Take a look at this hood intake … any idea what car it belongs to?
You’d probably go through a lot of guesses before arriving at the answer. One more hint.
The Isuzu Impulse – this one a RS with a turbo and all wheel drive. Now a mostly forgotten obscurity but on paper at least seemed to have the goods. 160hp from a 1.6L turbocharged and intercooled four cylinder with double overhead cams. Add in the all wheel drive which was heady stuff for the very dawn of the 90s. A badge promising handling by Lotus seems to seal the deal. So why is this not a sought after classic? The Subaru WRX, Mitsubishi EVO, heck even the Eagle Talon/Plymouth Lazer are the things of adolescent (and adolescent at heart) dreams. Well for one the turbo, awd had a very short life span. One year in fact which means the front wheel drive, normally aspired siblings over shadow it.
Styling is an acquired taste but I rather like it but I’m usually attracted to “interesting” designs. The front half hidden headlights pay homage to the original rear wheel drive Piazza (this one is known as the Piazza outside North America). From the rear it looks a bit stubby but that can probably attributed to sharing the GM R-body platform but again the rear lights certainly carry on the earlier Piazza styling cues.
This car might be most famous for its “Handling by Lotus” badge. GM was heavily invested in Lotus and Isuzu during this time period so it makes a lot of sense that Lotus would use the Isuzu engine for its Elan and perhaps as part of that deal Lotus tuned the suspension on the Impulse. It was not Lotus designed suspension but they did specify different springs, shocks and anti-roll bars. Suspension wise the Impulse also had passive rear steering which was in vogue for Japanese manufacturers at the time.
For Canada this was also sold very briefly as the Asüna Sunfire. Pictures are hard to track down but here is one.
Photo by Fandangoscrap
Confusingly Isuzu vehicles where also sold by Passport dealers in Canada around this time too. This ad from Hugo 90‘s collection.
Image by Hugo 90
So is this car headed for collector car status or an interesting novelty? While I’d love to say collector car I don’t think it will. Why? When new these didn’t attract a ton of attention good or bad so I don’t see that changing now that its numbers are dwindling. As well Isuzu isn’t exactly a huge name in cars at least. Most people probably think of SUVs and the Trooper specifically when thinking of Isuzu. Which is a shame because Isuzu has made a few interesting cars along the way.