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February 29, 2004

Review: 2004 Isuzu Trooper Skyroof Edition

Imagine you’ve been working for a multi-national company, and after sweating it out for a couple of years, you’re about to get promoted.  Great.  Of course, with the additional benefits and cash at hand, there’s no better way to show off than a new set of wheels.  Riding around in your sensible Japanese sedan is fine, but it just doesn’t that x-factor anymore.  Opting for a German sedan is still out of your budget, and the running costs of those gigantic American SUVs still sting the pocket.  So, without sacrificing image, is there a vehicle that could provide everyday practicality, exceptional performance and good comfort?  Luckily for you, there’s the Isuzu Trooper.

Although the basic shape and underpinnings haven’t changed for quite a while now, the Isuzu Trooper can still duke it out with the much newer competition.  The key to the Trooper’s success lies in the variety of upgrades done during its life.  The biggest change is of course, located under the hood.  Swapping the original gasoline gulping V6 for a direct-injection turbo-diesel, the Trooper has one big ace up its sleeve.

The 160-bhp, 333 Newton-meter figures may just put it smack in the middle of the pack, but what counts here is that these numbers are available down low: 3,900 rpm and 2,000 rpm respectively.  In addition, since it’s a diesel you can expect some pretty dramatic mileage and range figures.  On a full tank, the Trooper can travel 450++ kilometers with an average city mileage of 7.5 km/L—that’s not bad, considering that a comparable gasoline engine will only give half that efficiency.  What’s more, the flat torque curve and well-mated four-speed automatic make the Trooper sprint to 100 km/h in a jiffy.  Sure, mechanical refinement still can’t compare to high-tech German diesels, but you have to remember that the Trooper costs just half as much.

The good news doesn’t stop with the engine.  The suspension system, which is the proven Double Wishbone / 4-Link with Coil Spring system, manages to dish out a pretty fine ride in the urban jungle.  There are two reasons for this: first is the rigidity of Isuzu’s wishbone arm construction; and secondly, the high ride height allows a good amount of suspension travel.  The resulting high center of gravity means that there aren’t any sportcars handling pretension.  However, thanks to upgraded 16-inch tires, handling is at the very least predictable.  Body roll, as expected for this type of vehicle is quite high, especially at low speeds.  However, as the Trooper gains speed it becomes almost negligible.  Unfortunately, the same can’t be said with the understeer, which is too painfully obvious at any speed.

Mechanically sound, the Trooper is clothed in a body shell that is best described as understated.  Still, in the numerous iterations done so far, the best looking is the most recent one.  The addition of the billet-type aluminum front grille and chrome covered power folding heated side mirrors give some added flair and distinction to the Plain Jane exterior.  Other Trooper trademarks continue on including the gold emblems, the functional hood scoop and headlamp wipers.  Then, there are the obligatory SUV design cues such as the side stepboard, which by the way, is the best one we’ve been so far, since it integrates flush with the body; the hard-type spare tire cover and a two-tone paint job.  As previously mentioned, it doesn’t quite shout ‘millionaire’ from a mile away, but somehow, the allure of the Trooper’s boxy body still manages to command respect, especially from people who know their SUVs.

Like the exterior, the Trooper’s cabin is very much the product of continuous development, the latest changes of which include the Pioneer in-dash CD player and the wrap-around wood grain finish.  Although the wood finish isn’t particularly inviting, it doesn’t distract that this is one roomy and cozy SUV.  The overall feel of the controls may feel circa-1990s, but it manages to work well with every control in logical positions and within easy reach.  The parking brake is particularly refreshing as it’s still operated by hand rather than by a twist-and-pull or foot pedal type, giving the Trooper a car-like operation.

Amazingly, despite the comparatively compact exterior, the Trooper can seat five in extreme comfort on the first two rows.  Unlike other large-scale SUVs, this is one car that could be owner driven everyday without much fuss.  The 4615-mm overall length make it more compact than Japanese luxury sedans with comparable interior room; and the 1840-mm overall height makes the Trooper squeeze through any parking building without the owner having to cringe.

Though majority of the road test was one in the city, long distance driving is where the Trooper will definitely shine.  Aside from the comfortable ride, the leather-swathed seats and excellent 6-speaker sound system will surely make anyone believe that this is his favorite lounge chair.  The VCD-entertainment system that’s been integrated with the CD player will surely keep those toddlers at bay during that long six-hour trek to Baguio.

If a road trip to Baguio is indeed in order, you’ll just love the Skyroof feature.  With this, the Trooper will open up to natural surroundings via the largest power moonroof system ever fitted in a Japanese SUV.  Typically, the boxy nature of the SUV and the chopped off roof make for a recipe of wind noise.  This isn’t the case since the Trooper is equipped with a standard wind deflector, keeping those unwanted wailing winds at bay.

Though equipped with a 3-channel, 4-sensor anti-lock braking system and four-wheel disc brakes, one aspect that could be improved with the Trooper is the braking.  Though it works alright during normal operation, during emergency stops, the Trooper can actually get scary with huge body dive and an over reactive ABS.  The road-biased tires do help, but the inclusion of a more advanced 4-channel system as well as electronic brakeforce distribution may work even better.  Sadly, despite being equipped with a limited slip differential, Isuzu chose to leave out airbags as part of the safety package.

After talking about comfort, luxury and drivability, now comes the most important question: will the Isuzu Trooper actually work as a mobile indication that you’ve just moved to a new corner office on the 28th floor?  Personally, I would have to say, yes.  The mere size already puts it as a favorite among government officials.  However, besides that, the exquisite detailing of the Trooper plus the fact that it’s been around for quite a while actually make a type of Pseudo-Land Rover.

Of course, badge snobs will brush off the Trooper for a German sedan with the same levels of luxury and comfort but at twice the price and half the room.  Then, there’s the question of maintenance and ownership.  Buying a new vehicle isn’t like getting a new pair of jeans or a one-night stand.  A vehicle, especially something as expensive as this one, means that it’s a long-term investment—a marriage, if you will.  Putting that in mind, there’s probably no better suited vehicle than the Isuzu Trooper.  This is one great choice for the executive who would want to be enveloped in luxury and comfort and yet, remain true to his practicality.


  1. im planning to buy one, are the spare parts available if ever i will have some engine trouble?

    1. Jayson and Walco sir... meron po sila for most of the replaceable parts.

    2. Best if you also join the Isuzu trooper club sir for you to get valuable ideas on how you can maintain the car properly and also get tips where to get the parts you are needing.


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