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Isuzu imports its unique-looking SUV to the U.S. in 1999.
Isuzu's VehiCROSS began as an innovative concept vehicle that garnered loads of attention back in 1993 and then entered limited production for the Japanese market. Because of its excellent reception in Japan, the continued popularity of sport-utility vehicles here in the States, and the company's need for an image vehicle in the U.S., Isuzu decided to bring the VehiCROSS across the pond this year.
Powered by a 215-horsepower, 3.5-liter, direct-injection, DOHC V6, the VehiCROSS comes with a four-speed automatic transmission with winter and power modes. It also boasts technical innovations like an advanced Torque-On-Demand (TOD) four-wheel-drive system, limited slip differential and four-wheel ABS. Isuzu's TOD system (the same one found on the Trooper) senses driving conditions and adjusts the torque balance between the front and rear wheels, changing from 100-percent rear drive to 50/50 four-wheel drive in a matter of milliseconds.
Isuzu's front double-wishbone torsion bar and rear four-link coil suspension are enhanced by an industry first: an extruded aluminum shock absorber with attached expansion chamber, which makes for greater endurance and superior shock cooling. On rough roads, the truck's 16-inch alloy wheels and modified P245/70R16 steel-belted radial tires are stopped by ventilated 11-inch front and 12.3-inch rear disc brakes.
The truck's capabilities as a trailblazer seem solid, but what most people first notice about the vehicle is its unconventional, techno-styling. The VehiCROSS has an expansive windshield, composite bumpers, underbody moldings, roof-end spoiler, integrated headlamps with marker lights, and unpainted polypropylene covering the lower section of the truck's body. An Isuzu spokesperson said that the truck is meant to appeal to consumers who "want to be different." We'd have to agree.
Inside, the vehicle seats four and provides a sports car atmosphere complete with red and black leather-trimmed seating. With tinted glass, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and collapsible, heated side mirrors, the VehiCROSS mixes ruggedness with luxury. Features include a matte-black panel inset in the hood to reduce glare, roof rail system, aircraft-type fuel filler door, and a side-hinged tailgate that carries the spare tire securely inside the cargo door.
The $995 special edition "Ironman" option, available only in white, gets you leather-trimmed front seats embossed with the "Ironman Triathlon" label, a special hood insert and a few more decals on the tailgate and beneath the C-pillar. Isuzu plans to make 20 percent of its 1999 VehiCROSS production units Ironman editions.
Available in only three colors: Ebony Black, Astral Silver Metallic and Victory White, Isuzu believes the VehiCROSS is in a category all its own. Not quite a mini-sport-ute or a big SUV, the 1999 VehiCROSS is a contemporary vehicle that isn't quite like any other. Whether you want to buy one or not, this truck will be hard to miss.
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