2001 Rodeo New Car Test Drive
Isuzu Rodeo admirably bridges the double demands on an SUV: handsome looks, a confident feel, and nimble highway manners on the one hand, and respectable off-road capability on the other. If that's a split personality, well, it's one personality disorder that we can live with.
For 2001, Isuzu celebrates 10 years of Rodeos with a special Anniversary Edition, featuring a full complement of luxury equipment and a special white-and-beige color scheme.
The Rodeo was redesigned in 1998, and freshened for 2000, so additional changes for 2001 are minimal. Tire sizes have been juggled somewhat, so 225/70R16's are found now only on four-cylinder Rodeos; all V6 models now wear 245/70R16s. Last year brought a benchmark powertrain warranty and an interesting computer-controlled suspension. Seats were improved, too, and are further refined for 2001. You may have known about this spunky little two-door, open-air sport-utility as the Isuzu Amigo. But for 2001 it has been re-named the Rodeo Sport. The name change makes sense for a couple of reasons: First, Rodeo and Amigo already shared engines and other mechanical components. Second, Isuzu plans to launch an additional SUV model called the Axiom for 2002, and apparently felt the need to cut back on the number of nameplates in showroom. Axiom is expected to be a small, car-like wagon, more in the RAV4 or CR-V mold; the Rodeo name will continue to stand for more off-road-capable, truck-based SUV's.
Of the two Rodeo models, the ex-Amigo, now Rodeo Sport, should enjoy a slight performance advantage, on and off the road, thanks to its shorter wheelbase and lighter weight. It is, after all, simply the Amigo by another name, with the same short, stout body and semi-convertible soft top; the same rugged four-wheel drive and optional V6 power. And yes, a glass-window hard top is still available for travelers who want more weather protection than the soft-top affords.
The Rodeo is available in three different trim levels: S, LS and LSE.
Two engines are available. All models except the base model come equipped with a 3.2-liter V6. A four-speed automatic transmission is a $1,000 option on S and LS models, but standard on LSE.
A 2.2-liter 4-cylinder engine is only available on the base S model with two-wheel drive.
Standard equipment on even the basic Rodeo S ($17,990) includes speed-sensitive power steering, four-wheel antilock brakes, dual air bags, tinted glass, cargo convenience net, four-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo and skid plates under the radiator and fuel tank. V6 models add cruise control and a tilt steering wheel. Four-wheel-drive models add a transfer-case skid plate. The spare tire is mounted under the floor on two-wheel-drive models, automatic LS's and all LSE's; it mounts to the tailgate, with a hybrid hard/soft cover, on four-wheel-drive S and manual-transmission LS and all Ironman editions (see below).
LS 2WD ($23,300) models add power mirrors, variable speed intermittent windshield wipers, air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, five-speaker AM/FM ETR stereo with cassette, retractable cargo cover, remote keyless entry, theft alarm, color-keyed carpeted floormats, and a useful power outlet in the cargo area by the back door. Rodeo LS 4WD ($25,960) models also get a limited-slip rear differential.
The luxurious LSE ($28,995 for 2WD, $31,430 for 4WD) comes with Isuzu's Intelligent Suspension Control system, leather trimmed seats and door panels, wood grain trim, a five-speaker AM/FM/cassette/6-disk CD changer stereo, power moonroof, alloy wheels, fog lamps, privacy glass, color-keyed exterior trim and roof rack crossbars.
Additionally, Isuzu offers a dizzying array of comfort, appearance, and preferred equipment packages, plus the two special editions described below:
The Anniversary Edition LS comes in Alpine White paint to harmonize with special Fawn Metallic lower body cladding, side moldings, bumpers, overfenders, aero roof rack side rails, and tail lamp trim. Floor mats are heathered beige, and tube side steps are just plain chrome. Soft leather upholstery and wood grain trim enhance an interior equipped with four-way power seats, a Nakamichi stereo, and privacy glass.
A revised Ironman Package ($2,790), also available on LS models, commemorates Isuzu's sponsorship of the Ironman Triathlon race. Offered only in Alpine White or Ebony Black, Ironman Rodeos are distinguished by Iron Gray Metallic lower body surfaces, overfenders, body side moldings and bumpers; with a lighter gray surround for the front bumper air intake. Other gray accents include gray heathered floor mats and gray tube side steps. Ironman Editions also pack the Intelligent Suspension Control system; four-way power driver's seat, cargo tray, privacy glass, and a sub-woofer. Amigo offered a wide variety of engine, driveline, and top combinations, and this tradition will continued under the Rodeo Sport label. If anything, the number of variations has expanded, now that an automatic transmission is offered with the four-cylinder engine. Two-wheel-drive V6s are automatic only, but all 2WD variants can be ordered with a hard or soft top. To get four-wheel-drive drive, however, you must opt for the V6. 4WD soft tops can be ordered with manual or automatic transmission, while 4WD hardtops are automatic only.
Technically, Rodeo Sport comes in only one trim level. Base prices start at $15,440 for the four-cylinder, five-speed hardtop, and top out at $20,750 for the 4WD V6 automatic convertible.
The list of standard equipment is generous, but air conditioning costs $950 as a stand-alone option, or $2195 as part of a Preferred Equipment Package for V6 models. That package also includes power windows and locks, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry with alarm, AM/FM/Cassette with six-CD changer, and other miscellaneous appointments.
Additionally, V6 models can be ordered with Isuzu's Ironman package ($1,215) which adds Intelligent Suspension Control plus appearance items with an iron-gray theme. The package requires black or white paint.