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The Isuzu Ascender was a product of Isuzu's alliance with General Motors. In terms of design and running gear, it was pretty much identical to GM's other truck-based SUVs such as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. Only in terms of styling and trim levels did the Ascender offer any significant variation.
The Isuzu Ascender lacked brand recognition, a third-row seat and some desirable features. It also lagged in terms of overall refinement. Only its low price stood out. Given that Isuzu no longer sells cars in the United States, this is a lame duck best avoided.
Most Recent Isuzu Ascender
The Isuzu Ascender was launched in 2003 as a seven-passenger extended-wheelbase model only. The smaller five-passenger version was first released in 2004. Both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive variants were available. Power for the Isuzu Ascender came from a 4.2-liter, inline six-cylinder engine. It produced 285-291 horsepower (depending on year) and 277 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission was standard. Older models had the option of a 290-hp 5.3-liter V8. In 2005, the V8 was equipped with Displacement on Demand technology to improve fuel economy. But the V8 and seven-passenger Ascender were discontinued for the 2007 model year.
Trim levels were added and subtracted over time, as were equipment items. Generally, though, base Ascenders were sparsely equipped, while upper trims were borderline luxurious. Standard equipment included dual-zone manual climate control (with rear-seat controls), power locks and windows, power accessories and a CD player stereo. Available items included power mirrors and driver seat, power-adjustable pedals, keyless entry, cruise control, sunroof, leather upholstery, heated seats, driver memory functions, a six-CD changer and upgraded audio.
In road tests, we found the Isuzu Ascender to offer a comfortable ride and decent power. However, the Ascender's handling was rather sloppy. Feedback to the driver was numb and slow. Buyers looking for an urban-oriented SUV might be disappointed and would be better off looking at more evolved midsize SUVs or crossovers. Off-road, the 4WD Ascender comes more into its own given its body-on-frame construction and low-range gearing.