Kalamazoo Express Art, Entertainment, News & Views in Kalamazoo

  Web posted Friday, March 2, 1900

photo: feature


Millennium Machines Isuzu Daddy

By Lem Montero, Driving by Rebecca Roe
Kalamazoo Express

As we drove down Westnedge, I looked around to see if anyone was staring. We were in an Isuzu VehiCROSS. The vehicle's unique exterior should have turned every head in sight. At the wheel was my editor, Rebecca "the British Bomber" Roe. We were out being mean and seen.

The VehiCROSS is a concept car come to life. Its unique and futuristic styling sets it apart from the rest of the pack. It looks like a robotic catfish from the front. Just trust me on that. Some think it's hideous.

Others think it's sexy. Other's think it's a UFO and clench their bottoms in hopes of diverting the inevitable probe. But the only people with pained butts are those actually riding inside the VehiCROSS.

The VehiCROSS was designed for abuse. It has the most advanced suspension of any production vehicle in the world. That doesn't mean comfortable, mind you. Your butt and spine will feel every bump without mercy. However, the suspension itself can take a major pounding for a long time without overheating. So the next time you drive across the outback of Australia at 110 mph, rest assured the suspension can take it. An unpainted polypropylene plastic covers the bottom half of the car protecting against dents and rust.

The four wheel drive engages automatically when the sensors detect slippage. The VehiCROSS will go into rear wheel drive on clear roads or switch to 4WD in less ideal conditions.

The V6 215 hp engine helps it shoot across town easy though not efficiently. At 15/19 mpg, this little terror will suck your wallet dry especially at $1.67 a gallon. Blast OPEC!

So that's some of the stuff I stole from the brochure. Here's the empirical stuff.

The spare tire is molded into the read cargo door. The comparatively large tire swoops into the rear window obstructing vision out the back. But damn it looks cool. The center of the back window is pinched between the spare and the top of the window's frame. What little vision there is out the back is obstructed by the head rests on the back seats. With passengers in the back, vision would be all the worse. They should have installed a periscope. Allegedly, some of the VehiCROSS SUVs in Japan have a video camera mounted on the back so drivers can see what's going on on a monitor.

Isuzu must have known passengers in the back would make visibility worse so they tried to discourage people from sitting in the back by offering little head room and a rough ride. But making the ordeal even more traumatic is how uncomfortable it is getting in and out of the back. The higher clearance and narrow space between the front seat and the back means you need to be a yoga master to get in and out. I thought it was comparable to getting in and out of a dryer at the Laundromat only a bit more uncomfortable a ride.And it'll cost a lot more than a $ .25 a spin.

The top edge of the door frame is set suprisingly low. Anyone over three feet may bop their heads on their way in. Wear a helmet until you get used to it.

The VehiCROSS shares the dash with the sparse Amigo. It won't win any design awards but it works. At nearly $30,000 though, a little interior flare would have been nice.

But no one buys this car for function. It's all about the concept car styling on the outside. It really is a head turner. Or so we thought.

Rebecca pulled over allowing me to struggle into the back seat. The ride felt like a penitent flogging. From the relatively hidden back, I decided to spy on people we drove pass to see how many would be wowed by the VehiCROSS. Surely, I thought, we'd get hundreds of eyes staring at this slick SUV longingly.

One might think that.

Rebecca "Is that a Gearshift in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me" Roe drove the VehiCROSS. She's attractive, witty, intelligent, alluring, charming, engrossing, captivating and all around stunning. And I'm not saying that because she's my boss. Heck, no. I like her a lot. A lot more than any other contributor to this paper likes her. In fact, I like her more than even her own mother likes her. She's great, she's...Wait, I've got several more months before my first review for a raise. I'll save my boot kissing for later..

But anyway, no one was really looking at us. Car after car drove past us without so much as a second glance. One exception: An early 90s Ford F150 drove along side us for a while. The two men in the truck, both wearing mustaches, sunglasses, dirty caps and an air of no-good, looked at us intensely. From my hidden vantage point in the back, I couldn't tell if they were admiring the VehiCROSS or ogling Rebecca. Their sunglasses hid their eyes. Where they ogling or leering? I knew they weren't gawking because their jaws were firmly set. I think they were leering. They seemed the leering type. And since they looked like good ol' boys, I can only assume they were leering at Rebecca "Hands Off My Tailgate" Roe and not the Isuzu.

Perhaps most of us in Kalamazoo aren't ready for the VehiCROSS. It's meant to be punished but instead punishes the average driver. It's tough and mean looking but only a few chosen could pull it off. It's expensive for a SUV to drive around town but just right for one to thrash about the woods or dunes at 95 mph. It's something really something you have to test drive yourself. Rick from Maple Hill of Portage can hook you up with a ride. Give him a visit and hop in the Isuzu VehiCROSS.

Copyright 1999. Kalamazoo Express, a division of Flashes Publishers

Copyright 1999. Flashes Publishers. All rights reserved.