The Isuzu Trooper comes to us under a cloud. Whether or not it's a fatal affliction remains to be seen.In the past few years, the boxy Trooper has succeeded in moving up to compete among the high-end, high-profile run of sport-utility vehicles, offering a less-expensive alternative to such segment leaders as Land Rover Discovery, Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Montero. It's a rugged, high-quality hauler that can tackle the tough terrain on Saturday and still show up dressed for dinner among the country-club crowd on Sunday. A powerful engine and comfortable interior complete the picture for the trooper, which also is sold as the Acura SLX. But this year, something bad happened to the Trooper. Consumer Reports magazine, in its regular evaluation of vehicles, found that the Trooper has an unpleasant tendency to flip on its side during emergency maneuvers. Isuzu cried foul, but Consumer Reports stuck by its guns. In its 1997 comparison guide, the magazine rates the Trooper and SLX as "Not Acceptable because of their pronounced tendency to roll over in our emergency handling tests." This is not good. But let it be noted that in the 1996 auto issue, the very same vehicle received a highly desirable "Recommended" checkmark from Consumer Reports, which praised it for reliability and refinement. There was mention of "sloppy" handling and a "bouncy ride," but the point is, Consumer Reports thought it was great then and rotten now. Which seems at least fickle. Behind the wheel, in subjective seat-of-the-pants testing on the road and, briefly, off the pavement, the Trooper felt no more or less tippy than most high-profile multipurpose vehicles. Obviously, a tall vehicle with off-road suspension will handle with more body roll and less precision than a passenger car, and drivers should adjust their speeds and cornering to compensate. Still, if something gets in your way while cruising down the road, it's not all that beneficial to flip. One friend who owns a Trooper believes the rollover charge is bogus. Other owners have reportedly been miffed by the Consumer Reports deal and, of course, so are dealers who've seen sales dip. Anyway, the Isuzu people and the Acura marketers are hot about the whole thing, feeling that they've been unfairly tarred with a questionable test procedure. Which Consumer Reports defends. So it goes. The rollover thing kind of tainted my view of the Trooper, perhaps making me drive it a bit more gingerly or imagining that I could make it flip just by turning the steering wheel quickly. But I survived, and actually, there hasn't been a rash of reported complaints about rollovers. Other than that little problem, the Trooper seems to drive fairly well, maybe not as sophisticated as some others, but still showing the kind of luxury ride you'd expect at this price range. Comfort is the key, and the Trooper carries it off. The 24-valve V-6 is strong, but the Trooper is also qu ite heavy, making highway acceleration rather leisurely. The engine runs very smoothly, though, and once up to speed, the Trooper hums along nicely enough, holding its pace on grades, all the while making its occupants feel cozy and pampered. The interior is roomy, with decent space for legs and heads, though the cabin is somewhat narrow. The seats are big and thronelike, and there's a full load of power accessories on board. The upgraded stereo is fine. Isuzu also makes a small sport-utility vehicle, the Rodeo, that also is marketed by Honda as the Passport. Like the Trooper, it offers a slightly less expensive alternative to its competitors, such as Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer. Unlike the Trooper, it has not been branded a rollover risk. Despite the Consumer Reports assault, the Trooper soldiers on. It remains to be seen whether its reputation for durability andreliability, as well as its lower price tag, will outweigh the rollover controversy. May be the controversy is overblown, maybe not. Whatever, it would be a shame to lose such a strong contender from the field of battle. 1997 Isuzu Trooper Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sport-utility vehicle, rear/four-wheel-drive. Base price: $27,800. Price as tested: $31,455. Engine: 3.2-liter V-6, 190 at 5,600 rpm, 188 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Transmission: Four-speed automatic. Curb weight: 4,315 pounds. Length: 178.9 inches. Wheelbase: 108.7 inches. Safety features: Dual air bags, anti-lock brakes. EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city, 18 mpg highway. Highs: Reliability record. Decent price. High degree of comfort. Lows: Rollover controversy. Mild acceleration. Clumsy handling.
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Isuzu Trooper
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.