When people think of the recreation-oriented 4WD’s beginnings, they often think that the Mitsubishi Pajero was the one that started the trend. But it was actually the Isuzu Trooper that started the trend a couple of years before the Pajero was introduced in 1982. Of course, this excludes the Range Rover which, by virtue of being exclusive, was in its own class.
Until the Trooper came on the scene, 4WDs had not been promoted as vehicles for daily urban use. The Land Rovers and Land Cruisers had all been marketed as workhorses and has comfort and style as low priorities. With the Trooper, businessmen discovered that they could use the vehicle for both work and pleasure, driving to construction sites in the day and going for dinner with the family at night.
Like most of the big 4WDs, generation changes are slower than for passenger cars. But because of the long model life, each new generation is typically more advanced than its predecessor in all respects and addresses the expectations of a new generation of customers as well.
The Trooper is now in its third generation and to keep its looks fresh, ACM, the distributor since the early 1980s, has introduced an updated model which includes a new engine. This generation had seen the inclusion of a more upmarket version known as the Citation which had a V6 engine and in place of the Citation, there is now the Bighorn.
Cosmetic changes are evident in the grille which is bolder while the headlamps are now equipped with wipers. Spotlights are also incorporated in the bumpers. Incidentally, the fastest way to determine if it’s a new Trooper or a new Bighorn is to look at the finish: the new Bighorn has a two-tone colour scheme.
The spacious interior is luxuriously equipped with leather upholstery as standard in the Bighorn (a RM7,000 option for the Trooper). Additional luxury touches include wood trim, illuminated vanity mirror, and a height- adjustable driver’s seat. The easily-read instrument panel now features a LCD display for the odometer and tripmeter. Cruise control is a standard feature which will be most appreciated on long journeys.
One of the nice things about loading cargo into the Trooper/Bighorn is the split rear door, something which is not found on the newer 4WDs. For small items like groceries, you can just open the narrower door on the right side; if you have large items to put in, then the larger panel can also be swung open.
Under the bonnet is a more powerful version of the all-aluminium 3.2-litre petrol V6 which has been used for some time. Internal improvements to the engine, now sporting a DOHC 24-valve cylinder head, have boosted power by 16% to 150 kW (205 ps) at a higher 5400 rpm and raised torque to 284 Nm at a lower 3000 rpm. The engine is ‘state of the art’ with self-adjusting tappets, direct ignitionand fully computerised engine management which looks after the multiport fuel injection system as well as other operations.
The Trooper comes with only a 5-speed manual transmission while the Bighorn comes only with an electronic 4-speed automatic transmission. Both gearboxes are mated to a transfer case which has two ranges of gear ratios for extended off-road capabilities.
New V6 3.2-litre engine has DOHC 24-valve cylinder head. Power output has been increased by 16%.
Being a full-sized 4WD, the new Trooper/Bighorn drivetrain is the part-time type where you have to use a lever to engage 4WD when you want it. However, there is no need to manually lock the front hubs as that happens
automatically. To provide greater stability in really slippery conditions, the rear axle is fitted with a limited-slip differential (LSD) which re-distributes torque to the opposite wheel if one side spins too much.
The sturdy ladder frame chassis with seven crossmembers and box-section frame rails sits on independent front suspension (using double wishbones and torsion bar springs) and a simple but durable 4-link coil spring rear suspension.
Safety is not overlooked in this 4WD and the features are comparable to a high-end sedan. It has disc brakes front and rear and also standard ABS. The ABS computer is specially programmed to operate more effectively in off-road conditions where the wheels bounce about much more and surfaces can be sandy and soft.
The roll-over issue which was a great controversy in the US market in the mid-1990s was strongly challenged by Isuzu and this year, a court ruled that the publication which had reported that the Trooper (sold in the US) could easily tip over during sudden cornering had conducted its tests in an unrealistic manner. In reality, there were no significant statistics to show that the Trooper was unstable nor were there any related deaths.
Basically, a 4WD is a tall vehicle and obviously you do not drive it like a Subaru WRX. It could tip over if you try going round a sharp corner very fast but if it does, that is not a design fault but your own lack of sensibility.
Prices for the new Isuzus, both assembled at the AMM plant in Pekan, Pahang, have gone past the RM200,000 mark which pitches them against the latest Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. The new Trooper is RM204,292 while the new Bighorn is RM229,606.