Category Archives: Isuzu

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

2006 Isuzu I 280 Extended Cab 2WD LS (577)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2006 Isuzu I 280 Extended Cab 2-WD LS Pickup Truck. Isuzu began in 1916 as a shipbuilding company with truck manufacturing in 1918. In 1936 Isuzu introduced the first diesel-powered truck to the Japanese market. The Isuzu name comes from a river near Japan’s oldest shrine. Isuzu Motors America, Inc. was established in 1975. Isuzu’s core businesses are commercial trucks, diesel engines and SUVs.

As trucks go this I 280 is as typical as they come. I was never crazy about jump seats in the rear but that’s what my personal truck has and although most of us seldom need to tote a lot of folks around it fills the need of being primarily a work vehicle. My Dodge Ram is just that around the ranch but if I had to carry 5 people I could. Moral of the story is:  buy what you need, and if you need more than 3 people to move around you’ll have to look at the competition.

Also, this is a light duty pick up truck so if you need to haul a more than 1000 to 1500 lbs you’ll have to move up accordingly. The size is good for ease of handling and hauling smaller loads but it will make those trips with impressive fuel economy.

Handling & Performance:

It handles well but the 175 Inline 4Cylinder will struggle with a load. On the other hand you won’t be pumping as much fuel into the tank with a great 27 mpg highway due in part to electronic throttle control and electronically controlled variable exhaust valve timing.

Styling:

Except for the wild copper Orange Metalic paint this is a pretty basic truck.

Fit and Finish:

Consistent with the competition.

Cost:

Totally competitive.

Conveniences:

Abundantly endowed and if the small size bed needs expansion an option is available to allow you to drop the tail gate and flip the tubular cage for another two feet. I found that would have been helpful when called on to move a 74 inch long piece of furniture.

Consumer Recommendation:

Nissan and Toyota provide seating for 4 – curiously, all others noted only seat 3, including this Isuzu I 280.

The Competition:

Isuzu I 280 $17,000, Chevrolet Colorado $18,000, Toyota Tacoma $17,000, Ford Ranger $18,000, GMC Canyon $18,000, Nissan Frontier $16,000, Dodge Dakota $20,000.

Good News:

Basic truck – basic price – for a basic job and fuel economy is good … as trucks go and the ride is smooth.

Bad News:

Jump seat in the rear is tight and seats only one.

Standard Equipment:

2.8 liter inline 4-cylinder 175 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, power rack and pinion steering, stainless steel exhaust, heavy duty suspension, semi floating rear axle with 2-stage multi leaf springs, heavy duty battery, 5,000 lb GVW rating, 1,700 lb towing capacity, 1532 lb maximum payload capacity, front air bags, theft deterrent immobilizer system, power front disc and rear drum ABS brake system, auto on/off headlights, variable intermittent wiper/ washer, air conditioning, tilt wheel, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with 4-speakers CD/MP3 Player, manual fold away mirrors, carpeted floor covering.

Gas Stats:

20 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $18,989.

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

2005 Isuzu Ascender SUV (547)

Overview:

This week we’re taking a look at the 2005 Isuzu Ascender 5 passenger SUV. News flash: this is just another player in this once popular form of transportation before skyrocketing fuel prices around the globe forced buyers to consider alternatives. Sound like a future statement in the later part of the 21st Century. Nope – it is here now and I’m hearing more and more comments from readers that they are not in the market for gas burners that consume this much fuel. To some, a doubling of prices of gas at the pump this past year is not a deterrent to travel by highway in their SUV. Yes, some will have the dough to burn while others will find alternative means of transportation. Commuters will car pool, take the Metro Rail or purchase a car that gets twice the mileage. Pretty simple, eh?

It is certain you will have to take a loss when you dump that gas hog. So don’t tarry. Move quickly and get out cheap ahead of the rush. I don’t want to cause a run on the bank, so to speak, or encourage an exodus to a promised land of milk and cars that run on it. But I don’t need to. Even though there aren’t enough people who read my column to do that anyway, this is the obvious mood of the consumer. I think most people are smart and are noticing the signposts along the way and will make the move sooner or later. I encourage sooner.

However, if you don’t care about the cost of running your car, truck or RV, join me in considering this Isuzu Ascender. The model I tested is the five passenger, but you can buy a seven passenger if you believe kids are cheaper by the dozen. The Brady Bunch would have to leave one person home, or tie them to the roof rack.

Handling & Performance:

Very good vibes. Surely up to challenging those companies who were first on the SUV scene.

Styling: 

Styling is consistent with the look we’ve come to love. The interior is better than most and Japanese quality makes the design jump out at you. While Isuzu hasn’t enjoyed as much popularity as Toyota and Nissan this is a thoughtful if not cookie cutter clone that is less expensive.

