The Car Connection Isuzu Trooper Overview
The Isuzu Trooper is an iconic sport-utility vehicle that surged to popularity in the 1980s and '90s. It competed with the Toyota Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Montero, and Jeep Grand Cherokee, among other roomy, premium SUVs, and it was discontinued in 2002, in favor of the Isuzu Ascender, a rebadged GMC Envoy.
Although the Isuzu Trooper was first offered internationally in 1981, it went on sale on a larger scale in the U.S. for 1984, and the Troopers from this era have found a sort of cult following. These original Trooper models were two- or four-door and found fans quite readily, due to their very boxy styling, sharp corners, and capable off-road ability. Four-cylinder, diesel, and V-6 models were available, with most offering a choice between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
That said, most of the Trooper models you're likely to find in the U.S. will likely be from the second generation, covering the 1992 through 2002 model years. These Troopers made major improvements in ride quality and cabin quiet—and in the general look and feel of interior materials—although there was no disguising that it was a truck. These models were powered by a 3.2-liter V-6, making either 175 or 190 horsepower. Shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive didn't get introduced until 1996; models before that had locking hubs.
1998 through 2002 Troopers are the sought-after models today, due to their significant powertrain updates. These Troopers are powered by a 215-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, with standard full-time four-wheel drive on all models (it had been optional, with rear-wheel drive standard, previously). Switchgear was impressive and high-quality compared to other SUV models of the time, and the powertrain was smooth and confident.
The second-generation Trooper especially earned a strong reputation for reliability—so much so that Honda turned to the brand for its first Acura utility vehicle. The 1996-1999 Acura SLX was also a rebadged Trooper, with some slightly different styling details and interior appointments.
Down sides to Trooper ownership include its poor gas mileage—in the mid teens, typically, for the V-6 models—and generally vague on-the-road handling. But these models have proven relatively simple and inexpensive to maintain over the long run.
It wouldn't be far off to say that the beginning of the end for the Isuzu Trooper came in 1996, when Consumer Reports reported that the Trooper failed a series of stability tests, and might roll during an accident-avoidance maneuver. Although there was never any safety defect found by the U.S. government, sales of the legendary model plummeted.
Isuzu stopped selling passenger vehicles (actually, light trucks) in the U.S. market in January, 2009.