouch at 291 hp.

Styling:

Clean lines and nothing outrageous to rock the boat.

Fit and Finish:

Very good and no surprise for products from the Japanese.

Cost:

Well, if you look at the pricing of all the competition you have to ask the question, “did these guys all sit down and decide what the prices should be?” Well that can’t be the case because that would be “Price Fixing” which is illegal.

Conveniences:

Basic standard stuff, and if you want to push up the level of conveniences like remote keyless entry, power outside mirrors, power seats, cruise control, power moon roof, upgraded wheels, leather, XM Radio, the cost will jump up to $32,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

I have mentioned three siblings and if Badge is important and you like the idea of a car built in Sweden Saab may be of interest – if of course money is no object (Saab is priced about $42,000). If you are a Chevy dude or dudette the TrailBlazer will be more to your liking and the prices are essentially the same.

You may want to consider including the Kia Sorento and Suzuki’s Grand Vitara and XL-7 for comparison at much less money.

Recognized Competition: 

Isuzu Ascender $26-36,000, Buick Rainier $33-35,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $27-33,000, Toyota 4Runner $28-38,000, Ford Explorer $27-36,000, GMC Envoy $29-40,000, Mercury Mountaineer $29-36,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $27-42,000, Honda Pilot $27-35,000, Nissan Pathfinder $25-36,000, Dodge Durango $28-37,000, Lexus GX470 $46,535, Mitsubishi Endeavor $27-32,000.

Good News:

In the top of fuel economy in class and speak of “crossovers” this is a joint effort of GM and Isuzu which I believe is a good thing. Consider the great collaboration of Chrysler and Mercedes Benz.

Bad News:

Pricey (but then all are on the high side) – consider you can buy a condo in Florida for nearly the same money.

Standard Equipment:

4.2 liter 6-cylinder 291 hp engine, 4-speed electronic transmission, ESC (Stabilitrak), anti theft immobilizer, 4-wheel ABS disc brake system, rack and pinion power steering, stainless steel exhaust, coil spring front suspension, HD battery, front air bags, fog lights, collapsible tilt steering column, child rear door locks and top tether anchor brackets and latch system, rear wiper washer and defogger wipers, climate control, power windows and door locks, audio system with CD player, 2nd row split and fold seat and console with power outlet, front center console storage, wood grain trim and aluminum roof rails.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 22 Highway MPG

Pricing: 

MSRP $25,959.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

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