Isuzu Axiom S 4WD

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Keywords: car reviews, automotive reviews, automotive news, 2002 isuzu axiom xs 4wd

Description: Another Isuzu design from Planet 10.

It's so obvious what Isuzu is up to. The company has established contact with alien life forms and is downloading design suggestions from the Klingon Empire.

We realize now that the first evidence of this was the VehiCROSS, although some here believe the plot dates to the original Impulse. With the VehiCROSS, Isuzu cleverly slid a truncated Trooper chassis under a swoopy three-door body, the grille fangs of which were clearly a homage to the car's alien origins. At the time, we assumed it was all the result of a binge involving rice wine and Speed Racer reruns.

With the Axiom, Isuzu's new Rodeo-based luxury sport-ute that is targeted at car-based crossovers such as the Toyota Highlander, there can be no doubt that the company's styling inspiration comes from somewhere west of Pluto. It's a place where rectilinear forms rule, where sharp creases and straight lines define the machinery, and where, if the Axiom's chiseled, overbearing face is any indication, android kill-bots roam the landscape in search of prey.

In fact, the Axiom hails from a much more pleasant place -- Lafayette, Indiana -- where it rolls out of the same building as the Isuzu Rodeo and Rodeo Sport, and the Honda Passport. It's not a coincidence, since the Axiom shares with the Rodeo and Passport their steel box-section, eight-crossmember frame and suspension, replete with its five-link live rear axle and front unequal-length control arms sprung by torsion bars.

This platform is as truck as trucks get. So Isuzu has stacked every electronic fandangle in its arsenal to make the Axiom drive more like the Highlander, the Subaru Outback, and other car-based curb jumpers in its kill zone.

The starting point for this makeover is the 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6 thruster from the Trooper and VehiCROSS. Isuzu calls the engine, with its unusual 75-degree V-angle, the 6VDI. Its cylinders are fired by coil-on-plug ignition and breathe in through solenoid-controlled dual-length intake runners capped by an electronic throttle. A deep heave to the Axiom's pedal eventually awakens all 230 horses and 230 pound-feet of the rich torque band (200 pound-feet are available at 1200 rpm, says Isuzu) to propel the 4222-pound Axiom forward with tangible enthusiasm. It also elicits 78 decibels' worth of roar through the fire wall, just five fewer than made by a Porsche 911 Turbo at full scream, while petroleum distillates disappear at the gluttonous average of one gallon every 16 miles.

Our fully optioned four-wheel-drive Axiom XS warped to 60 mph in a surprising 8.1 seconds on an engine with just 330 miles clocked. It smoked every other high-dollar (and heavier) truck in our recent "Designer-Ute Smackdown" (December 2000). It also creamed the last VehiCROSS we tested (April 1999) by 0.7 second to 60 mph and a half-second through the quarter-mile. The VehiCROSS had 15 fewer horsepower but also 238 fewer pounds to tow.

The engine talks to the asphalt through Isuzu's four-speed transmission with power and winter shift modes and the Trooper's Torque-on-Demand four-wheel-drive system, standard on all four-wheel-drive versions of the Axiom. It manages torque flow with a series of electromagnetic multiplate clutches in the BorgWarner transfer case that can shift up to half the driveshaft torque to the front axle for extricating the Axiom from sticky situations.

The clever bit, though, is the algorithms used by the electronic controller to anticipate driver needs and engage the four-wheel-drive system preemptively, even on dry roads where a quick squirt of front-axle torque can improve stability. The system works on the same control principles and with the same transparency that drew so much praise in the Acura MDX, but with the added capability of a four-wheel-drive low range selectable with a dashboard rotary knob.



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