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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, Mar 4, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By Contributing Editor KURT FUHRMANN

I, like millions of Americans, am finding myself in the grip of a persistent backache. Complicating this is a planned drive from Orange County to San Francisco, round-trip in just three days! The last thing I wanted to do was get behind the wheel of a car, any car, let alone a tough as nails SUV.

Hopefully you have never cried the infamous words, "Ouch, my back!" The pain drops me to my knees as I crawled to the couch. If you have ever uttered these words or have experienced back pain of any degree, you have my sympathy

Back disorders are the most common cause of physical disability in people below the age of 45, with millions of people suffering from acute and chronic back pain, which affects all aspects of their lives. I never thought I would be writing about an automobile with regards to back pain. That is, until I became a statistic.

With over $80 billion spent each year on medications, doctor visits, surgeries, back braces, specialized mattresses and chairs; I wonder if any of this gross national product has been spent on auto therapy? What do I mean by auto therapy? I mean, hop in a car, and take it for a spin get out feeling better? Ok, so auto therapy didn't make Dave Letterman's top ten list, especially when driving usually worsens pain. However, it may be time to make auto therapy a physical therapy treatment choice.

The Ascender's interior, with the "limited equipment package", comes with especially comfortable heated leather front seats with multiple power adjustments, including lumbar support; enabling that perfect comfortable driving position. This package also provides the driver with power adjustable pedals, a great trick for those short drivers. Isuzu put together all the tools to make the driver comfortable while maintaining driver safety for all different driving positions.

Most SUVs and sport utility vehicles are rather difficult to get in and out of, and this isn't a great deal of fun for my fellow backache members. The Ascender must have had us in mind, for the limited equipment package mentioned above also comes with full-length running boards, which makes interior access a breeze. Is auto therapy starting to make sense?

Even with all the interior amenities and comfort; without smooth, quiet, and responsive horsepower to move your chariot wherever you desire, auto therapy would be meaningless. But, Isuzu maintains the balance under the hood with a mighty 300 horsepower aluminum alloy 5.3 L V8. This engine has good power, is smooth, and on acceleration, no jerk or loud whine. When needed, the Ascender climbs long grades with ease and is quite capable of high speed passing. So, all this sounds nice, but how does it truly perform as a therapy aide? The test, Orange County to San Francisco and back in 3 days; a combined total of over 1200 miles. Just what you would expect the doctor to order; driving an SUV like a man on a mission from here to eternity and back again. Since I was the only driver, this trip was the perfect test.

I set off with my excursion-packing wife, but with 107.4 cubic feet of cargo space, no problem. I position the seat, adjust the lumbar support, turn the seat warmers to low and crank the Bose premium audio system and the test was on. No scheduled stops, only gas when we need; and averaging 17 mpg with a 25-gallon fuel tank, stops are infrequent. The objective was, to quote Pink Floyd; "run like hell" the sooner we arrive in San Francisco, the more time we'd have to play. The Ascender makes our task effortless.

Usually, a seven-hour trip in a car, let alone an SUV, wipes most drivers out. Herein lies the irony of Ascender therapy. Arriving in San Francisco, with only a couple of gas stops, we waste no time in getting to Fisherman's Warf, Pier 39, etc. Funny, my back actually is feeling, better? Yes, the first test of auto therapy is surprisingly successful. I'm not exactly sure what attributes to the decrease in pain intensity, most likely a compilation of the fine qualities the Ascender has to offer.

A short break to ransack San Francisco, and the next day it was back to Orange County. The second half of the test has begun. I am hoping for no traffic, and a time of five hours to get home; then I woke up. Traffic was terrible, bumper-to-bumper, including the crazies cutting people off just to travel a few more inches before stopping. The only good news about this nightmare traffic was the Ascender's four-wheel anti-lock braking system. Needless to say, I used the antilock system on several occasions and each and every time it performed flawlessly. Finally, somewhere outside of Atascadero, the traffic breaks free which lets the Ascender move out.

We arrive home just shy of 6 hours, not bad considering the traffic jams. After a blitzkrieg three-day race around the world, the second leg of the test is up for evaluation. Ascender therapy actually works. While driving with the seat positioned just right, I was rather comfortable throughout the trip. The Ascender rides more like a car with its ladder construction and smooth hydraulic double acting shocks, no hard bumpy ride like other tested SUVs. Isuzu is putting together a nice SUV. Time to contact my physical therapists and chiropractors to add Ascender therapy to their treatment plan.

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Price: Base $23,569, as tested $39,468

Engine type: 5.3 Liter Aluminum Alloy V8

Horsepower: 300 @ 5200 rpm

Torque: 330 lb.-ft @ 4000 rpm

Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive

Transmission type: 4L60E Hydra-Matic 4-speed automatic w/overdrive

Suspension: Front: Independent double A-arm Rear: Hydraulic double acting telescopic w/rebound stop attached to frame

Wheels and tires: Front: Aluminum Alloy wheel 17"x7 with On/off road 245/65/17 Rear: Aluminum Alloy wheel 17"x7 with On/off road 245/65/17

Brakes: 4-wheel ABS Front: Ventilated disc w/dual piston front calipers Rear: Ventilated disc single piston rear calipers

Overall length: 207.6 in/5273 mmOverall width: 76.1 in./1933 mm Overall height: 75.5 in./1917 mm Curb weight (lbs.): 4,821, 5,007 (4X4)

EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 14/19

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