by John Heilig
SPECIFICATIONS MODEL: Isuzu Trooper ENGINE: 3.5-liter V-6 HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 215 hp @ 5,400 rpm/230 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic FUEL ECONOMY: 15 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, 16.8 mpg test WHEELBASE: 108.7 in. LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 181.3 x 72.2 x 72.2 in. CURB WEIGHT: 4,500 lbs. FUEL CAPACITY: 22.5 gal. LUGGAGE CAPACITY: 46.3/90.2 cu. ft. (second seat up/down) TIRES: P245/70R16 INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature, digital clock, compass, barometer. EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats, power sunroof, power folding outside rearview mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with in-dash cassette and in-dash CD player, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags. STICKER PRICE: $35,077
It seems to me that over the years Isuzu has done a lot of work on its Trooper sport utility. I remember the older ones as being rather square and harsh and not particularly good.
The new Trooper, however, is a definite improvement. Styling is a bit more rounded. Interior accommodations are more comfortable. And the engine is more powerful and quieter. So while they have not yet reached the status of the elite of the sport utilities, the Isuzu Trooper is a serviceable vehicle that does a great job. In fact, it almost did more for us.
Trooper is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers 215 horsepower. It drives the wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission with a console-mounted shifter. There's a separate shifter for the transfer case.
I was impressed with the power of the engine. It definitely has enough to do the job, to get you into trouble, and to get you out of trouble. It's a strong engine with a good amount of torque. It's also a comfortable engine to work with. The mating with the automatic transmission was smooth as well. Shifts were almost imperceptible, with the emphasis on the almost.
Rear seat passengers have excellent legroom. One of the advantages of sport utilities is that there is good rear legroom, almost as much as in the front. Trooper doesn't skimp. That rear seat folds forward up to the backs of the front seats to provide a flat cargo area in the rear.
We had to deliver some furniture to our daughters. There were three large pieces including a piano. We had a full-sized van and a second van on order that didn't make it when we wanted to leave. So we made some measurements and did some calculations and discovered that the Trooper would serve as a moving van for the two dressers. Everything would fit. The second van made it by a minute to deadline, but I think it would have been interesting if we had put the furniture in the rear of the Trooper. I'm sure the ride would have been better, at least coming back when there was no weight on the back at all.
There were a couple of features about the Trooper that impressed me. One, it had powered fold-in outside rearview mirrors. This was a nice feature when you're parking in tight confines, for example city streets. It's a feature tha the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class has because in Europe and Japan, many people park their vehicles on the street and by folding in the mirrors you reduce the risk that they'll be broken off.
The second nice feature is that the horn buttons are located on the spokes of the steering wheel and are clearly labeled. This way you're not punching the air bag trying to get some response from the horn.
I have also learned to love Trooper's unique split rear doors. They're not split in the center like most vehicles, nor are they a hatch. They are split 1/3-2/3, with the major part of the door opening normally. If you need the full width, you can then open the smaller portion. This gives the driver an almost unimpeded view out the rear through the interior rearview mirror, yet offers full-width loading if necessary.
Another nice feature was the hard cover for the exterior-mounted spare tire. This is a beauty feature as well as a practical feature, keeping the tire clean and free from ultraviolet ray damage.
All in all the Isuzu Trooper has some unique features that the competition doesn't have. It's not yet in the upper echelon of sport utilities, but it's definitely climbing up the ladder.