We drove our test vehicle all over Southern California, from suburban San Diego County up the clogged freeways to the crowded downtown streets of Los Angeles. We checked out the outback of the San Bernardino National Forest east of Los Angeles. And we drove one around the Yellowstone country. The Rodeo handled all of that with style and ease.
On the daily commute, the Rodeo is tall enough to provide good visibility on crowded freeways. It rides nice and handles well. The Rodeo offers excellent stability at high speeds. Noise has been reduced through improved door sealing, better airflow management and reduced engine noise, but there's still a fair amount of wind noise.
The Rodeo feels solid and secure. The steering is precise and responsive, making lane changes quick and easy. The suspension feels taut and the Rodeo turns crisply through sharp curves on back roads. It tracks straight, making it a pleasure for highway cruising. The V6 and automatic are responsive, definite pluses on the freeways and urban streets. On the tough streets of downtown Los Angeles, the Rodeo reported potholes with a bit more authority than your average sport sedan, but nothing like the buckboard-ride some SUVs deliver.
The fun side of the Rodeo came out then we tackled some rough, unpaved trails in the San Bernardino Mountains. We cruised through some bumpy country in 2WD before we switched to 4WD-high to transverse more rugged trails. Some of the steep, rocky tracks were rough enough to force us into 4WD-low. The Rodeo literally walked through it all without batting a headlight. It handles well on smooth dirt roads. Drive into a corner too fast and, predictably, the front end gives up traction before the rear, making it easy to correct. The brakes work well, bringing the Rodeo to a quick stop with little drama.
Rodeo's agile handling and stable braking are benefits of its relatively low weight. Our 4x4 LS checked in at 3,926 pounds. That compares favorably against a Mitsubishi Montero Sport, which tops 4,200 pounds. Isuzu's engineers strove to hold weight down while maintaining optimal structural rigidity.