Isuzu's latest sport utility vehicle went on sale for the 2003 model year and replaced the company's long-lived Trooper. The Ascender shares its platform with General Motors' midsize SUVs. It is smaller than typical full-size SUVs. For 2007, the larger seven-passenger Ascender has been discontinued.
The SUV is powered by a 275-horsepower inline-six-cylinder engine. For 2006 added as standard GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability system.
Ascenders come with either rear-wheel drive or on-demand four-wheel drive. The four-wheel-drive system has four modes: automatic, 4-Low, 2-High and 4-High.
Several option groups that are comparable to additional trim levels are offered. The LS package includes traction control, a limited-slip differential, a sunroof, a six-CD changer and a roof rack. Leather and Luxury packages are available.
Exhibiting a traditional two-box SUV profile, the Ascender features 17-inch alloy wheels, overfenders and bodyside moldings. For 2007, machined-finish alloy wheels replace painted wheels and Bering Blue Metallic and Storm Gray Metallic are new paint colors. The Ascender features body-on-frame construction and rack-and-pinion steering.
Second-row passengers get a 65/35-split, folding seat. The second-row seats have a flip-and-tumble feature. Ascenders have dual-zone air conditioning, power windows and locks, and a CD player. The OnStar communication system has been dropped as an option.
Under the Hood
The Ascender's 4.2-liter inline-six-cylinder generates 291 hp and 277 pounds-feet of torque. Each engine teams with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Daytime running lights, an electronic stability system and antilock brakes are standard. Two-row side curtain-type airbags are optional. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard for 2007.
The Ascender isn't exactly a standout in the crowded SUV field, but at least it falls at the appealing end of the spectrum. Ascenders run quietly and accelerate vigorously from a standstill. Handling is confident for an SUV, and the ride is quite compliant. The seat bottoms are somewhat hard, and the seatbacks have virtually no side bolstering to keep occupants in place during turns.