New Car/Review

1998 Isuzu Trooper

by John Heilig

isuzu

SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:                  3.5-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       215 hp
TRANSMISSION:            Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:            15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, 14.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               108.7 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH X HEIGHT: 181.3 x 69.5 x 72.2 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             4540 lbs
FUEL CAPACITY:           22.5 gal.
CARRYING CAPACITY:       46.3/90.2 cu.ft.(rear seat up/down)
TIRES:                   P245/70R16
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                         water temperature, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:               Power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, 
                         cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio 
                         with cassette and in-dash CD, ABS, dual air bags. 
STICKER PRICE:           $29,100

Isuzu's Trooper has been around for a long time, well before the SUV craze. It was incarnated as the Trooper II, which was a slab-sided, fairly large sport utility. I remember the Trooper II as the vehicle that gave us our best Richmond-to-home time long before we began commuting down there. And, on that vacation trip we were able to carry a ton of luggage for three people.

The new Trooper (the II is no longer appended, nor is a III) retains some of the features of the previous vehicle in a rounder, more aerodynamic package that not only looks better, it performs better as well. One feature the Trooper has retained from its predecessor is it unique rear door. The spare tire is mounted on the outside in a nice hard case that gives it a cleaner appearance than cloth covers or no cover at all.

The door itself is approximately three-quarters of the width of the vehicle. This allows you to put just about anything you want in the rear storage compartment. Of course, the rear seats fold down to extend the usable carrying area. Having this large rear door eliminates two bad features. One is the bar in the center caused by swing-out cabin doors. The other is a liftback, which can be difficult to operate for some people.

The other 25 percent of the door stays closed, unless you need the extra wide opening. In that case, you can open the door and have full access to the rear. When we went golfing, for example, we opened the doors all the way so we could slide the bags in horizontally rather than have to push them north-south.

The big door locks at a 90 degree opening. This is a convenience in one sense, but it's also inconvenient when you have to close the door. But the convenience is worth far more than the inconvenience.

Trooper is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 215 horsepower. This is fine for the Trooper. The gearbox is a four-speed automatic, with a transfer case shifter to the right of the console shifter. You can also use a switch on the dash to have the Trooper shift between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive automatically. On the instrument panel is a little "Torque-on-Demand" light that lets you know when the four-wheel drive is working.

Sport utility vehicles are notorious for being difficult to enter. Trooper has two assist handles at all the entry doors, except for the driver, who is expected to use the steering wheel to help gain access to the vehicle. I've used the wheel, but it's nice to have a convenience handle.

Trooper is a nice package. It has been around for a long time and appears to be well built. It does what it's supposed to do very well. It is a sport utility vehicle with the emphasis on utility.

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