2006 Isuzu i-Series Pickup

Fleetwood Brougham

Long known for its rugged SUVs, Isuzu is readying its new pickup for the U.S. market. Named the i-280 and i-350, the new trucks share much in common with their counterparts at GM, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. While at first glance it may appear Isuzu’s trucks are simply renamed GM clones, the three pickups were actually developed jointly, with Isuzu leading the design team. The first product of this union was the Isuzu D-Max, a turbodiesel truck launched in Thailand as a 2002 model. In 2003, GM added its own line of engines and transmissions to the D-Max platform and introduced the truck in America under the names Colorado and Canyon. Confused? So are a lot of people, and it only gets better.

Isuzu will introduce its pickup to the U.S. using an engine and transmission supplied by GM. The i-Series trucks will be built at GM’s Shreveport, Louisiana plant and be sold exclusively by Isuzu dealers. For the record, this type of collaboration is not uncommon. GM and Isuzu have had a working relationship dating back to the 1970s, when Chevrolet borrowed Isuzu’s compact pickup and renamed it the LUV. Old guys like me will remember the LUV being laughed at by full-size truck owners; young guys will remember the LUV for its appearance on the first season of Pimp My Ride.

The two-wheel-drive i-280 Extended Cab is offered in two trims: LS and S. Its 2.8-liter four-cylinder engine provides an astounding 175-horsepower, besting the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma by a wide margin. The i-280’s four-cylinder also produces best-in-class torque ratings, generating some 185 pound-feet of torque at a low 2800 rpm. A high torque figure at a low rpm quickly provides the driver with lots of pulling and passing power. A five-speed manual is standard with the option of a four-speed automatic. The EPA rates the 2.8-liter engine with the five-speed manual at 20-mpg city and 27-mpg highway. Dimensionally, the i-280 is five-inches longer than the Ford Ranger Super Cab and one inch shorter than the Toyota Tacoma Access Cab. The i-280 is narrowest in its class, a fact that contributes to snug hip and shoulder room figures.

One step up is the larger and more powerful i-350. Available only in Crew Cab configuration, the i-350 comes standard with an Isuzu-built shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system and a two-speed transfer case. Powered by an in-line five-cylinder engine, the i-350 provides 220-horsepower and a stump-pulling 225 foot-pounds of torque at 2800 rpm. Available only with an automatic transmission, the i-350 still manages a very respectable 17-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. Again, the i-350 is not strong on hip and shoulder room, though its rear seat does offer more legroom than the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab, Nissan Frontier Crew Cab and Subaru Baja. The i-350’s bed features a cool hinged tailgate that locks at a 55-degree angle. This feature is especially helpful when hauling 4×8 sheets that rest on top the wheel wells but extend beyond the edge of the bed.

The standard equipment list for both trucks is impressive and includes four-wheel anti-lock brakes, air conditioning and automatic-off headlights. The LS trim adds power windows, door locks and mirrors as well as keyless entry, cruise control and front bucket seats. Options include side-curtain airbags, AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 capability, sliding rear window, heated leather seats and a power moonroof (i-350).

So by now I’m sure you’re asking yourself, other than a different grille and some nicer cloth seats, why should I buy the Isuzu over the Chevy or the GMC?  VALUE my friend, value. A comparably equipped i-Series is some $700 less than its GM counterparts and includes a better warranty. Where the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon offer a 3-year/36,000 mile basic and powertrain warranty, the i-Series trucks come standard with a 3-year/50,000 basic and 7-year/70,000 mile powertrain at no extra cost.

We’ll be getting behind the wheel of the i-Series as soon as we can, so be sure to check back for the full road test.

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