Isuzu Philippines Corporation alters the common motorist's thinking of SUVs with the new Alterra. Brutishly hardworking but luxurious and comfortable, the 4x2 Isuzu Alterra features all the good traits of an SUV with the versatile features of a multipurpose vehicle and all the comforts of a luxury sedan.

Altering SUV exterior design

Isuzu engineers created the Alterra with a unique exterior that features a symmetrical u-shaped panoramic line, most evident when the vehicle is viewed directly from the front or the rear. Billed by Isuzu as "mono form", the result is a clean but subtly aggressive shape. Features such as overfender-matching side step boards, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 245/70 R16 tires, large upscale crystal headlamps with foglamps, LED-type turn signals within the side mirror housings, color-keyed roof rails, a rear door integrated spoiler (with third brake lamp) and a chrome tailpipe add to the unique look of the vehicle.

Altering SUV performance

Powertrain for the Alterra is a diesel-powered, 16-valve three-liter 4JJ-1 I-TEQ engine, producing a maximum output of 144 hp and 202 lbs-ft of torque from a range of 1400-3400rpm. The engine is mated to either a five-speed manual transmission (m/t) or a four-speed automatic transmission (a/t) and featuring third generation (third-gen) DOHC common rail direct injection. The engine supplies no less than 180 megapascals (MPas) of pressure to its electronically controlled injection nozzles, crucial to performance since a diesel engine requires strong fuel pressure to achieve efficient fuel combustion.

To put into perspective the advancement of diesel engines, first-gen common rail direct injection engines (first introduced in the 1998 Isuzu Trooper) featured 135 MPas of fuel pressure, enough to break wood with water as medium. Second-gen common rail direct injection engines (found in a recently introduced compact pickup) featured 169 MPas of fuel pressure, enough to cut cleanly through wood or break glass via a strong flow of water. Third–gen common rail direct injection engines feature 180 MPas and above, enough to cut cleanly through glass with water as a medium.

Another important feature of the Alterra's engine is its swirl control valve actuator, which vastly improves swirling motion during high and low engine speeds for an optimum measure of air and fuel.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) in the Alterra is virtually minimal, thanks to five components: 1) The 4JJ-1 I-TEQ's multi-injection system, which lessens the jerking motion brought about by the sudden turning of the crankshaft; 2) A backlash eliminator keeps the gears in constant contact with one another; 3) A secondary balancer lessens the shock and noise created by the engine's sequenced alternating combustion; 4) A damper flywheel features a shock-absorbing mechanism, minimizing NVH when the engine and transmission come in contact; and 5) Exhaust silencer plates placed at the underchassis redirect the exhaust notes.

Isuzu's proprietary Flex Ride suspension is also found on the Alterra. The front suspension features independent double wishbones (with torsion bars) and gas-sealed, twin-tube multi-piston shock absorbers, while the rear features Flex Ride leaf springs.

Altering SUV comfort

Accommodations boast seats in three rows that can be arranged in 48 different ways. The front seats can be reclined 180 degrees, while the second-row seats can be adjusted individually to allow easy access to the third row. The middle seat of the second row can be folded as a utility tray or to make way for a walkthrough alley to the third row. The aforementioned third row can fit two Filipinos of big height and heft and features utility armrests where one can place odd-looking stuff or drinking containers.

More passenger convenience is provided by front, middle and rear airconditioning vents, integrated with the headliner, along with five cabin lights on three sections with separate control switches.

A DVD entertainment system with 5.1 channel surround sound is standard with the premium variants carrying a mere 20,000 peso premium. A lockable glove box (with light), map lamps (with sunglass holder, second-row reading lamps, a 12-volt accessory power socket and numerous pockets and cup holders add an enjoyable ride for occupants.

Altering SUV safety and security

For safety purposes, dual front airbags are standard, along with ABS with electronic brake force distribution and gravity sensors. A back-up sensor provides easy movement during parallel parking and long backing maneuvers.

For security, thieves are in for a disappointment, as the spare tire comes with a lock. Further adding to Alterra owners' peace of mind is the SUV's keyless entry with anti-theft immobilizer system.

Altering SUV pricing and coloring

The 4x2 Alterra comes in four color alternatives. Prices for the standard package models are as follows, Imperial Gold M/T - P1.389M; Imperial Gold A/T - P1.444 price tag; Moonstone Blue and Titanium Grey M/T - P1.399M; A/T Moonstone Blue and Titanium Grey - P1.454M; Omega Pearl White M/T - 1.414M; Omega Pearl White A/T - P1.469M.

Prices for the DVD equipped models are as follows, Imperial Gold M/T - P1.409M; Imperial Gold A/T - P1.464 price tag; Moonstone Blue and Titanium Grey M/T - P1.419M; A/T Moonstone Blue and Titanium Grey - P1.474M; Omega Pearl White M/T - 1.434M; Omega Pearl White A/T - P1.489M. - Jude Morte