Original MSRP: $27,149 - $29,149
MPG: 14 City / 20 Hwy

2008 Isuzu Ascender Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Isuzu Ascender was new.

Reviewers find the 2008 Isuzu Ascender offers a nice ride and impressive V6 engine power. About.com captures the general consensus, commenting "If you prefer a smooth, floaty ride, then you'll find that the Ascender drives like a dream."

Reviewers also love the way the SUV handles, with Kelley Blue Book noting "the Ascender feels controlled and agile," and Auto Media noting, "Running smoothly and quietly, the Ascender accelerates vigorously from a standstill." But the Ascender loses points with reviewers for its relatively low high fuel economy and lagging four-speed automatic transmission.

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood, the 2008 Isuzu Ascender packs a 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine that has been recalibrated for 2008. Because of that, it delivers 285 horsepower, a slight decrease from last year's 291 horsepower. The engine also puts out 276 pound-feet of torque. Across the board, reviewers are impressed with the V6, which is "a wonderful engine, more powerful than many V8s," according to New Car Test Drive. Consumer Guide says the test Ascender "did 0-60 mph in 8.8 sec, was unfazed in everyday driving." Similarly, Kelley Blue Book says the V6 provides a "more-than-adequate response in the areas of acceleration and passing, even when fully loaded." But several reviewers note a drawback -- the thirsty engine is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency for 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway for 2WD and 4WD models.

The V6 is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission that meets with negative reviews from the few auto writers that mention it. The Family Car complains it "just does not have the number of gears necessary to maximize fuel economy." New Car Test Drive also notes the Hydra-Matic transmission "has proven itself over the years and many miles in the TrailBlazer, but it doesn't seem to let the engine achieve its full potential."

When properly equipped, the 2008 2WD Isuzu Ascender can tow up to 5,800 pounds with a 3.73 axle ratio (optional on the LS and standard on the Luxury model). The 3.42 axle ratio (standard on the base and LS models) is rated to tow up to 5,300 pounds on the 2WD model. New Cars notes that "Towing is considerably more the Isuzu Ascender's forte than it is the average midsize SUV's." All Ascenders come with a platform-type trailer hitch.

Handling and Braking

Reviewers like the way the 2008 Ascender handles, though some criticize it for imprecise steering and body lean. The Ascender features body-on-frame construction and hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion power steering that Cars.com says make handling "confident for an SUV, and the ride is quite compliant."

Kelley Blue Book says "On the road, you'll find the Ascender feels controlled and agile. A five-link rear suspension keeps the rear end from bouncing around on rough and broken pavement, and the shock absorber settings deliver a car-like ride that does not suffer once you move off-road." The Family Car also praises "the best part of the Ascender is its highway ride. There its soft suspension is not overly taxed and turning the stereo up a notch can hide the considerable wind rush so typical of boxy SUVs."

However, Consumer Guide has a few complaints, noting "Suspension smothers most bumps quite well for a truck-type SUV, but dips and swells can induce unwanted porpoising at highway speed, and there's less overall compliance than in most car-based rivals." The same reviewer also calls the handling "Disappointing overall, with marked body lean in sharp turns and imprecise steering that demands lots of correcting at highway speed." However, at 36.4 feet, the SUV's "relatively tight turning radius" is a plus. About.com echoes "the turning circle is remarkably tight considering the truck's length, and it's easy to park."

Reviewers don't have much to say about the Ascender's four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with dual-piston front calipers and ABS (anti-lock braking technology), but those that do are generally pleased. Consumer Guide says brakes "deliver adequate stopping power, but 'panic' stops trigger marked nosedive and some wander."


 The Ascender comes standard with rear-wheel drive, but four-wheel drive is an option. Kelley Blue Book explains "Four-wheel-drive models feature an automatically-engaged system, which can be left in the automatic mode during normal highway driving, or shifted into four-high or four-low when traversing deep snow, loose sand or off-road trails." New Car Test Drive found "the 4WD model impressively stable on washboard surfaces." 4WD versions come standard with traction control, so "When it rains, snows or turns icy, the driver can select the automatic mode and the system will distribute power to the four wheels as needed," the review continues.

The Orlando Sentinel notes that the Ascender may not have much of an edge over competitors in handling, but it sure beats out the Ford Explorer in the off-roading department: "For an off-road aficionado like me, however, the solid rear axle of the Ascender is a better arrangement, giving the Isuzu more agility in severe off-road traction situations."

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

Next Steps: Isuzu Ascender

  • Calculate monthly payment and apply for a loan
  • See Affordable Midsize SUVs rankings
  • Find Best Deals: Purchase Deals Lease Deals Used Deals