Isuzu VehiCross
Base Price (est) - $29,875

Price As Tested (est) - $29,875

Best Features - Unique Style, Comfortable Seats

Worst Features - Ingress/Egress, Rear Visibility

Making The Competition VehiCROSS.
It started with the Chevrolet Blazer in 1983 and Jeep Cherokee. The sport-utility vehicle (SUV) rage began with just a flame in the form of two vehicles and has turned into the forest fire that it is today. Isuzu has capitalized on this trend by becoming one of the first auto makers to abandon passenger cars altogether and focus exclusively on SUVs.
Isuzu offers both a compact SUV Ė the Rodeo Ė and the larger Trooper. Both of these are also badged by Honda and Acura, respectively, as the Passport and LSX.
With the bases covered, Isuzu are beginning to branch out into more specialized areas. Starting with the Amigo - a four-passenger, two-door SUV that has a convertible T-top and rear area leaving a "basket handle" of steel over the heads of driver and front passenger - Isuzu is finding niches within the SUV market. And now thereís the VehiCROSS.
Isuzuís VehiCROSS started as a show car at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1993. It showed how an SUV could offer better handling and a sportier side, while also standing out from some of the more boxy designs on the road. While many of the parts for the VehiCROSS come directly from the Isuzu parts bin, it is the many unique components that make the VehiCROSS different. The car was such a hit at that show, it was given the green light of production almost right away.
The existing stuff comes in the form of Isuzuís first-rate 3.5 liter 215hp V6 engine. The engine is sophisticated and offers good power. It is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Thatís where the existing parts stop and the uniqueness begins.
Power to the wheels comes from Isuzuís Torque On Demand (TOD) system which senses driving conditions and automatically adjusts the torque balance between both front and rear wheels for optimum traction depending upon road conditions encountered. The system, which is also on the 1999 Trooper, offers the benefits of both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel drive and will adjust from 100 percent rear-drive to four-wheel-drive. Combined with four-wheel anti-lock brakes and a limited-slip differential the system offers good traction in virtually all types of weather.
Isuzu also brags about the suspension, which features Isuzuís use of 6061-T8 extruded aluminum shock absorbers, incorporating an expansion chamber. The shocks are designed to work better in high-performance driving, while still delivering a smooth ride. The ride is reasonably comfortable, considering how short the wheelbase is. A short wheelbase, where the wheels are close together, makes a vehicle "hop" on some surfaces Ė a characteristic present in other cars of this type such as the Mazda Miata and Jeep Wrangler. Isuzu has done a good job of suppressing this.
The exterior features unpainted polypropelene (plastic) panels on the lower half which are chip- and scratch-resistant, making the VehiCROSS practical in off-road situations. Its compact size is also an edge when the road ends, as trails are often unforgivingly small.
The interior features red-and-black Recaro seats, which are very comfortable. The driving position is good, too, and the interior has carbon fiber panels mated to more red surfaces on the doors. Aside from an dashboard that comes from older design principals, the interior is very stylish and unique.
From styling concept at the auto show to reality on the road, the VehiCROSS was produced very quickly, so some sacrifices were made on the for styleís sake. Getting in and out without bumping oneís head on the top of the door opening requires a bit of thought. Also, that cool spare tire located inside the rear door is great if thereís a flat, but makes it difficult to see to the rear.
That "tippy" feeling found in most SUVs isnít present in the VehiCROSS at all Ė this feels like the sports car of SUVs.
Considering how many times we were flagged down by passing motorists there is definite interest in the unusual VehiCROSS. One surfer, seeing the VehiCROSS, dropped his protective towel in mid-change, causing his friends to howl in laughter at the unexpected sighting of his complete anatomy Ė talk about a reaction! On another occasion, a passing motorist in an old Subaru hollered, "Thatís the best thing Iíve ever seen!"
Isuzu doesnít expect to sell millions of copies of the VehiCROSS but it will accomplish its mission Ė to get people to notice the Isuzu name as a whole, just as the Viper does for Dodge and the Corvette does for Chevrolet. Considering that Isuzu only makes SUVs, it makes sense that their magnet car is a truck.