The latest version of the Isuzu Trooper is starting to look like a bona fide contender to such sport-utility heavyweights as the Land Rover Discovery, Ford Explorer, Chevy Blazer and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
For 1995 Isuzu has sharpened the focus of the four-door Trooper. The sport-utility comes with an all-new interior and in three models: S, LS and Limited.
The four-wheel drive Trooper is a classy, upscale vehicle, a different animal than the boxy, agrarian first-generation Trooper.
All 1995 models are powered by a smooth-running, 3.2-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine and have dual air bags.
In one week of mostly city driving, our silver Trooper proved to be an enjoyable mount. However, there are still a few areas that could stand minor improvements.
The Trooper and its smaller sibling, the Rodeo, are the only sport-utility vehicles on the market that come with multivalve engines. Automakers haven’t used engines with four valves per cylinder in all-terrain vehicles.
Multivalve engines don’t make as much torque or low-speed power as engines with two valves per cylinder. However, the additional valves enable an engine to run smoother and quieter.
The single-overhead-cam, 3.2-liter, 24-valve V-6 in our test Trooper did run smoothly and quietly, and with the automatic transmission set in the power mode, acceleration was more than adequate.
The power mode is engaged by pressing a button on the transmission shifter housing. There also is a winter mode, which helps keep the wheels from losing traction on snowy roads. Overall, the transmission offers refined, smooth shifts.
Even with the added valves, the Trooper can pull as much weight as the competition. It can trailer up to 5,000 pounds – the same load as the six-cylinder Ford Explorer and Chevy Blazer.
Our test vehicle started quickly and ran well. I found that the engine’s power is evenly distributed up to about 5,500 rpm. And for a vehicle that weighs 4,315 pounds, the Trooper can easily pass slower moving traffic at highway speeds.
Fuel mileage came in far below EPA estimates of 15 mpg in the city, and 18 on the highway. With the air conditioner on, our test vehicle delivered just 12 mpg city and 15 highway.
The Trooper offers a pleasing blend of sportiness and utility in the way it conquers such things as speed bumps, potholes and corners. The suspension system is fairly firm, preventing the chassis from bouncing much over rough terrain and from leaning considerably while cornering.
The firm suspension, however, doesn’t make for a rough ride. In city driving the Trooper offers a smooth, quiet ride. There is, in fact, much to like about the Trooper when it is used as an urban commuter.
Because the Trooper sits high off the ground, driver and passenger have a commanding view of the road. Seeing what’s up ahead can make you a better driver because you can react sooner to hazards.
Although the Trooper is a full size sport-utility vehicle, it handles as easily as a smaller one, such as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The power-assisted steering responds sharply, and the wheel requires little effort to turn.
The turning radius is a terrific 38.1 feet; that means U-turns are easily carried out. Also, the Trooper performs well in tight spaces, such as supermarket parking lots and parallel parking.
Four-wheel disc brakes enable the Trooper to stop quickly and without much fuss. But here’s one area where Isuzu got chintzy. The Trooper’s anti-lock system is active only on the rear wheels. Virtually every other $30,000 sport-utility vehicle has four-wheel ABS.
Also, if a manufacturer is going to outfit a vehicle with two-wheel ABS, why the rear wheels? It seems to me that ABS would be better on the front wheels so that in an emergency the driver can apply full braking power and still be able to steer.
That said, I rank the Trooper as an exc llent all-round vehicle on the road – and that’s where most expensive sport-utility vehicles are used. In the rough stuff, the Trooper is OK too. But because the engine doesn’t have the raw power of a V-8, I didn’t dare take it far off paved roads. I drove the Trooper over bumpy dirt roads and through sand. It felt solid and easy to control.
FIT AND FINISH
The Trooper is one vehicle that did absolutely nothing for me, good or bad, in terms of styling.
It is, in a word, innocuous.
The first Trooper had a spartan, rugged kind of appeal. The 1995 model doesn’t. Nor does it look like a luxury vehicle. It has a rather plain, unremarkable appearance.
If you see a fully decked out Chevy Blazer, Land Rover Discovery, Ford Explorer or Grand Cherokee Orvis, you’ll notice it. Not so the Trooper. Its edges blend smoothly into another and virtually all the shapes, from the outline of the grill to the headlights, are squared off.
If anything, the Trooper comes off as a bit too conservative for my tastes. I want to feel that I am driving something special for $30,000. You don’t get that feeling in the Trooper.
In any case, I can’t complain about the Trooper’s long list of power accessories, high-quality materials and superb assembly. In this regard, the Trooper is first-rate.
Our test Trooper came with an alarm system, power windows and mirrors, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, radio-controlled power door locks and a CD player.
The dash is cleanly designed and laid out well, but it is a bit on the dull side. It contains a full set of attractive white-on-black analog gauges that are easily read. Most of the buttons and knobs are less than an arm’s length away and are easy to operate.
There is one problem, however. The two horn buttons on the outer edge of the steering wheel are poorly placed. Several times while turning I accidentally beeped the horn as my hand brushed the buttons.
Our Trooper came with a pair of front bucket seats covered in a durable and nice looking gray cloth. The seats were fairly firm, and they held me tightly. The rear seats can be folded forward to increase rear cargo room. A snap-in retractable cover over the cargo area is a nice touch.
Speaking of room, front and rear passengers will find plenty of space for legs and heads.
Rear visibility is not as good as one might hope. The spare tire mounts on the swing out rear door and partially blocks the view.
Sizeand room are the Trooper’s advantages over many rivals. But competitive vehicles such as the Land Rover Discovery and the Ford Explorer Limited leave the Trooper in the dust when it comes to style.
1995 Isuzu Trooper Base price: $24,950 EPA rating: 15 mpg city/18 mpg highway Price as tested: $29,605 Incentives: None
Truett’s tip: The Trooper is a well-built and exceptionally smooth-running sport-utility vehicle that has a very carlike demeanor. However, it seems a bit bland compared to other vehicles in its class.