- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2001

MODEL: Isuzu Axiom XS
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door SUV
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $31,330
MILEAGE: 16 city, 20 highway

You've heard the old axiom: "If you build it, they will come." Isuzu has a new Axiom, and the manufacturer hopes this vehicle will cause a stampede.
The Axiom comes from a family of noted sport utility vehicles offering the choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The others Trooper, Rodeo, Rodeo Sport and VehiCross all have had an effect on the SUV market, so it is no surprise that the Axiom is expected to do the same.
With four-wheel drive, the Axiom features torque on demand, an electronically controlled automatic transmission with a grade-sensing logic and limited-slip differential. I made it a point to drive on hills where this feature could be used.
This feature eliminates the annoying up-down hunting of gears. Because of the grade of the hills I drove, the transmission had to be shifting, but I was unable to detect when it occurred. The same thing took place on the downside of the hills with no noticeable hunting of gears. Choice of transmission has the control switch conveniently located on the dash panel. Incidentally, all this is covered by a 10-year, 120,000-mile warranty.
The Isuzu people explained how torque on demand works, using sophisticated software that receives signals from the braking and the front and rear axle-speed sensors. The system quickly learns the changing conditions and makes corrections in how to respond to the driver's inputs. Torque on demand anticipates when the wheels may begin to slip and alters the torque accordingly. Sound complicated? I was lost in the explanation, too. But Isuzu is a wave ahead of where others may follow.
Torque on demand also provides better cornering, braking and high-speed stability, along with better takeoff performance on slippery surfaces. And it does all this within a few milliseconds, much faster than I could possibly think or react.
Under the hood of my tester is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 230 horsepower. This engine is capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds and gets 16 miles per gallon city and 20 highway respectable mileage for a five-passenger SUV.
The ride comfort depends on the type of road. On smooth roads, I couldn't want anything better, but with a slightly bumpy road, the effect of the short wheelbase produced a bouncy ride. Nevertheless, the vehicle is quite maneuverable and easy to park.
I drove the Axiom XS model featuring leather heated seats, with four-way power on both the driver and passenger seats, and adjustable lumbar support on the driver's. The XS also has a leather wrapped steering wheel with a tilt steering column, plus cruise control. Other upscale features include a multi-informational display and automatic climate control. Illuminated vanity mirrors are another indication the manufacturer went the extra mile to produce a high-quality vehicle. Even the rearview mirror automatically dims. Also included are a map lamp and storage compartments overhead. The moon roof includes a sun shade.
As for safety features, this SUV has what is expected in today's market. Naturally, it has dual air bags. There are side-guard door beams, a collapsible steering column, underbody skid plates and auto-retractable belts for child seats with tether anchors all good features to reduce body damage should disaster occur. On the more pleasant side, the eight-speaker sound system accommodates both cassettes and six CDs.
There is a down side. My tester has a suggested retail price of $30,785. In a very competitive market, if buyers don't appreciate the value of torque on demand, I doubt this vehicle will create a stampede.
MOTOR MATTERS


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