Motoring: Trooper talents track through on the rough stuff

Roger Bell drives a comfortable workhorse with guzzling power under its bonnet
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Indy Lifestyle Online
BIG DEAL. The latest Isuzu Trooper, powered by a new 3.5-litre petrol V6, accelerates almost as quickly as a Ford Mondeo 1.8. You get the point? It takes a lot of gas-guzzling power to make a heavy, brick- shaped 4x4 like the Trooper as fast as an ordinary car.

Forget about economy. Drive with anything but restraint and you'd be lucky to see 20mpg. Add to the list of woes ponderous steering, handling that leaves you marvelling at the niftiness of a Mondeo, and a squirmy, restless ride. Accept these congenital defects, suffered by all big off- roaders, and the new Trooper is actually rather good.

Isuzu has come a long way since it made Hillman Minxes under licence. Commercials and off-roaders are now its forte. Diesels, too. The tough Trooper has earned a good reputation for dependability, especially on the rough stuff. Restricted to road use, its talents are wasted, its extravagance exposed. But that's lifestyle for you.

People who don't need off-roaders continue to buy them. They like the feeling of irresistibility, of safety through mass. They like the lofty, see-all driving position, too.

More comfortable workhorse than slave to fashion, the boxy Trooper, its edges softened around a fresh face, has new engines - one of them a "revolutionary" 3.0-litre, 16-valve turbo-diesel. With an output of 150bhp, it certainly whips the opposition for power and torque. Throttle response is lag-free; acceleration brisk for a 4x4.

Refinement, though, takes a back seat here.

There's nothing coarse or noisy about the 112 mph V6. The engine is smooth, quiet, gutsy and willing. But for the way it slurps unleaded, it would get top marks.

Gear-changing is no chore, in spite of the beefy lever; and the steering is easy, if not precise. Normally, only the back wheels are driven, saving a bit on frictional losses. Four-wheel drive can be selected up to 60mph simply by pressing a button - and electronics do the rest.

The short-wheelbase three-door is lighter and more manoeuvrable than the longer and pricier five-door. It's the model to have if easy rear access and acres of space are not priorities. Trim and equipment depends on the model. The Standard is pretty basic; the Citation is ludicrously plush.

The in-between Duty, with electric windows, central locking, and adjustable steering, and so on, is the popular choice.

If you want a comfortable, go-anywhere tank, the Trooper is a strong contender.

SPECIFICATION

Isuzu Trooper, from pounds 19,100 (short Standard diesel) to pounds 28,655 (long 3.5 Citation auto). Short petrol Citation on test, pounds 23,650. Engine (petrol): 3494cc 24-valve V6, 215bhp.

Transmission: five-speed manual /four-speed auto, front/all-wheel drive. Performance (manual): top speed 112 mph, 0-60mph in 11.0 seconds, 20.6mpg (combined).

Rivals

Chrysler Jeep 4.0 Limited, pounds 22,895 - popular, but cramped Yankee muscle with lusty performance; Ford Explorer, pounds 26,295 - big, butch, stylish 4.0 petrol auto from the US; Land Rover Discovery three-door V8 XS, pounds 23,240 - revisions soon to Britain's best-selling big off-roader; Mitsubishi Shogun 3.0 V6 GLS, pounds 23,895 - more style less oomph than Trooper; Ssangyong Musso 3.2 GX220, pounds 25,615 - better than flash styling suggests, Mercedes engine makes it very fast; Toyota Land Cruiser Colorado three-door 3.0td GX, pounds 24,965 - impressive diesel with lots of room and ability.

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