2006 Ascender New Car Test Drive
The 2005 Isuzu Ascender features improved safety features, a freshened face and interior, and added creature comforts. The Ascender is based on the Chevrolet Trailblazer, but continues an Isuzu tradition of rugged capability with body-on-frame construction and available four-wheel drive.
Ascender comes in 5-Passenger and 7-Passenger versions. The five-passenger version is shorter and it handles better than the seven-passenger version and is much easier to park. We feel the 5-Passenger Ascender ranks among the best of the mid-size SUVs, particularly for buyers who want a rugged vehicle. It features a pleasant cabin and a versatile cargo area. It's relatively smooth and offers responsive handling for a midsize SUV. GM's inline-6 is an excellent engine, smooth and responsive, with strong torque.
The 7-Passenger version, on the other hand, is built on a stretched wheelbase and feels long and cumbersome. The standard six-cylinder engine struggles with the additional weight. The optional 5.3-liter V8 is a better match and, for 2005, it's more powerful and more fuel-efficient than last year's V8. The new V8's Displacement on Demand seamlessly shuts off cylinders at light throttle cruise to further fuel economy.
Safety is enhanced with upgraded airbag systems. Late-2005 Ascender models offer the availability of rollover-sensing roof-rail curtain airbags designed to provide head protection for outboard passengers in the first and second rows. The available OnStar system, which we recommend highly, has been upgraded to better alert emergency crews and summon them to the scene in the event of an accident.
Ascender offers a slightly better warranty than the nearly identical Chevy and GMC models. Ascender comes with Isuzu's three-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, a new seven-year/75,000-mile roadside assistance program, and seven-year/75,000-mile powertrain coverage. The Chevrolet and GMC versions of the vehicle are covered by a three-year/36,000-mile warranty program.
The 2005 Isuzu Ascender is available in regular and long-wheelbase versions. GM's 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine, rated at 275 horsepower, comes on the five-passenger Ascender and is the standard engine on the seven-passenger model. The seven-passenger Ascender has the option of a 5.3-liter V8 rated at 300 horsepower, an increase of 10 horsepower over the 2004 model. All Ascenders come with a four-speed automatic transmission. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive versions are available.
The 5-Passenger Ascender S 2WD ($25,959) and S 4WD ($27,959) comes standard with dual-zone climate controls, power windows, power locks, CD stereo, fog lamps and a tilt steering wheel.
Options add convenience and comfort: A Preferred Equipment Package ($1,519) adds cruise control, an overhead console, illuminated vanity mirrors, keyless entry and a Homelink garage door opener. The LS Package ($1,999) adds a limited-slip differential, a power moonroof, 6CD in-dash changer and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels with a machined finish. The 2WD Luxury Package ($2,699) adds leather interior trim, traction control, adjustable pedals, heated front seats, a Bose premium audio system, OnStar, and monotone paint. The 4WD Luxury Package ($2,569) also gets a 3.73:1 rear axle.
The 7-Passenger Ascender S 2WD ($28,569) and S 4WD ($31,398) get the same standard equipment plus cruise control, a HomeLink transmitter, overhead console and cargo cover. Options packages add the features above. The 5.3-liter V8 ($1,499) is available as an option on the 7-passenger with the LS Package ($2,599).