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1996 Acura SLX

by John Heilig

SEE ALSO: Acura Buyer's Guide


ENGINE:3.2-liter 24-valve V-6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:190@5600 rpm/188 lbs.-ft. @4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION:Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:15 mpg city, 18 mpg highway, 15.8 mpg test
WHEELBASE:108.7 in.
HEIGHT:72.2 in.
CURB WEIGHT:4640 lbs.
CARRYING CAPACITY:43.7/85.3 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down)
INSTRUMENTS:Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, oil pressure, battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD, anti-lock braking, dual air bags.

A fact of life of the sport utility world is that every manufacturer who wants to sell a sport utility doesn't necessarily have the facilities to build one. And as I've said to a few people, this is how I see the entire industry shaking down in 20 or 30 years; there will be a few specialty manufacturers building vehicles under different nameplates.

The vehicle in question this week is Acura's sport utility, the SLX which is in reality an Isuzu Trooper. Granted, it's an upscale Isuzu Trooper, but they are virtually identical vehicles.

The SLX is a full-sized sport ute. It's bigger than the Isuzu Rodeo/Honda Passport. As such, it offers excellent legroom, carrying capacity and full-size performance in a rather pleasing package. The SLX has definite Acura styling touches, such as a new grille, new steering wheel hub, and Acura and SLX logos on the spare tire cover. It uses an Acura labeled radio, etc.

SLX is powered by a l 90 hp V-6 engine. This engine provides the SLX with more than enough power to do the job. You're not necessarily looking for ultimate power in a sport utility. You're looking for something that will handle the highways at a reasonable speed and yet have enough torque to handle tough off-road situations should they occur. I think it's safe to assume that the greater majority of Acura SLX owners won't be using their vehicles in the mud and the grime, but I've been surprised before.

Instrumentation is complete in the SLX, but it tends to be in trucks. SLX has other nice luxury features, such as power windows, power door locks, AM/FM stereo sound system with a cassette player, which isn't a luxury item any longer.

It also has two-level heated seats and power fold in exterior mirrors. Why is this important? When we had our full-size van we used to park it in our garage. This made me chuckle when minivans first came out and the manufacturers claimed an asset was being able to park these in garages. Our van had full-size exterior mirrors, and we always had to fold at least one in to make it fit through the garage doors. With the Acura SLX, you just push a button, both mirrors fold in, and you can pull in the garage. It's also easy to turn on a heater/defroster in those mirrors to clear them off.

There are three power pickup points on the SLX to give juice to such accessories as cellular phones, CBs, computers, etc. One of the "standard" features of the luxury sport utilities is a multitude of power pickups. I'm still waiting for manufacturers to put in 110 volt AC pickups.

Power gets to the ground through a four-speed automatic gearbox. The transfer case shifter is a gear lever on the console. The console seems rather wide, but in a car of this size it isn't a problem. One problem we encountered was that there were times when the power didn't appear to be making it to the wheels. It almost felt as if the SLX had a flat tire. Most of the time the SLX performed fine, but there were instances when it would "stutter."

The rear seats offer exceptional amounts of legroom, almost as much as the front seats.

One of my passengers in the SLX was a female co-worker who is tall and has back problems every now and then, a problem I share. She said she appreciated the comfort of the seats. On my side of the vehicle I used the heated seats as a heating pad to prevent major backaches.

Those seats also have curious labels; "KEEP" and "HEAT. " Location switches are labeled "DR" for the driver's side, "AST" for the passenger side. KEEP means you keep the heat on, rather than modulate it. AST wasn't even explained in the owner's manual.

While the Acura SLX is a rebadged Isuzu, it offers enough "Acura" features to give its own definition. At a price tag of about $38,000 the SLX is definitely situated in the upper end of the sport utility spectrum, with vehicles such as the Land Rover, Mercedes AAV and Mitsubishi Montero. The Acura is more aerodynamic than the Land Rover and Montero, but it still looks like a box next to the Mercedes, which is still a year down the road. It has a lot to recommend it, especially if you're a Honda/Acura fan.