Since its launch in 2005, the Alterra has undergone several minor facelifts and refits to bring it up to speed with the current crop. The proud chrome grille, sharper projector headlamps and round foglamps, as well as new bumpers will be augmented by the Alterra's changes for 2009: new color choices, a freshly designed set of rims, as well as extra chrome bits and pieces for the exterior door handles and the power-folding mirrors will further round out the package.
Underneath is still the good-ol' body-on-frame construction with a 146 bhp, 2999cc i-TEQ diesel powering all four wheels. Even though the Alterra makes use of older torsion bar springs and leaf springs (front and back, respectively), the ride (thanks to FlexMOVE technology) is definitely more pliant than its contemporaries, quite close to the comfort-biased Mitsubishi Montero.
With a 3050mm wheelbase, the Alterra could be breaking on through to American full-sizer territory (for reference, the Fortuner: 2750mm, Expedition: 3022mm) but doesn't have as much interior room as them. However, the cabin feels much more voluminous than what the price range and the pick-up-cum-SUV class offers, as there's plenty of legroom for all three rows (especially the 2nd) and even with the 3rd row occupied, significant stowage space remains at the trunk.
Up front, the dash is very tall and truck-like, but the buttons and pertinent controls (A/C, 4WD locking, entertainment) all within convenient reach. In car entertainment has always been an Isuzu forte of late, utilizing the electronic talents of JVC with a tilt-face screen, CD/DVD/MP3/iPod/USB ready system, accompanied by twin headrest mounted monitors with 5.1 surround sound. Impressive indeed, and in itself represents quite a bit of value at the showroom floor. The 4x4 locking controls have to be some of the easiest to use, but I do wish that dated manual aircon controls be replaced with the convenience of automatic climate control.
Safety-wise, Isuzu chose to install dual front airbags, as well as a G-Sensor equipped anti-lock braking system to keep things in control even in emergencies. A video reversing camera integrated with the entertainment system also helps to make parking easier and safer, extremely helpful considering that the Alterra is almost 5 meters long.
Sure, the Alterra now looks and feels older amongst the competition, especially since entirely new models or refreshed versions of existing ones have been infused into the market... but with the combination of the ride comfort, size, space, practicality and entertainment supremacy, Isuzu's 2009 Alterra has what it takes holds its ground.