2000 Isuzu Trooper
This 2000 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2002.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Isuzu's long-running Trooper really is just that—a trooper. With old styling that has largely been facelifted in recent years and some mechanicals to match, the Trooper still provides a surprisingly supple ride over bumps, an open-feeling interior and great visibility.
I wonder if the folks at Isuzu who named their biggest sport ute the Trooper here in the States were prophetic.
In proper authoritative, soldier-like fashion, the Trooper has remained in the Isuzu lineup, despite some 15 years of growing SUV competition and, in 1996, lawsuit-provoking statements by Consumer Reports.
In addition, the front and rear of the 2000 Trooper is restyled slightly, there's some wood inside now on the top-of-the-line Limited, and the Trooper's automatic transmission adds a system to prevent gear "hunting" when driving up and down hills.
And starting in the 2000 model year, American Isuzu Motors Inc. instituted the longest powertrain warranty in America. It covers defects in material or workmanship in the engine, transmission, steering assembly, suspension and axles for the original owner or lessee for 10 years or 120,000 miles, whichever comes first.
"Adding the longest powertrain warranty on the U.S. market to our already impressive new vehicle warranty package demonstrates in a tangible way the confidence we have in our product," said Bob Reilly, chief operating officer at the SUV division at American Isuzu.
Good room inside
But its maximum 85 to 90 cubic feet of cargo space—it varies depending on whether you have a moonroof—give it an edge over those competitors.
There are other ways the Trooper seems sizable, too. Immediately after climbing inside the Trooper, I noticed a distinctly airy feel. It came not only from the tallness of the Trooper and how high I sat above the ground but also from good visibility from the large side windows. I noted that the back-door windows go down all the way. And the moonroof, standard on the Limited, is one of the biggest I've seen in an SUV.
There is a high step in, though. When I opened the driver door to get inside, I found the floor of the Trooper was above my knee. At 5-foot-4, I had to figure a way to get partly up on the side of the seat, then slide into the rest of it. There was no step rail.
Still, I loved scanning blocks ahead in city traffic, looking over most of the other drivers. I even looked down on some Jeeps and Toyota pickups.
The Trooper's 72.2-inch height puts it at the taller end of the SUV range. The Land Rover Discovery stands 74.4 inches tall, but most others that are similar in overall length to the Trooper are in the 67-inch to 70-inch range. The Pathfinder, for instance, is about 68 inches tall. It offers the same 8.3 inches of ground clearance under the vehicle, however, that the Trooper has.
Styling isn't trendy
For 2000, Isuzu did install a "sleeker," twin-slot grille, but casual observers aren't likely to notice this change. They also will probably not detect that the rear lights are slightly different, too.
The new wood trim on the Limited test model is sort of overlooked in the interior except for the odd wood pieces that surround the two horn buttons on the steering wheel.
Front seats in the test Trooper were wide and quite comfortable—heated, too. The back seat cushion is flat and the seatbacks recline some, but it's not as easy to accomplish as it is in some other SUVs.
V6 power only
This compares with as much as 250 horses and 265 lb-ft of torque in the 2001 Pathfinder with 3.5-liter V6.
But it still was enough to move the Trooper along smartly and smoothly. There's a surprising sense of comfortable confidence as this traditional-looking SUV accelerates in city and highway travel.
I liked how quickly the Trooper got up to speed when I pressed the "power" button on the center console. This adjusts the shift points for a bit more aggressive performance. It's nothing like a sports car, of course, but you can notice a difference.
I also noticed how the new grade-sensing logic at work with the automatic transmission improved the Trooper's behavior on hilly terrain. It can be tiring if the transmission can't decide whether to hold a gear for a while when you're going up a hill, after all.
But the Trooper still doesn't offer a V8.
Supple ride, for an SUV
The ride is softer than I expected. In fact, it's nicely cushioned. I couldn't quite bring myself to use the word "refined," but the Trooper definitely gives a better ride than you might expect by looking at it.
Even off-road, I could move quite quickly over dirt hills and potholes without getting tossed about or handled roughly.
About that handling
Consumer Reports had listed the Trooper as "not acceptable" in 1996, saying it had a tendency to tip over. Isuzu denied it and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publicly questioned the publication's rollover tests.
Finally, in spring 2000, in a lawsuit brought by Isuzu, a court ruled that eight of 17 statements made by Consumer Reports were false. The jury in Los Angeles, however, declined to award Isuzu the $242 million in damages that it had sought from Consumer Reports.
It's worthwhile for every driver to remember that circumstances can be found to make all vehicles—especially those with high centers of gravity such as sport utilities—roll over. That's why every sport utility sold today carries a warning telling drivers these vehicles handle differently than cars and should be driven with that in mind.
Four-wheel drive can be "on demand"
All 4-wheel-drive Troopers come with a limited slip rear differential, too.
Uncharacteristic rear doors
The back doors are unique. The Trooper doesn't have the usual liftgate or tailgate. Instead, there's a large door and a small door that swing open like cargo doors. They don't keep you covered in bad weather as a liftgate can, but I liked that there was no big bumper to hoist things over as I loaded the 85.3-cubic-foot cargo area.
Fuel economy in the Trooper isn't great at just 15 mpg in city driving, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It's about the same, though, as the Pathfinder and Explorer four door with V6.
Trooper pricing is high, with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price including destination charge of more than $27,000 for the base Trooper with a manual transmission and 2-wheel drive.
My test model, which included leather seats, in-dash CD changer and moonroof, had a sticker of more than $35,000 and didn't include a head restraint for the middle rider in back.
For that price, you're close to the top model of the Land Rover Discovery Series II, with a V8, full-time 4-wheel drive, leather seats, and head restraints for all passengers.