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Review: Isuzu Axiom XS 4WD

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SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide

By Annabelle Frankl

For 2002, Isuzu has added the good-looking Axiom to its line-up of SUVs. With sleek body styling and contouring, the Axiom’s distinctive shape – mine, oh so sexy, in Ebony Black – featuring a large front grill, tapered body profile, blacked-out windows and lots of chrome certainly catches the eye.

Equipped with an electronically fuel-injected 3.5 liter V6, the Axiom produces a meaty 230 horses (at 5,400 rpm) and 230 ft-lbs of torque (at 3,000 rpm). It features a wide powerband, courtesy of a variable intake system, employing an active dual-length intake manifold, which is regulated to provide higher volumetric efficiency at different engine speeds, letting the engine produce greater power over a wider rpm range. Above 3,600 rpm the variable air intake valve opens, providing increased levels of torque and hp at high engine speeds.

The Axiom XS’ automatic transmission features second generation ‘Intelligent Suspension Control’ (ISC), which it combines with ‘Torque-on-Demand’ (TOD), a hybrid drive system that, supposedly, delivers excellent all-terrain handling and on-and off-highway ride comfort. The ISC uses a dedicated CPU to monitor vehicle speed, engine rpm, braking, chassis movement and shock absorption, and is combined with an independent front and five-link rear suspension system.

ISC also comprises Sport and Comfort modes, so one may choose whether to use a bone-jarring or spongy suspension. (To be fair, it’s a great idea, just doesn’t quite come off. Sport is far too hard, and Comfort is just, well, soggy.) Add to this TOD, which receives signals from the front and rear axle-speed sensors, a throttle position sensor and the brake and ABS system, all info being fed into its own electronic control unit (ECU), and the end result should be to provide the driver with unparalleled amounts of control, the torque delivered to the front wheels being tuned to fit the terrain.

Well, all I can say is, do not use those 230 horses too quickly when pulling out of a turning, especially if there’s a very small puddle in the road, or you’re likely to be doing a 180 degrees spin in the middle of the road (of course, opposite the only parked car on said road!). I’m sure it looked more impressive than it was, but in any case, it was a rather uncalled-for reaction to a not-particularly aggressive maneuver. Given that TOD is supposed to ‘quickly adapt to changing conditions and make corrections in response to driver inputs’, I’d say my personal ‘Reaction-on-Demand’ was far more effective in controlling the situation.

Moving inside, the Axiom fares better. With plush two-tone, black and tan leather seats and accents, the feel is sleek and luxurious. Driver and front passenger seats are 4-way power adjustable, and audio, air, temp, clock, fuel range and compass etc are all displayed in a central LED. It takes a little getting used to, but ultimately means that all controls are within easy reach, and all information is easily accessed. The 4-spoke leather tilt steering wheel, with cruise controls and power-assisted, engine-RPM-sensing steering, make for precise and light maneuvering. One-touch down power windows, plus doors and mirrors, and rearview mirror with autodimming, all help complement a well-thought out interior.

You’ll seat 5 in comfort, with a generous 42.1 inches of rear legroom, and 85.4 cubic feet of cargo space ensures baggage can come too, easily concealed beneath a sliding cover if necessary. The XS features a huge moonroof as standard, plus a 140-watt, eight speaker 6-CD changer. Safety features include 4-wheel, 3 sensor ABS, ISC, dual air bags, keyless entry and alarm. The 4WD is shift-on-the-fly, and is at the push of a button.

Coming in at around $30,000, the Axiom XS certainly has all the gizmos and gadgets at a very reasonable price. It’s very comfortable, luxurious even, and has all the features (and more) that one would hope to find in a 4WD SUV. However, despite Isuzu’s blurb about the amazing TOD and ISU, I was under-whelmed by the Axiom’s ability to retain contact with the road. It’s sudden reaction to loss of traction was rather reminiscent of a puppy dog that let’s you pet it, then whips around and takes a chunk out of your hand. As long as you’re aware it might happen, you’re going to be a little wary, and that’s no way to approach using an SUV that should be taking you up hill and down dale, not just spinning its wheels exiting a turning.