2002 Isuzu Axiom XS Auto Review

10 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2002 Isuzu Axiom XS Auto Review
Isuzu Axiom

2002 Isuzu Axiom XS

Daring, different and distinctive

James M. Flammang on 05.01.2001

Isuzu’s new Axiom ranks as the most brazen example to date of the groundswell automotive movement toward crossover vehicles. This high-profile sport-utility model softens the typical SUV styling approach of straight lines and squared corners to convey a unique personality, highlighted by its defiantly muscular front fascia, arcing roofline, sculpted fender flares and geometrically patterned wheels. Beneath its shapely skin, though, the Axiom rides on a rigid 8-crossmember frame that maintains a degree of kinship to both the slightly smaller Rodeo and slightly larger Trooper.

In both luxury and on-/off-road prowess, Isuzu is positioning its versatile newcomer as an alternative to the more costly Acura MDX and Lexus RX 300. Both are car-based, in contrast to Axiom’s more rugged, truck-derived platform. By promoting its unconventional nature-using no less a pitchman than the reborn Joe Isuzu-the firm expects to avoid stealing sales from either its Rodeo or Trooper, both of which target classic off-road enthusiasts.

Some may find the Axiom’s blatantly muscular front-end styling a bit over the top, but aesthetic consideration aside, the hard points on its fascia have been designed to exactly match the bumper height of a passenger car to help minimize damage in case of minor collisions.

In dealerships since April, the Axiom is available in base or upline XS trim and offers buyers a choice of rear- or full-time 4-wheel drive configurations. Starting at $25,985, even a base Axiom boasts an impressive array of standards headed by a V-6 engine, automatic transmission, adjustable suspension, anti-lock brakes, and an astonishingly generous roster of comfort/convenience items. Step up to XS trim ($28,305 for 2WD) and things get even better.

A features list that already includes automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, 6-disc CD changer, power windows/locks/mirrors, power driver’s seat, cruise control, keyless remote entry, and a HomeLink garage door opener expands with the addition of a power moonroof, heated front buckets, power passenger seat and leather upholstery in place of cloth trim. Even our top-of-the-line 4WD XS tester version commanded only $31,330, including destination fees.

Inside, the Axiom continues its dare-to-be-different motif by mixing semi-muted earth tones with brightwork accent trim. A relatively high beltline and modestly scaled greenhouse impart an added sense of security to this avant-garde Isuzu without really impacting sightlines. The Axiom’s well-formed front buckets offer good support up front, while the overall adjustability of the seat and steering column make it a breeze to get comfortable.

Save for having audio/heat/ventilation switchgear located a bit low in the center of the dash to accommodate the multi-mode information display, most other main controls are easily accessed.

Isuzu Axiom

Our only criticism of the Axiom’s aft quarters is that the relatively low placement of the lower seat cushion (which makes access/egress easier) leads to a rather knee-high seating position. That aside, there’s generous room for a pair of adults or modest accommodations for three. Filling the basic 35.2 cubic foot cargo bay is facilitated by a large rear hatch with bumper-level cutout.

When maximum hauling is the order of the day, the Axiom’s split-folding rear bench can be quickly and easily flipped and flopped to open up its generous 85.4 cubic feet of space. The standard retractable cargo cover also pops in and out of place with a simple push-and-rotate action.

Beneath its smartly sloping hood, the Axiom carries a fortified version of Isuzu’s standard 3.5-liter DOHC V-6. Revised intake and exhaust plumbing helps bump output to 230 horsepower, 15 more than it makes in the Trooper, while torque remains at 230 lb.-ft. It’s teamed with a standard 4-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and incorporates a special grade-sensing logic circuit to prevent unnecessary gear changes on uphill and downhill runs.

The duo packs a solid performance punch, sending our test vehicle from 0-60 mph in just 8.7 seconds and through the quarter mile in 16.5 ticks at 82.3 mph. It also nets the Axiom EPA fuel economy numbers of 16 city/20 highway, in either rear- or all-wheel drive guise, while providing a standard tow rating of 4,500 pounds. Although the engine does tend to sound off a bit under full-throttle acceleration, it’s a pretty modest price to pay for the kind of real-world results it delivers.

On the stopping side of the equation, the Axiom is even more impressive. Its ABS-abetted 4-wheel discs hauled our 4,180-pound tester from 60-0 mph in a decidedly car-like 126 feet.

As with its closest Isuzu SUV kin, the Axiom’s suspension matches an independent A-arm/torsion bar front setup with a coil-sprung 5-link live axle out back. On 4-wheel drive models, this hardware is combined with Isuzu’s Torque-on-Demand system, the same package found on the Trooper since 1998. It automatically adjusts motive force between the front and rear wheels using a variety of predictive and adaptive inputs.

Unlike some competitors, the 4WD Axiom also offers a low range transfer case for particularly challenging driving conditions. All of this works in consort with the latest generation of Isuzu’s Intelligent Suspension Control, a computer-controlled semi-active system that can instantaneously adjust the damping actions of each shock absorber through a range of 17 settings. Tying the Axiom to terra firma are 235/65SR17 all-season tires on standard cast alloy wheels.

Out in the real world, the net result of this well-seasoned technological potpourri is a sport utility that approaches the handling flavor of a mid-level sport sedan if not its overall cornering prowess. Even though it has nearly eight inches of ground clearance, our Axiom displayed little of the top-heavy reactions one associates with vehicles having a high center of gravity.

It responded to the challenge of negotiating narrow, winding mountain roads with surprising confidence and proved a model freeway cruiser. Disengaging the suspension’s firmer Sport mode softened the ride instantly without introducing any unpleasant sense of wallow. While some impact harshness does come through on seriously rough or broken pavement, the Axiom is a solid cut above many of its competitors in that department as well.

The Axiom is being produced at the Subaru-Isuzu joint-venture facility in Lafayette, Indiana. Total output is expected to be in the neighborhood of 30,000-35,000 units per year. While hard-core four-wheelers might be a bit skeptical, most average SUV owners are likely to be delighted by the Axiom’s twin virtues of sprightly performance and car-like road manners. The fact that it doesn’t look just like all the other sport utilities on the market should only serve to further distinguish it from the pack. (www.isuzu.com)

Isuzu Axiom
Isuzu Axiom
Isuzu Axiom
Isuzu Axiom
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