The impressive Isuzu Bighorn SUV has been one of the Isuzu highlights in its range since the 1980s. The car itself hasn’t only been a JDM model, of course. Many people in the world know this car not as the Bighorn, but rather as the Isuzu Trooper.
When it was launched in Japan, the Bighorn was touted as one of Japan’s great off-road vehicles. Ads featured the Bighorn sailing across desert landscapes and scaling rugged terrain. This is how the Bighorn entered the world, and over the many years of its existence this SUV has continually managed to impress drivers across the world, whichever marque they were driving.
The popularity of the Bighorn means that JDM models are readily available, including different colours and specifications. Read on to learn more about this fantastic JDM model.
Key Stats for the Isuzu Bighorn
First Generation (5-door, 1981-1991)
Wheelbase: 2,650mm (104.3”)
Length: 4,380mm (172.4”)
Width: Max 1,650mm (65”)
Height: Max. 1830mm (72”)
Second Generation (5-door, 1991-2002)
Wheelbase: 2,761mm (108.7”)
Length: 4,661mm (183.5”)
Width: 1,745mm (68.7” – 1992-1994); 1,834 (72.2” – Post 1995)
Height: 1,849 (72.8” – 1992-1994); 1.834 (72.2” – Post 1995)
For both generations, the fuel efficiency reached 16mpg in the city, and 19mpg countryside.
The Bighorn came to us in 1981 and through it’s 21-year production lifespan came two generations. The first generation was produced between 1981 and 1991, and the second from 1991 to 2002.
Despite the considerable fanfare, the very first iteration of the Bighorn wasn’t such a major player in terms of power or ability. It first emerged as a somewhat basic and even underwhelming SUV, which contrasted somewhat with the enlarged and powerful-looking exterior. Over the years, it evolved to include greater power, as well as new amenities and luxuries, which eventually made it a major rival to other popular SUVs like the Jeep and the Range Rover.
The Bighorn model became an internationally popular model, though the name and exact specifications were different. In the Japanese domestic market, the Bighorn did well, but it was named the Trooper in other markets, notably the US and Canada.
The first generation of Bighorn was somewhat underwhelming to some. It emerged as a 3-door wagon, but a 5-door version with a longer wheelbase soon appeared. Speaking of changing lengths, the name also experienced a change, starting out in Japan as the “Isuzu Rodeo Bighorn” before quickly being shortened to simply the Isuzu Bighorn.
The Bighorn at first had a 1.95L petrol engine, and a somewhat more powerful 2.2L diesel engine delivering 73 PS. As this category of vehicle went, even in the early 1980s, this was not a very powerful drivetrain.
The first big change came in 1986 when the company introduced a more powerful 2.3L petrol engine that could manage 112 PS (110hp). The timing belt was also upgraded to a Kevlar version, and the carburettor, too, became two cylinders.
More powerful engines came in the following years, and with the second-generation machine. For instance, 1987 brought a 2.6L I-TEC fuel-injected engine to the international versions. The second generation (starting in 1991) was also blessed with engines breaking the 3.0L barrier. These later engines also brought further innovations like the pushrod overhead valves. Through the 1990s, the Bighorn steadily became a fan favourite for its power and performance.
The first Bighorn did have 4WD, but you had to engage it via a 3-position shifter next to the main transmission shifter. It also featured auto-locking hubs, as well as manual locking built by Aisin.
Even by the mid-1990s, most models were still using this system type, requiring the driver to stop the vehicle to engage or disengage the front axle for 4WD mode. Some models produced after 1996 did feature a “shift-on-the-fly” system that removed the need to stop, but it was never mainstream.
As mentioned above, the design was fairly straightforward when the Bighorn was first released, but the model received a number of facelifts and upgrades over the years. The story of the Bighorn was that of a car evolving from pure function and rugged off-road looks to a more contemporary SUV that featured greater power as well as creature comforts and style points.
Some examples of design changes include changing from round headlights to rectangular ones in 1987
The Bighorn – The Stuff of JDM Legend
This iconic, rugged and matter-of-fact SUV is a great development story that typifies the Japanese culture of innovation and adaptation. Just as its home country has had to adapt to its changing position, the Bighorn has also evolved into a global SUV icon. Its’ no wonder, therefore that buyers are still expressing interest in this vehicle, even nearly two decades after the last ones came off the production line.
If you’re after a JDM Isuzu Bighorn, get in touch and we can show you our inventory. Make the Bighorn your next family-car purchase.