SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 31,265 Price As Tested $ 32,073 Engine Type DOHC 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/SMFI* Engine Size 193 cid/3165 cc Horsepower 205 @ 5400 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 214 @ 3000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 106.4"/71.1"/183.7" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 4159 pounds Fuel Capacity 21.1 gallons Tires (F/R) P245/70R16 A/S mud & snow Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/five-door Domestic Content 60 percent Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 16/20/18 0-60 MPH XX.X seconds Maximum payload capacity 714 pounds Maximum towing capacity 4500 pounds * Sequential multi-point fuel injection
(Isuzu came into the U.S. in '81 selling only cars and found the market pretty tough, says Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin remembers too and would like to forget them since he had to work on a couple of I-Mark diesels.)
MATT - When Isuzu decided to stop importing passenger cars in '93 and instead elected to concentrate on its trio of sport/utility vehicles and its pickup, it was either good luck or good planning or both. That was at a time when the SUV market really took off and Isuzu could capitalize on the fact that it only sold rugged go-anywhere machines and didn't mess around with "sissy" sedans and coupes. Its Rodeo is by far the best-seller of the Isuzu line and it's been knocking out upwards of 60,000 units annually for the past four or five years. It's a manufacturer that's put all its eggs in one basket and by doing so, Isuzu has managed to remain a heavy hitter in its own bailiwick.
BOB - And it has done it pretty much on its own terms. The '00 Amigo is as suave and sophisticated as any of its competitors. By staying on track, the company has remained true to its basic credo of being at home off the road while still being comfortable transporting the family around town or going to the opera. The exterior design got a little out of control last year, but Isuzu designers have buffed it up a bit with a redesigned nose and some other external changes. Our LSE model even has an "aerodynamic" roof rack that actually helps lower its coefficient of drag and boost the fuel mileage a bit. Most experienced SUV users like having the spare tire mounted on the rear door, while first-timers prefer to have it tucked away under the floor. To satisfy both factions, the Rodeo can be had with either type of spare mounting. The folks at Isuzu are very accommodating. The seats up front have been changed a bit and although they don't form-fit like a sportscar, they have plenty of side bolstering so they hold you in well.
MATT - Mechanically, the "fancier" Rodeo like the one we had hasn't changed much since last year. The LSE still uses an all-aluminum V6 with twin overhead cams and this year it puts out 205 horses and 214 pound-feet of torque. This is up a bit due to some tweaking Isuzu engineers did with the intake and exhaust manifolds. I was surprised to find that the engine utilizes mechanical adjustment of the 24 valves and I hope the sales people impresses buyers with how important it is to follow the adjustment schedule. If they tighten up beyond specs, they can burn a valve. Our LSE can only be had with a four-speed automatic transmission, but a five-speed stick is available on the lower two models, the S and the LS. There's also a 2.2-liter four-banger available. It's pretty exotic in its own right, but a little light on power for a rig that weighs in at 4000 pounds.
BOB - Since lots of SUV buyers never intend to go off road, the Amigo is also available in two-wheel drive. Our top-line version sported a self-adjusting suspension system that takes in information from a bunch of sensors and instantly trims the shock absorbers to compensate for almost any road condition. The Amigo is a no-kidding truck, however, with a full-frame chassis and A-arm front suspension. The truck axle in back has a neat 5-link suspension with coil springs which is very sophisticated for an SUV. The four-wheel drive system can be engaged at speed by popping a dash-mounted button, but the low-range drive system has to be engaged by using a console-mounted lever. And there's all kinds of override systems to keeps the driver from inadvertently shredding the gearbox or transfer case. Our tester also had a limited slip differential in back, just in case the Rodeo gets stuck in the snow or mud.
MATT - It's also got disc brakes in back, unlike the four-cylinder model, and they've all got an anti-lock braking system. The Amigo doesn't have much towing capacity at 1500 pounds, so you wouldn't be able to tow a vacation trailer that was very big.
BOB - That wouldn't bother your mother and me, Matt. On a serious vacation, we consider "roughing it" staying at a hotel that doesn't have a floor show in the main dining room.