Introduced at the New York International Auto Show in March 2002, the latest Isuzu sport utility vehicle will supersede the long-lived Trooper, which dates back to the 1980s. Named Ascender, the new flagship exhibits some kinship to General Motors midsize SUV models; thats no surprise because Isuzu has had a 31-year relationship with GM. In addition, the Ascender is built on the same platform used by GMs extended-length midsize SUVs, which reached the market early in 2002.
Isuzu is making the right move with the Ascender, said Rick Balsiger, Isuzus vice president of SUV marketing and product planning, during the vehicles unveiling in New York. Though the Ascender is larger than a compact model, it is smaller than typical full-size SUVs. Isuzu calls it the ideal-size model, equipped with three rows of seats that hold seven passengers.
The two engines offered a 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder and a 5.3-liter V-8 mate with a four-speed-automatic transmission. Scott Hyde, Isuzus executive manager of SUV product planning, said the inline-six outperforms many V-8s.
Three trim levels will be available: S, LS and Limited. Production of the U.S.-built Ascender begins in September 2002, and the SUV will reach dealerships late in the year. Isuzu offers the longest powertrain warranty of any vehicle in this class: 10 years or 120,000 miles. GMs OnStar communication system will be standard thats a first for Isuzu.
The Ascender may be equipped with two-wheel drive (with traction control) or on-demand four-wheel drive (4WD). The 4WD system has four modes: automatic, which functions with no input from the driver; 4-Low for hard going; 2-High; and 4-High. Limited and LS models include a locking rear differential.
Isuzu marketers refer to the bold, commanding presence of the Ascender, which emphasizes such elements as 17-inch alloy wheels, overfenders, standard bodyside moldings and a long, 129-inch wheelbase. The chrome grille resembles the one installed on other Isuzu models. An aerodynamic front fascia incorporates halogen headlights and integrated fog lamps. The Ascender is 207.6 inches long overall and 75.5 inches tall.
Built with body-on-frame construction, the Ascender gets rack-and-pinion steering and a standard premium ride suspension that employs Bilstein shock absorbers. A roof-mounted luggage rack is standard. The Limited features running boards and special monotone paint. A power moonroof is included on the LS and Limited models.
The Ascender is designed to seat seven occupants. Second-row passengers get a 65/35-split, folding seat, while the 50/50 third-row seat holds two. Second-row seats have a flip-and-tumble feature for easy access to the back row. All rear seats fold flat to create a cargo volume of 100.2 cubic feet.
All models come with standard dual-zone air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power heated mirrors, a Premium Bose sound system with a CD player, GMs OnStar communication system and an automatic-dimming inside mirror with a compass. A rear cargo shelf has adjustable height levels. The Limited adds leather-trimmed power seats with heating for front occupants, as well as an in-dash six-CD player and Radio Data System (RDS) technology. Automatic air conditioning is available for the LS and Limited models.
Under the Hood
The base S model is powered by a 4.2-liter dual-overhead-cam inline-six-cylinder engine that generates 275 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque. Buyers who favor extra performance can step up to an LS or Limited, which pack a 5.3-liter V-8 that develops 285 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Each engine teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Ascenders trailer-towing capacity reaches 5,500 pounds with the inline-six and 7,200 pounds with the V-8. Two-wheel-drive LS and Limited models include traction control, which is optional on the base S trim.
Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are standard. Three-point seat belts are installed in all seven seating positions. An anti-theft engine immobilizer and daytime running lights are standard.