At first glance, it may look like GM threw Isuzu a bone, giving the ailing company a vehicle to add to its current two-rebadged-SUV lineup. But that's not the case. When the truck was in the planning stages in 1997, Isuzu and GM were collaborating on the S-10/Hombre's replacement. Isuzu was initially in charge of everything from powertrain choices to interior layout. By 2001, final development was split; GM would handle the North American truck, and Isuzu was to build it for Thailand. Now, two years after the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon were introduced, Isuzu's bringing its version of the midsize pickup to North America. The 2006 i280 and i350 began production in Shreveport, Louisiana in June, side by side with the Colorado.
Model designations are based on engine size; the i280 uses a 2.8-liter I-4 and the i350 has a 3.5-liter I-5, both identical to its Chevy/GMC counterparts. Horsepower is rated at 175 and 220, respectively, and torque is at 185 and 225 pound-feet as well. Wheelbase, track, suspension, interior dimensions, and curb weight are also identical. In all honesty, they look about the same, with the exception of the Isuzu grille and badging.
Where the trucks differentiate is in the packaging. The i280 is only available as an extended-cab (Chevy offers a regular cab), rear-drive truck, with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Likewise, the i280 can tow up to 3200 pounds (1700 with the manual) and has a payload capacity of more than 1500 pounds. Trim includes an entry-level S, S Plus Preferred (which adds carpeting, CD player, and cloth seats), LS, and Luxury; the topline model includes traction control and side curtain airbags.
To get four-wheel drive, your only choice is the i350, and that one is solely offered with the crew cab. The four-speed Hydra-Matic is standard behind the I-5, as is Isuzu's Insta-Trac four-wheel-drive system. Insta-Trac is a push-button shift-on-the-fly system, with a Neutral setting that allows the truck to be dinghy-towed behind a motorhome or other vehicle. Towing capacity is 4000 pounds and it can carry an 1190-pound payload. This is the top model in the i-Series, and comes with all of the amenities found in the i280's Preferred and LS packages. Options include power windows, heated seats, leather, and sliding rear window.
Although pricing hasn't been announced, the Isuzu midsize likely will be close to Colorado pricing, with the vinyl-floor, vinyl-seat i280 S package probably coming in underneath its GM counterparts. Naturally, included with all Isuzu products is its seven-year, 75,000-mile limited powertrain warranty (with roadside assistance for the same period). Oddly, this is more than twice as long as the warranty available on a Chevrolet. That's got to be worth something.