What's New for 1997
All 4WD models get a standard shift-on-the-fly transfer case, and improvements have been made to reduce noise, vibration and harshness.
Isuzu's Rodeo is getting a bit long in the tooth. Only mild updates have accompanied new model years since midseason 1995, when Isuzu added airbags for the driver and front passenger housed in a redesigned dashboard, roof-mounted speakers that expanded available cargo space in the revised interior, plus an improved stereo system. The new dashboard, designed with assistance from Honda, replaced the old unit with an organically swept affair complete with more legible gauges and improved ergonomics.
This year is no different. Isuzu puts the finishing touches on the first-generation Rodeo with standard shift-on-the-fly operation for 4WD models that can be engaged at speeds up to 62 mph and NVH improvements. Continuing from last year is optional four-wheel antilock brakes and two trim levels; basic S and more luxurious LS.
Rodeos are spacious for five inside, and V6 models have a swing-out spare tire that creates even greater elbow room. The rear seat folds flat, resulting in a long cargo floor, but the clamshell tailgate design makes it difficult to access the back of the cargo area easily. Fortunately, the rear glass will open independently. Oddly, the only way to get a 60/40 split folding rear seat is to order a top-of-the-line LS model; not very convenient, or sensible. Options include side steps and a brush grille guard.
Road noise might be a drawback, though the 3.2-liter V6 engine is quiet-running and strong with either five-speed manual shift or the available four-speed automatic transmission. A 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering 70 fewer horses, powers the two-wheel-drive S edition, which comes only with manual shift. Automatic transmissions have Power and Winter modes, the latter starting off in third gear to reduce wheelspin on slippery pavements. Towing capacity is 4,500 pounds with the V6 engine, but only a ton with the four-cylinder.
Anyone seeking a capable blend of comfortable highway ride and tempting off-road talents could do well to look for an Isuzu dealer, though buyers may want to wait for the all-new, completely redesigned 1998 Rodeo. Comparison shoppers beware; Honda markets a version of the Rodeo and calls it the Passport. The Passport tends to be a bit more expensive, and doesn't come with as comprehensive a warranty. For those reasons, we suggest you stick with a Rodeo.