Few vehicles we’ve
driven have elicited as many double takes as does the
new Isuzu VehiCross. In fact, even fewer vehicles
motivate people to follow us into parking lots to ask
questions - this one did both.
Inspired by the widely heralded ’97 Tokyo Motor Show
concept vehicle of the same name, the VehiCross was
adored by high-ranking Isuzu executives and the press
alike, and soon went into limited production for the
Japanese market. Isuzu’s innovative and abbreviated
concept-to-production process allowed it to be one of
the freshest and most innovative designs ever to be
introduced, especially in such a short time.
Based on a two-door Trooper platform, its
unique body panels are the result of industry-first
ceramic stamping dies that allow faster development and
a less expensive alternative to traditional cast-iron
dies. These dies, however, also wear out faster and will
ultimately determine the VehiCross’s life span. When
it’s determined they’re out of spec, that’s it - run
over. We’re curious about the quality potential of the
last run, however. The unpainted lower body panels are
made of chip- and scratch-resistant recyclable
polypropylene that give it unquestionable durability in
the brush. Beneath the unconventional skin lives more
A 3.5-liter/215-horsepower DOHC 24-valve V-6,
complete with variable intake system,
one-coil-per-cylinder ignition, and aggressive 19-degree
valve angles, makes the VehiCross one peppy sport/ute.
Its trick inlet plumbing allows both low-rpm torque for
off-road hill climbing, as well as high-end horsepower
for highway quickness.
a little hokey
Noisy engine at high
For the "Ironman" image and abilities of the
VehiCross, the engineers looked to rally racing and
motorcycle suspension systems. With their remote
reservoirs and high-grade aluminum construction, these
production-car-unique shock absorbers exhibit better
resistance to performance-diminishing oil foaming.
Coupled with Isuzu’s proven suspension setup, they endow
the VehiCross with predictable performance both on- and
off-road without sacrificing quality in either arena.
It’s as capable and fun in the dirt as the most nimble
of SUVs and rides very well to boot!
Based on our first instrumented experience with the
innovative VehiCross, we have little doubt that the
limited run of about 5000 U.S.-bound units over the next
two years (20 percent Ironman editions) will be an
unqualified success with the Gen-X audience they’re