The only SUV in Isuzu's two-model lineup is the Ascender, which is available in either 5- or 7-passenger configurations. What's new for 2006 on both trim levels is standard StabiliTrak (GM's vehicle stability control program); two new exterior colors: Currant Red Metallic and Graphite Gray Metallic; and an available roof-mounted side curtain air bag with rollover-sensing system. An auto-dimming electrochromic rearview mirror has been added as standard equipment to the LS and Limited 7-passenger Ascender, while it's optional on the LS and Luxury 5-passenger model. There were more features deleted from the 7-passenger model than added for 2006.
Platform sharing between Isuzu and General Motors has delivered the TrailBlazer to Chevrolet, the Envoy to GMC, and now the Ascender to Isuzu. The biggest exterior differences are the grille, rear fascia, and taillights. When it comes to the interior, there are a lot of nice features standard and available with either seating configuration. There's a dual-zone climate control system, three 12-volt accessory power outlets, Daytime Running Lamps, second-row split-fold seats (flip, fold, and reclining second-row seats on the 7-passenger along with a 50/50 split/fold third-row seat), audio system with CD player, tilt steering column, and map lights in the first and second rows.
The Ascenders can be had in either a two- or four-wheel-drive configuration, and share an independent front/five-link rear suspension setup. Vented disc brakes front and rear along with four-wheel ABS provide excellent braking force. StabiliTrak, now standard across the Ascender lineup, is an electronically-controlled program that helps the driver maintain directional control of the vehicle in poor traction situations.
Power for the 5-passenger Ascender comes in the form of a 4.2L inline-six that makes 291 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of torque. The 7-passenger model also gets the 4.2L engine, but offers an upgraded 5.3L V-8 good for 300 hp and 330 lb.-ft. of torque-enough power on the V-8 to tow a maximum of 6,200 pounds. Both engines are mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The 5.3L engine features Active Fuel Management (formerly known as Displacement on Demand), which is a cylinder-deactivation system that, under steady-state cruising, shuts off power to four of the engine's eight cylinders to help improve fuel economy. The system is seamless and imperceptible to the driver. The Ascender's 7-year/75,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance are two good reasons to check out this SUV.
The Midsize Utility segment in which Ascender competes is packed with 20 contenders. It's a huge segment, accounting for more than 1.3 million unit sales annually. Although sales have dropped slightly in the past year, that doesn't stop manufacturers from introducing new models.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the sales leader in the segment is the Jeep Grand Cherokee (213,584 units delivered in calendar year 2005), followed closely by the Ford Explorer (203,483) and the Ascender's cousin, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer (regular length model only), with 163,581 units sold in 2005. The Ascender tallied 7,585 sales in calendar year 2005. Other entries in the segment with sales greater than 75,000 units are the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, Toyota 4Runner, Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT, and Nissan Pathfinder.