Fit and Finish:

Assembly is typical Japanese in spite of the fact it was put together here in the US. The straw boss must still be Japanese with a Samurai Sword to cut the dead weight.

Cost:

It is cost competitive but still more than it should be. You know you are getting old when prices like this amaze you.

Conveniences:

Not bad. But the price and poor fuel economy make all the rest less important in my buying decision.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you MUST own an SUV, you will want to test-drive this one for a comparison with more expensive versions. And if you see the world demand of oil making an SUV too expensive to operate, change your perception of what you really need.

The Competition: 

Isuzu Ascender $26-37,000, Mercury Mountaineer $30-39,000, Ford Explorer $27-38,000, GMC Envoy $29-40,000, Buick Rainier $34-36,000, Dodge Durango $27-36,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $26-33,000, Toyota 4Runner $28-38,000, Honda Pilot $28-34,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $26-33,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $26-34,000, Nissan Pathfinder $25-35,000, Lexus GX 470 $46,225.

Good News: 

Nice styling and decently priced.

Bad News:

Typical poor fuel economy.

Standard Equipment: 

4.2 liter 6 cylinder 275 horsepower engine, 4-speed auto trans, anti-theft immobilizer, on demand 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, power steering, stainless exhaust, dual front air bags, fog lights, rear child door locks, variable wipers and rear wiper washer / wiper, climate control, power windows and locks, 2nd row split and fold seat, tilt steering column, center console, wood grain trim, platform trailer hitch and 17 inch alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing: 

MSRP $27,959.

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

2002 Isuzu Axiom (380)

Overview: 

This weeks flavor is the Isuzu Axiom for 2002. Naturally, if you’re inquisitive you’re probably wondering what the name means. Well, out of about 50,000 entries into a naming contest in 1999, an engineer won for his suggestion because of its definition of “a self-evident truth”.

What is self-evident is that now more trucks are sold in America than cars. And people don’t seem to care about the gas guzzling nature of this half truck, half car mode of transportation. Just when I thought gas prices were out of control, the government steps in to put pressure on the gas companies after the disaster of Sept. 11th. Good for us, but it only begs the issue that we’ll have to pay the piper sooner or later. Personally I wouldn’t want to be stuck with a car that gets such lousy gas mileage. Obviously I’m alone in this thinking.

Handling & Performance:

I was pleasantly surprised at how nice a handling SUV it is. When you put your foot in it the power is there at 230 horsepower, which is at the top end of the competition noted below. Zero to 60 is a respectable 8 seconds.

Styling: 

Opinion will be wide and varied when it comes to how it looks. Perhaps a little odd would be the answer from some based on the queer looks I got driving it around town.  I don’t believe it is as far out as the Pontiac Aztek, but it isn’t ordinary either. The “automotively correct” term is “Crossover” for vehicles that join two styles or types. In this case the Axiom is a rendition of the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and a passenger car. That means the consumer gets the utility of a truck and the comfort of a car. Avalanche does the best job of “Crossover” in my opinion.

Fit and Finish:

Solid – final assembly is Japan, best describes this new arrival to this wildly successful market segment. Nicely done and as good as the most expensive of the bunch.

Conveniences:

Typical and on the high end.

Cost:

Competitive as you can see from the prices of its rivals.

Recommendation:

I have no bent either for or against this carmakers product, but it is clearly as good as anything in its field. I definitely would include it in my comparison to determine what’s best for me.

The competition:

 Isuzu Axiom $27-31,000, Chevrolet Trail Blazer $25-34,000, Dodge Durango $25-37,000, Ford Explorer $21-34,000, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25-37,000, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $23-33,000, Nissan Pathfinder $26-31,000, Toyota 4Runner $25-36,000.

Good News:

Futuristic styling, comfortable, classy and roomy interior, good standard equipment, priced very competitively, and a good warranty.

Bad News:

 Poor gas mileage, narrow rear door, questionable styling, and traction control not available.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 230 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, dual air bags, child locks, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, power leather seats, FM radio with cassette and CD player, sunroof, alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $31,335.

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

2000 Isuzu Trooper SUV (311)

Overview:
This weeks ride is a Trooper from Isuzu and albeit yet another SUV it is pretty respectable. It reminds me of the Land Rover, especially with its high center of gravity look and feel. The rear door is unique in this category of sport utility in that it has “swing out” doors. The two rear doors are split about 70 and 30 and although the design is different and may find acceptance by some, in the final analysis all they are is different and not better. I don’t expect they will be all the rage.

This model is equipped with the largest sunroof you’ll find anywhere. The cloth seats are comfortable and I especially like the Captains chairs in the front. The 60/40 split rear seat is convenient too. It is large inside and will seat 5 comfortably with lots of storage space in the rear. It is the flagship of the SUV line for Isuzu so it has nice features like a screen cover over the cargo area and lots of nooks and cranny’s to store stuff.

