New Car/Review

1999 Isuzu Trooper 4WD

By Tom Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,650
     Price As Tested                                    $ 30,637
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.5 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 213 cid/3494 cc
     Horsepower                                   215 @ 5400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               230 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.7"/69.5"/185.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4557 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  22.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                            P245/70R16 mud/snow
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/six-door
     Domestic Content                                 15-percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            15/19/16          
     0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
     Maximum payload capacity                         970 pounds
     Maximum towing capacity                         5000 pounds

     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

The last major redesign for the Isuzu Trooper happened in 1992. Most agree that another is long overdue, but meanwhile, the company has quietly revamped its drivetrain to a high level of sophistication.

Trooper comes only as an "S" version, with two optional packages, Performance and Luxury, available for those wishing for more equipment.

OUTSIDE - Trooper is tall and boxy, but has kept up with its competition style-wise by the addition of bolt-on body panels, flashy paint and special trim pieces. Those fixes make it look good, however, and the current trend of tennis-shoe-on-wheels styling is not adhered to by Isuzu. Its look is rich and elegant because of the exaggerated fender flares, recessed chrome door handles, body-color bumpers and hard plastic spare tire cover. Its tail gate is unique. One side presents 70 percent of the opening, while the other portion opens the other 30 percent. This makes loading cargo easy, but the seam in the glass, along with the rear door-mounted spare tire, creates a blind spot for the driver. We appreciated the outside mirrors that fold flat against the doors with the push of a button - handy inside tight garages.

INSIDE - For those seated inside, Trooper offers a commanding view of the outside world. The driving position is upright and the steering column protrudes from the instrument panel at an odd angle. Fortunately, it's adjustable with a tilt mechanism, so most drivers will find its "sweet" spot. The dashboard is relatively simple with analog gauges and rotary knobs for the heating and air conditioning. Fit and finish, both inside and out, is exemplary, and all the knobs, switches and controls operate with an assuring "thunk." We'd like to see larger buttons on the stereo system, along with a relocation from its current deep-well position low in the center of the dash. Standard Trooper features include air conditioning, power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, cruise control, floor mats, rear window defogger, intermittent front and rear wipers and a six-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo. Our tester's Performance package added variable speed front wipers, an in-dash, six-disc CD changer, fog lamps and privacy glass.

ON THE ROAD - Underhood is where the current changes took place. Last year, Isuzu took out the 190-horse 3.2 liter V6 of before, and replaced it with a 3.5 liter version with dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Now it produces 215 horsepower and 230 pound-feet of torque (up 22 percent), and does so in a much smoother fashion. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard on Troopers with the Performance Package, though a five-speed manual is available on standard S models. Along with the new engine came a new automatic four-wheel drive system on all but the standard S model. Isuzu calls it Torque-On-Demand (TOD) and it is designed to be used any time on any road surface. The system has three settings: 2WD, which is best used around town on dry pavement; TOD, which automatically directs power to the front wheels in the event of rear-wheel slippage, and 4Low, a low gear range which offers maximum traction at low speeds.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Trooper rides on a rugged full-length frame and uses independent front suspension with a solid rear axle in back. This is standard truck equipment, except that Trooper uses rear coil springs instead of leaf springs to smooth its ride. The body shell is quite rigid and the ride quality is firm, but not too stiff. It is very capable off the road, only bottoming out over the largest off-road obstacles. The steering works well and offers plenty of road feel and a positive connection to the tires. And with a towing capacity of 5000 pounds when properly equipped, Trooper is more than capable of being used as the family vacation vehicle. Braking duties are handled by four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated both front and rear, with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS).

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.

OPTIONS - Performance Package: $1,400; cargo mat: $92. Destination charge: $495.

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