When we think about Isuzu, we automatically think about SUVs, trucks, but we do not usually think about a turbocharged all-wheel sports car. And that is what the Isuzu Impulse is. It got incorporated into the American market by General Motors. GM partnered with Isuzu to make this vehicle. Isuzu and General Motors had partnered before in making other vehicles so this was just one of their collaborations. In the late 1980’s Isuzu found a small gap in the market and decided to exploit this chance by building the Isuzu Impulse. Trying to design a fast, cheap car is a big challenge but the makers of this car decided to go ahead with the plan which was not a bad idea.
The Impulse in Japan was known as the Piazza but when it came to the American market it was renamed as the Impulse. It came into the market at a time when Ford Probe and Honda CR-X were the only sports cars in the market as has been pointed out by motor week in a review. The Impulse was handled by Lotus that was owned by GM and it was a big hit as compared to the other sports cars. Also as Lotus handled the Isuzu Impulse it developed the suspensions for Impulse and the car got stiffer dampers, softer springs, and wider sway bars. Also, it featured a good rear steering wheel system that changed the toe angle by suspension and this allowed the Impulse to handle mountain terrain with ease.
The Isuzu Impulse was a definition of stealth import performance. It came with a 90hp and a 2.0L at the beginning with a four-cylinder engine and a transmission choice for a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic. The manufacturers of this car also changed it to become a 140hp with a 2.0L turbo as time went on making it more powerful than before. This new engine came with new innovations like the Isuzu I-TEC control system that would pull in between 6.7 and 8.5 pounds boosting the car without a need for more fuel usage. The Isuzu Impulse's turbocharging came with a new technology of air-to-air intercooler. This simply means that the air coming from the turbo is cooled before it enters the engine therefore most of the heat generated by the turbocharging process is removed and it, in turn, reduces the density and temperature of air allowing more fuel to the combination chamber increasing power more than what the turbo produces.
Having a 166 lb-ft of torque the Isuzu Impulse was a fairly confident performer that could hit 60 mph within 8.5 seconds. This was good compared to other fast cars of the day. With its high speed, it also had another advantage of good looks as compared to other cars like the ZX and Celica Supra. The Isuzu Impulse had a limited-slip rear differential with a beefed-up chassis making it the most fun sports car to drive and it was also affordable compared to other sports cars of the day. The manufacturers of this car then decided to move its rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel drive. They also designed the new impulse with its sheet metal being in the house this time and the result was an impressive groundbreaking car that retained its unique eyebrow headlights. It also came with a rare wagon with a hatchback body style.
The Impulse was a handsome small car with its styling clean, uncluttered, and skillfully blended. As you studied this car more, you could understand it and appreciate its design. It was designed by Shiro Nakamura who later left Isuzu to join the Nissan team as the chief designer. Its look according to Shiro Nakamura was inspired by designs from cars of the 1960s and 1970s and its mean look face was a new one in the market. It looked even different from the Geo Storm bringing out the uniqueness of its kind. The Isuzu Impulse like many sports cars had excellent legroom even for tall drivers. It came with head support and an adjustable knob on the side of both seats that you could easily adjust the seat to the right position. The backseat was also very comfortable though with limited legroom. Small children and short adults can comfortably seat in the backseat. With its hatchback, the backseat can be folded providing more cargo space and this is advantageous for someone who has a lot of luggage. It has a wheelbase of 96.1 inches, a width of 65.2inches, a height of 51.4 inches, and a length of 172.6 inches which is not so big as compared to other cars but most sports cars are not very large.
Isuzu Impulse generally was well-reviewed as a car that could do well than most expensive and better-known brands in the market. However, it never got to break ground in the American market even with the redesigned new Impulse. The Isuzu Impulse only enjoyed three years of production in the U.S.A with an extra year in Canada under a different name of Asuna brand before many factors. For instance, General Motors ended its manufacture and marketing, and for this reason, sales of the Isuzu Impulse ended in the U.S.A. The other factor was low sales of the car and for this reason, it was scrapped off the market altogether. Today people remember the Isuzu Impulse as a unique, styled hot hatchback that did not get its timing right to fully attract many budget-conscious sports car fans.
The Isuzu Impulse is incredibly rare today as Isuzu had not built many of them. The American market had only 602 while the Canadian market got only 200 cars. Only 130 Isuzu Impulse models are known to be working today according to data from the car community and many Impulse enthusiasts have non-working cars that they cannibalize spares from. Even with non-working cars, the Impulse enthusiasts are still passionate about keeping their cars on the road which is good as this car was a superb sports car that did not cost much.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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