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2003 Isuzu Ascender

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Unlike virtually all other automakers, Isuzu markets only SUVs and minivans in the North American market – the Rodeo, Axion and new for 2003, the Ascender. The Ascender replaces the long running Trooper.

Indeed, except for a different front end, you really have to look at the badges to tell if it is an Ascender or an Envoy. Since General Motors has a major stake in Isuzu they did not have to make a huge investment to put a new, first rate SUV in the dealers’ showrooms.

Built on the same Morraine, Ohio assembly line, the Isuzu Ascender shares its platform with the "extended" Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL, both highly recommended mid-sized SUVs.

Two engines are available in the Ascender. The standard engine is GM’s new and excellent in-line, double overhead camshaft (DOHC), 4.2-liter, six-cylinder engine. Yes, a straight six, rather than the much more typical V6. The Vortec 4200 produces 275-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 275 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. The optional engine is a pushrod, overhead valve (OHV), 5.3-liter V8 that makes 285-horsepower at 6000 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. Both engines are mated to a four-speed automatic transmission and both two-and four-wheel versions are offered. The latter is an automatic on-demand system, with a four-wheel-drive mode when needed with input from the driver. A shift-on-the-fly control on the dashboard lets you select 2WD Lo, 4WD Hi and 4WD Lo, meaning this the 4WD Ascender is quite capable of serious off-road duty. The two-wheel-drive LS and Limited trim levels feature traction control as standard equipment.

Like most SUVs, the Ascender does not sip fuel. The fuel tank holds 25-gallons and the EPA numbers are:

Six-cylinder       City MPG       Highway MPG

     2WD                 15                      20

     4WD                 15                      20

V8  engine

     2WD                 15                      19

     4WD                 14                      18

The all-new in-line Vortec 4200 six-cylinder engine is quiet and smooth operating with plenty of torque and more than adequate acceleration. However if you plan to do some serious towing you might consider ordering the V8. The towing capacity is 5500 pounds with the six-cylinder when properly equipped and jumps to 7,200 pounds towing capacity with the V8 engine.

Prices for the 2WD Ascender start at $29,274 and with 4WD listing for $31,974. The optional V8 adds $1500. Besides a base model, there are three trim levels - Preferred Equipment Package, LS and Limited. The base model comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps integrated into the bumper, power windows and locks, radio with CD player, keyless remote, tilt steering wheel and dual-zone heating/air conditioning with separate rear controls. The Preferred Equipment Package (standard on the 4WD Ascender) adds

Remote heated outside mirrors and an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat.

The LS packages adds limited slip differential for 2WD, power moonroof, luggage carrier crossbars, steering wheel radio controls, driver information center, dual-zone automatic climate controls, AM/FM/cassette/CD player, rear radio controls, automatic day/night rearview mirror, compass, digital memo recorder, and machine-finished alloy wheels.

The Limited Package requires the V8 engine and adds monotone paint, color-keyed front and rear bumpers, side moldings, running boards, leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver-seat and mirror memory, Bose sound system, rain-sensing wipers, mirror-mounted turn signals, and running boards.

Like its Chevrolet and GMC siblings, the Ascender is a seven-passenger people hauler. The last two rows of seats fold down to turn the Ascender into a huge easy to load cargo hauler. Unlike some of the competition, the third row of seats can carry real people, not just kids. The seat heaters that heat the seats and seatbacks separately are among the best I have ever tested.

As SUVs go, the Ascender steers, handles, brakes and rides with the best of them. It is a very comfortable ride. The leather and wood trim in the Limited Ascender I test drove was first rate, in fact downright elegant. Like most of the General Motors products today, large user-friendly knobs have replaced smallish buttons. The instrumentation is truck like; that is real gauges rather than idiot lights. Safety features include dual front airbags, front side airbags, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes plus daytime running lights.

Should you opt for the Ascender over the Trailblazer EXT or Envoy XL for starters the Ascender is priced a couple of thousand dollars less and you are likely to get a better deal. One advantage over the Chevrolet and GMC counterparts is the better warranty – three years/50,000 miles overall, and seven years/75,000 miles for the powertrain. The General’s warranty is a mere three years/36,000 miles. Finally, even though Isuzu dealers are few and far between, the Ascender can be repaired at any Chevrolet or GMC service facility. By Bill Siuru AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Isuzu Home Page

Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  An Ascender or an Envoy?
Topic:  2003 Isuzu Ascender
Word Count:   837
Photo Caption:  2003 Isuzu Ascender
Photo Credits:  Isuzu Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 6

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2003 Ascender

Download the original image file here:  2003 Ascender 47k

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