2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS new car reviews

Isuzu publicity shot

Dear Joe Isuzu: What were you guys trying to accomplish with the new VehiCROSS? We can see how you were trying to build the most kick-butt off-road vehicle, but you forgot one important point: most civilians, even those cool, beautiful people featured in SUV ads, need to drive on the road some of the time.

And that's where the $30,350 VehiCROSS fails. It's off-road manners are near perfect--as we personally found out thanks to it excellent ground clearance and nimble handling--but its behavior when on the pavement leaves something to be desired.

For one, visibility to the back and over both both shoulders is absolutely horrible. For the most part, you just have to take a leap of faith and hope no one is in your way.

Also, at speeds above 66 mph, the roof rack howls like the Hounds of Hell. The Isuzu's very nice CD audio system is capable of drowning out some of the noise, but we found it best to treat the howl as a passive speed control system.

The 18-inch, off-road tires are nice for crossing mud bogs, but their springy nature doesn't inspire confidence should any emergency-avoidance maneuvers been needed when traveling down the Interstate.

And finally, the VehiCROSS has smallish door opening, which caused practically everyone on the staff to bump their heads when entering and exiting the vehicle, no matter how much care was taken. Plus the back seats are incredibly claustrophobic, thanks to the wide (and blinding) side pillars. You'd think these flaws would have turned up in pre-release testing.

While the VehiCROSS has some serious faults, there are some bright spots: a ballsy 215-horsepower V6 engine, neat remote-reservoir shock absorbers, comfy leather Recaro seats, grippy Torque-On-Demand 4WD traction system, very tight turning radius, four-wheel vented disc brakes, 10-year/120,000-mile power train warranty and head-turning looks. Perhaps one day Isuzu will bolt these parts on to a body that's a bit more driver friendly.

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