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1998 4x4 of the Year Models: Isuzu Rodeo S

Posted in Project Vehicles on February 1, 1998
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Contributors: Tori Tellem
Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

The Isuzu Rodeo was introduced in America as a '91 model and fought the 4x4 of the Year war the same year. But the '98 competitor shares little with the earlier models. The body and interior are all-new designs, and the suspension is now a front-torsion-bar/rear coils-and-five-link setup. Isuzu has worked to improve ride quality through the suspension and to maintain the stiffness of the chassis but cut weight throughout the vehicle. It weighs only about 145 pounds less than the last old-style Rodeo we tested, but the performance gain seems much greater. Greater, in fact, than the 15hp/26-ft-lb increase in power from the 24-valve, 3.2L V-6 would indicate.

Especially when it was matched to the automatic tranny (which would never go into Winter mode, the feature that allows Second-gear starts for less wheelspin on slippery surfaces), we liked the Isuzu's on-tap power as compared to other V-6s. In fact, the combo of weight, gearing, and motor made the Rodeo one of few V-6-powered 4x4s that never felt too gutless. That's even more significant when you note that the Rodeo got the best gas mileage of the test and was also the lowest-priced sport/utility. We also ranked the Isuzu tops in hillclimbing and tons of fun in the sand. But despite the marvel of a coil-sprung rear suspension with a groovy Dana 44, disc brakes, 4.30 gears, and a Trac-Lok, the lack of ground clearance used up any suspension travel that was to be had. As a result, whether on the trail or on a fire road, the undercarriage never met a rock it didn't smack.

But on smooth dirt, the Rodeo was a fun tail-out blaster. Those traits revealed themselves in fun on-road handling too, and visibility was also good. In fact, the design of the seat and the too-hard-for-human-elbows door panels partially reduced scores for urban and highway use. Only Péwé really dug the new dash design, apparently appreciating such inconveniences as the hazard light button located dead center and the 4WD in/out switch that's inconveniently indistinguishable from the cruise control on/off button. The low-range/high-range operation is handled by a floor-mounted lever, which was pretty good. But the interior was still ranked least-liked overall, as was the cargo area. Though we liked the optional tailgate-mounted spare, closing the tailgate was always a two-hand operation. We also couldn't find a way to fold the rear seats without removing and stowing the headrests. Despite Isuzu's claim that interior noise was reduced 50 percent over that of previous Rodeos, we had no problem hearing road noise and the shriek of the peppy mill. These gripes led to lower than expected scores for a truck that some testers really enjoyed.

Isuzu Rodeo S
•It screams (for a V-6)
•Neat Dana 44 rearend
•Good Suspension

•Way too low
•Bad cargo access
•Some disliked the interior

Manufacturer Isuzu
Model Rodeo S
Base Price $24,240
Price as Tested $28,835
Options as Tested Preferred Equipment Package
(air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM/cassette stereo, power windows, locks, mirrors, remote entry/hatch release, alarm, tilt wheel, cruise control, door lamps, center armrest pad, cargo cover and net, roof rack, and front intermittent wiper/washer) and Sport Package (16-inch tire/alloy wheel upgrade, rear spare tire carrier with cover, in-dash CD player, color-keyed bumper, and CA emissions).

Type DOHC V-6
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/193
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.68x3.03
Compression Ratio 9.1:1
Induction Type Multiport fuel injection/variable intake manifold
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 87 Octane
Unleaded regular/21.1
SAE Peak Horsepower 205 @ 5,400 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 214 @ 3,000 rpm

Type Four-speed automatic overdrive
Model THM4L30-E
Ratios First: 2.856:1; Second: 1.618:1; Third: 1.000:1; Fourth: 0.723:1; Reverse: 2.000:1

Transfer Case
Type Two-speed part-time
Model Isuzu
Low-Range Ratio 2.05:1

Front Type IFS
Rear Type Dana 44 with limited slip
Hubs Automatic
Ratio 4.30:1

Front Upper and lower control-arms/torsion bars
Rear Live axle, five-link/coil springs

Type Engine-speed sensing/rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.64/21.1:1
Turning Radius (feet) 38.4

Size (inches) 15x6 1/2
Material Alloy

Size P245/70R16
Brand Goodyear Wrangler

Brake System
Front 11-inch discs with ABS
Rear 12.3-inch discs with ABS

Measured Weight (pounds) 3,980
Advertised GVWR (pounds) 4,850

EPA Estimate (city/hwy mpg) 16/20
As Tested (mpg) 15.81

Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 18.10 @ 75.60

60-0 mph (feet) 153.14

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 106.4
Overall Length 183.4
Overall Width 70.4
Overall Height 68.8
Front/Rear Track 59.6/59.8
Front/Rear Overhang 30.3/46.7
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 7.375

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