The Isuzu Trooper is not your father's Oldsmobile, but it came close.

When Olds was looking for a sport-utility vehicle to call its own rather than continuing to share the Blazer platform with Chevrolet, it sought out Isuzu.

Isuzu produces the compact Rodeo sport-ute, one of the best of that breed, so Olds figured it might do well to join forces with Isuzu to provide it with a sport-utility.

But rather than a version of the compact Rodeo, Olds considered a version of the much larger Isuzu Trooper.

Currency fluctuations being as they may, the yen went wild against the dollar and an Olds Trooper became an expensive proposition--much more costly than an Olds Blazer named Bravada.

So Olds went the Blazer route and Isuzu found a customer in Honda, which opted to enter the luxury sport-ute market quickly by having Isuzu tinker with the Trooper to produce a leather rendition called the Acura SLX for Honda's luxury division.

After testing the Acura SLX and the Isuzu Trooper, we can safely say that Olds made a wise decision. Rodeo is a wonder machine. Trooper is a trouper in that it that plods along.

We tested the top-of-the-line 1996 Trooper SE with four-wheel-drive.

It's a big machine--a giant, in fact. In the parking lot, it seems to block the sun. That's one of its problems. It stands tall and you feel the height behind the wheel when taking a sharp corner or turn. Do so gingerly because the machine feels top heavy.

The 3.2-liter, 190-horsepower, V-6 comes up short in power and fuel economy. Resolve to be passed more than you pass. Sadly, usually when an engine sacrifices performance, it atones with an above-average fuel-economy rating. The Trooper SE is rated at 15 miles per gallon city/18 m.p.g. highway. That's not atonement.

On the plus side, the availability of four-wheel drive means all-season motoring. And the novel swing-out rear doors are functional. The wide left-side door has a small right-side companion. You can slip 2x4s or a ladder in one door and close the other. Nice touch--except that the left-side door requires you to pull a metal bar near the hinge to close, raising the risk of pinched and/or dirty fingers.

The center console has built-in dual cupholders that serve as convenient change holders for the tollway.

Base price is $38,500. Standard equipment in the SE includes leather, power-heated seats; fender flares with mud flaps; four-wheel anti-lock brakes; power moonroof with sunshade; limited slip differential; and aluminum wheels, along with dual air bags.

>> 1996 Isuzu Trooper SE
Wheelbase: 108.7 inches Length: 178.9 inches Engine: 3.2-liter, 190-h.p., V-6 Transmission: 4-speed automatic EPA mileage: 15 m.p.g. city/18 m.p.g. highway Base pr ice: $38,500 Price as tested: $41,030. Includes $1,000 for air conditioning; $570 for power windows/door locks; $270 cruise control; $150 for AM/FM stereo with cassette and six speakers; $300 for split reclining rear seat; $30 for visor mirrors, illuminated on passenger side; and $210 for power outside mirrors with defogger (you can order all these items in a preferred equipment package at a $1,000 discount). Add $445 for freight. Pluses: Big hauler with 4WD off-road or snowy-road security. Swing-out rear doors allow you to haul a ladder more easily than with a hatchlid. Roomy interior. Minuses: Feels top heavy in corners. Mileage is nothing to write home about unless you write to Amoco. Styling a bit bleak. The V-6 could use some muscle. >>