What's New for 2002
The flagship of the Isuzu line, the Trooper, receives minor changes for 2002. Privacy glass and solar green UV-cut glass are now standard for S models, and Trooper's famous extra-large power moonroof is now standard for the LS. Manual climate control and map lamps are now standard on S models, while LS models feature a new standard digital clock with outside temperature read-out, stop watch, average speed and service reminder. The Limited model now offers a Nakamichi premium audio system.
Well over a decade ago, Isuzu introduced the first Trooper. It was a tough truck, sturdy and boxy in style, with two doors and a sparse interior. Powered by a four-cylinder engine, the original Trooper wasn't prepped to win any drag races, but the truck won fans for its off-road prowess and exceptional reliability. Soon, a four-door model joined the lineup, and a GM-sourced V6 engine became available. As the sport-utility market grew, luxury amenities were added to the Trooper, but by the early nineties, it was apparent that Isuzu needed to redesign the Trooper so that it could remain viable in a market populated by steadily improving competitors.
The Trooper's last significant update came in 1998. Continued refinements have given the Trooper a decent blend of style, comfort and utility. Fold the rear seats, and a Trooper can carry 90 cubic-feet of cargo. Ground clearance measures 8.3 inches with the manual transmission, and rear seat passengers enjoy ample legroom.
A 3.5-liter, 24-valve DOHC V6 powers the Trooper, pumping out 215 horsepower and 230 foot-pounds of torque. Torque on Demand, Isuzu's traction system, which instantly directs more power to the front or rear wheels as needed, is standard on four-wheel drive Troopers with an automatic transmission. With the system engaged, you get the on-road stability of all-wheel drive and off-road capability of part-time four-wheel drive. And with the generous 10-year/120,000-mile powertrain warranty, you can use and abuse your Trooper to its fullest capacity.
Although the four-wheel drive may have been slightly off-putting in terms of value for those of us whose idea of rough terrain is the dirt parking lot of the sweet corn stand, the cheaper two-wheel drive version, with its concurrent lower cost of ownership, will suffice nicely to traverse that mean pothole in the parking lot at Denny's.
Just make sure to avoid any low speed collisions with solid objects. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Trooper's repair bills in four different 5-mph crash tests totaled more than $11,000, the highest numbers ever recorded for such tests. Just backing up into a typical parking light pole at 5-mph resulted in over $3,300 worth of repair bills, not exactly your typical fender bender.
In addition to the basic S model, there's the LS, which comes with heated cloth power seats, mesh 16-inch alloy wheels, an automatic transmission and standard six-CD changer. The Limited edition will get you a two-tone paint scheme, 12-spoke alloy wheels, power moonroof, and a beige leather interior. However, some features starting to appear on newer SUVs aren't available on the Trooper. These include items like stability control, side and side curtain airbags and a folding third-row seat.
Up until this year, the Trooper has been one of our favored trucks because it had loads of personality and off-road ability. It also filled a nice slot between midsize SUVs and the larger maxi brutes. But 2002 has brought on better trucks, ranging from the Ford Explorer/Mercury Mountaineer twins and General Motors triplets to the Toyota Sequoia. In the face of better engines, more comfortable interiors and more features, the Trooper's personality doesn't count for much when 30-plus grand is on the line.