Handling & Performance:  High center of gravity gave me the Heebie Jeebies in the turns. Not unlike most of the SUV’s out there. Lots of power in the V6 215 horsepower engine.

Styling: Cookie cutter, but I don’t like the Spare mounted on the back or the Hard Plastic cover idea. For one, it was a constant obstructive irritation for the rear view. Second, the design of the swinging doors with all that weight looks like it will brake something or at best be a noise annoyance sooner or later.

Fit and Finish: Very nicely done except where they chose the placement of the Radio and Climate control. It’s a reach and it would have been better to put the Air controls on the bottom since you usually set it and forget it.

Conveniences: 

All the features you’d expect from an upscale SUV.

Cost: 

Range is $26,950 – $34,698 and about what I’d expect.

Recommendation: The competition is awesome and Isuzu has obvious problems in capturing much market away from this lineup.

The competition:

Acura SLX $36,300, Jeep Grand Cherokee $26,895-34,635, Land Rover Discovery $33,350-34,150, Lexus RX 300 $33,005-34,605, Mercedes M class $35,300-64,900.

Good News:   

It has everything you want from an SUV, comfort, clean lines, powerful.  

Bad News:   

Usual bad gas mileage for SUV’s, swing out doors bound to be a problem.

Standard Equipment:  

3.5 liter V6 215 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic transmission with power and winter modes, dual air bags, 8-way power driver and 4-way passenger seat controls, antilock brakes, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, stereo with cassette and CD, sunroof.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP  $32,698.

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

1998 Isuzu Rodeo (207)

Overview: 

What better place to test the Isuzu Rodeo 4-wheel Drive utility vehicle but in Sequoia National Park. And that’s exactly what I did. However, I’ve never found a venue quite like those Jeep Jamboree’s that Chrysler puts on each year. I find myself comparing all utility vehicles with how I think they would fare in the same situation as the Jeep did in rugged off road conditions. I took the Isuzu on a less than challenging climb and found it to be a little top heavy. The center of gravity felt higher than other sport utilities I’ve driven. I checked it out and it is generally about 4 inches higher than the competition, except the Honda Passport that is a twin sister in all respects – virtually the same platform.

Isuzu joined the crowd of sport utilities in 1990 and this year’s model has been redesigned. The Rodeo is built in Lafayette, Indiana, and was the first Isuzu vehicle to be built in the U.S. Isuzu has discontinued its passenger-car line here. All things considered, this is a very comfortable vehicle and a pleasure to drive however not unlike all the others in its class. I’ve driven all those officially listed as competitors and this Isuzu Rodeo is every bit as good. I must admit, however, that the new entrant from Mercedes – the ML 320 was a standout at $33,950 especially relative to the price of this Rodeo and the others listed below. Yes, I know, Mercedes isn’t among the competition. The ML 320 competes with the likes of other luxury class SUV’s like the popular Ford Explorer, Infiniti QX4, Isuzu Trooper, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Land Rover Discovery, Lincoln Navigator and Toyota Land Cruiser.

Well I’m here to tell you to drive the ML 320 and draw your own conclusions. Don’t take my word for it. You’ll say wow just like I did and you’ll know also that the Mercedes is going to be tough competition in all classes. I believe Mercedes is busting into the SUV market and buying a place in this very profitable segment of all automobile sales, with a low-ball price. Here is a comment from the Auto Channel Awards people who say, “Mercedes-Benz captures the Best Sports Utility Vehicle for its ML320. Superior handling; imaginative utilization of size and interior space; and the relatively low cost of the vehicle propelled the ML320 to the top”. Well those are my sentiments exactly, and I might add the ML320 is the only SUV with 4-wheel independent suspension. All others have a live axle.

The competition: 

Chevrolet Blazer $21,713 – $25,226, GMC Jimmy $21,836 – $25,905, Honda Passport $22,700 – $28,950, Jeep Cherokee $15,665 – $24,605, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $18,030 – $32,250, Nissan Pathfinder $23,999 – $32,849, Subaru Forester $18,695 – $22,195, Toyota 4Runner $20,658 – $34,718.

Good News:

Comfortable ride, plenty of power, nice appearance, good attention to detail, nice interior.

Bad News:

Mileage is as bad as all other SUV’s, plain and unexciting styling, and poor visibility.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter 205 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, part-time 4-wheel drive shift of the fly, power 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, dual air bags, AM/FC Cassette stereo, child safety locks, AM/FM Stereo with cassette, tilt steering, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a luggage rack, cruise control, rear wiper/washer and power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $28,910.