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New Car/Review

1997 Isuzu Trooper

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Izuzu Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:            3.2-liter V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 190hp @5600 rpm/188 ft-lb @4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:      14 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, 13.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:         108.7 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    178.9 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    72.2 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     69.5 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       4315 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     22.5 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  43.7/90.2 cu. ft. 
                   (depending upon seat configuration)
TIRES:             P245/70R16
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, 
                   water temperature, oil pressure, battery 
                   voltage, compass, altimeter, exterior 
                   temperature read out, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, cruise control,
                   air conditioner, AM-FM stereo 
                   radio with cassette, heated front seats, 
                   power sun roof, anti-lock braking,
                   dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $39,500 (est.)

Our family doesn't do anything halfway. So when we discovered we weren't going to be spending Christmas at home and were, instead, going to be spending it at our childrens' homes and at their in-laws, we knew the Christmas holiday would involve a lot of driving. The vehicle for the holiday was the Isuzu Trooper.

We had several jokes from friends asking if we were afraid the Trooper would overturn, because of the negative publicity the vehicle received at the hands of Consumer Reports. Well, Consumer Reports and I have disagreed several times in the past, and usually over their revues and testing methods. No, I wasn't afraid that the Trooper was going to turn turtle, and I don't think you should be either.

Under normal circumstances and with sensible driving in off-road conditions, the Trooper is as capable as any other sport utility on the highway. Put outriggers on it and subject it to ridiculous tests and you may have problems, but normal people don't drive that way.

The Trooper served as an excellent Santa's Sled, carrying gifts and food to the kiddies in the nether regions. It also carried gifts back from the nether regions. It has a very large carrying capacity behind the rear seat that handled everything we could stow back there. And because of the Trooper's unique rear double doors, there was still excellent visibility out the rear window. The right rear door is essentially a half door. While the left door is approximately 3/4 of the width. For most of your access to the rear, you'll only need the big door. For larger objects, you can also open the right door and get full access to the rear. An advantage to keeping the right door closed is that you can stack stuff up against it, which we did several times.

The rear seats also fold down and forward, so you have a flat floor. For most of our cargo carrying we didn't need the flat floor so we kept the seats up and piled things on them. When the rear seats were emptied of cargo, we had a large seat that was capable of carrying three passengers in comfort with good leg and headroom.

The front seats were individual bucket seats with fold-down arm rests. To assist the passengers in entering the car there were hand holds all over the place. The driver only had a door hand hold and the steering wheel.

Our tester was fully equipped with all the goodies. Power came from a 3.2-liter V-6 engine that is rated at 190 horsepower. We found this to be more than enough for the rigors we put the Trooper through. We made a similar trip a few years ago in the previous generation "Trooper II," and made excellent time over the route. The transmission was a four-speed automatic, with a transfer case shifter to the right of the transmission gear lever.

I particularly liked the horn buttons, which were located near the steering wheel rim. They were easy to locate and use, in case you wanted to "warn" another driver on the highway.

Trooper has received an unfortunately bad rap. It has been redesigned so that it is a nice looking car, much better looking than the Trooper II, which was too square The new Trooper is much more aerodynamic and is rounder.

It is a very comfortable vehicle to drive. At no time did we fear tip-over, but at all times we enjoyed comfort and convenience. It may not be the greatest SUV in the world, but it certainly isn't the worst.