Isuzu For 1999
By Carey Russ
Isuzu has concentrated on trucks for the past several years, and now has a comprehensive line of sport-utilities, a minivan, and a compact pickup. Soon it will have something very different - the VehiCROSS.
The radical VehiCROSS was originally a concept vehicle at the Tokyo Motor Show. Outrageous show vehicles have a way of ending up in the real world these days, and the VehiCROSS has been produced in limited numbers for the Japanese market. It received Japan's "Car of the Year" award in 1997. Given the American appetite for both sport-utility vehicles and something different, the decision by Isuzu to bring it over couldn't have been too difficult. Look for limited numbers in the coming Spring.
The two-door VehiCROSS puts the "sport" into sport-utility with more than its styling. A 215-hp 3.5-liter V6 matched with a four- speed automatic transmission drives all four wheels through a two- speed transfer case with the innovative, computer-controlled "Torque On Demand" (TOD) system. TOD changes the amount of power sent to the front and rear wheels in real time depending on road and driving conditions, and improves performance and handling on or off the road. Although it has nearly eight inches of ground clearance for off-road capability, the VehiCROSS's suspension is designed for sporty handling on pavement, and features the first production use of racing- type aluminum-bodied shock absorbers with remote expansion chambers.
Emphasizing its sports-car-of-the-future mission, the VehiCROSS has a carbon-fiber-look interior with optional Recaro sports seats.
A new hardtop model of Isuzu's two-door runabout Amigo is being offered alongside the existing convertible. Instead of a folding cloth partial top, it has a removable plastic rear section with a built-in sunroof. Both versions of the Amigo have the same 130-hp, 2.2-liter four-cylinder and 205-hp, 3.2-liter V6 engines and 2WD or 4WD drive trains.
Isuzu's large SUV has a number of small enhancements this year. One trim level is offered, with performance or luxury option packages. All Troopers have a 205-hp, 3.5-liter aluminum alloy V6 engine and four-wheel-drive chassis. Unusually for its class, a 5-speed manual transmission is available as well as a four-speed automatic. It is designed for serious off-road use. The "Torque On Demand" 4WD system comes on automatic models.
Two trim levels of Isuzu's mid-size, four-door Rodeo are offered. Engine choices are the same as the Amigo. The Rodeo has minor interior and exterior trim changes for 1999.
The Hombre compact truck has a minor facelift and new color choices outside. Easing access to the inside, "Spacecab" extended-cab models will have an available third door.
The Oasis minivan has interior changes, including an optional six-passenger configuration, and new color choices.