SAN FRANCISCO: Looking for a vehicle that's guaranteed to attract stares and own the
road? Isuzu's VehiCROSS looks like a refugee from Disneyland's Toon Town, but it's a real,
all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle that was designed to drive as well on the street as
it does off road.
Originally a concept car at
the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show, the VehiCROSS won the Japanese Special Car of the Year award in
1997 when it arrived as a limited production product. Based on a short-wheelbase version
of the Trooper sport utility, it goes in its own wild and wacky direction.
The lower body panels, made
of hardened unpainted polypropylene, bulge like Stone Cold Steve Austin's biceps,
highlighting the 16-inch alloy wheels with meaty mud-snow tires. The bulldog face stares
at other motorists with ferocity.
Inside, the concept-car
styling is relegated mostly to the doors, seats and steering wheel. The doors are decked
out in red textured plastic with carbon-fiber-style armrest bulges. The four-spoke
steering wheel comes nattily dressed in alternating sections of grippy red and black
vinyl. The genuine Recaro sport seats, in red and black leather, are heavily bolstered and
supportive. The space between the seats and doors is minimal, and the seatbelt tang can
The unique, freeform flow
of the top half of the car includes a flagrantly thick side pillar and a nearly useless
rear window. A half circle of spare tire obscures most of any car that travels behind. The
full-sized spare tire stashed in the tailgate pops out in seconds if needed.
The VehiCROSS gets Isuzu's
largest engine, a 3.5-liter, 24-valve, dual-overhead-cam V-6, good for 215 horsepower and
a bounteous 230 lb.-ft. of torque. For maximum performance at both high and low engine
speeds, a butterfly valve in the air intake opens above 3,600 rpm to let air take a more
direct path. It shuts back down at lower rpm for greater torque. The 3.5 liter powerplant
pulls the two-ton Isuzu lustily, earning fuel mileage of 15 city, 19 highway.
An electronic four-speed
automatic is the only transmission choice. It provides "Power" and
"Winter" settings for fun and safer starts on slippery winter roads (where
The VehiCROSS was designed
to be a good daily driver, and it offers a tall position to survey everything on the open
road. The VehiCROSS will happily travel offroad too, with an automatic all-wheel-drive
system called Torque-On-Demand (TOD). With TOD, the rear wheels are always engaged, but
the fronts can handle up to 50 percent of the work as needed. A small dash display lights
to show when traction has shifted forward, and roughly by how much. A limited slip
differential delivers grip to the wheel with traction when the going gets slippery.
I sampled some offroading
on a tiny undeveloped building site in Union City. As I drove the VehiCROSS over some
heaps of dirt, the front hubs engaged, illuminating the little lights on the traction
gauge. I discovered the truck's short turning radius, certainly welcome while attempting
any serious offroading.
White" tester was the "Ironman Edition," named after the Ironman Triathlon
event. For $995, it adds bold exterior graphics, embossed front seats, custom floor mats
and a wing style roof rack. The most obvious graphic is the huge hood decal, which brings
out the truck's macho character.
As a limited issue model,
the VehiCROSS includes pretty much everything: power mirrors with defoggers, power windows
and locks, air conditioning, vanity mirrors, keyless remote, six-disk in-dash CD player
with full AM/FM/cassette system and more. The bottom line is $30,389, including
Like the Trooper, it's
based on, the VehiCROSS is spacious and offers plenty of headroom. Rear seat passengers,
however, must climb up and squeeze into the rear compartment; once there, limo-style
legroom prevails, but the huge side pillars obscure much of the view.
Isuzu has made a name for
itself as a leader in sport utility vehicles. The company doesn't even sell plain cars.
The VehiCROSS is neither a car nor plain - it's the ultimate Isuzu, and it certainly isn't
afraid to say, "Here I Am!" Are you? By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net
- San Francisco
Isuzu Home Page
Byline: By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: "Disneyland's New Toon Town Car"
Topic: The 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS SUV
Word Count: 682
Photo Caption: The 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS Ironman SUV
Photo Credits: Isuzu PR
Series #: 1999 - 66