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 GMs 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
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
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 Generals 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 ©
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
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