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Isuzu FTR Test Drive Addresses 4-Cylinder Engine Questions

June 8, 2017

By Chris Brown

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Photo: Chris Brown
Photo: Chris Brown

This week, Isuzu Commercial Truck of America offered the 2018 Isuzu FTR Class 6 cabover for limited driving at an event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Similar events, attended by dealer sales, service, and parts staff; fleet customers, and media, were held in Chicago and New York.

The redesigned Isuzu FTR is available for the first time since the model line was discontinued in 2009.

The event, attended by Bobit editors of Work Truck Magazine, Heavy Duty Trucking, and Business Fleet Magazine, included a business briefing and product demonstration followed by closed-track test drives of the 2018 Isuzu FTR against competitive trucks. The tests included a cone course designed to exhibit the FTR’s handling and maneuverability and a timed “drag race” with competitive vehicles at maximum GVWR. 

The 2018 Isuzu FTR, rated at 25,950 lbs. GVWR, is available in one powerplant configuration, a 5.2L four-cylinder engine with an Allison six-speed transmission. The FTR is rated at 215 standard horsepower and 520 lbs-ft. standard torque.

At the business briefing, Shaun Skinner, president of Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, highlighted the expected sales growth of the medium-duty segment in conjunction with U.S. population growth that will concentrate on urban centers. “The FTR is designed to meet the needs of moving cargo in urban centers,” Skinner said.

Isuzu also unveiled results of comparative road tests conducted by Flexible Force LLC, an independent automotive testing and training company, in December 2016. The “blind comparative” tests,  certified by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), measured the FTR’s performance in acceleration, braking, turning radius, and fuel economy.

The FTR was tested against current models of Kenworth K270, Navistar 4300, Hino 268A, Freightliner M2, and Ford F-650.

All vehicles were loaded to exactly 25,975 lbs., according to Roger Johnson, owner of Flexible Force LLC. The tests were conducted on a city route of 120.7 miles with 24 stops and a mountain route with a 6.5% grade and climbs from 1,500 ft. to 4,500 ft.

A cone course designed to exhibit the FTR’s handling and maneuverability was set up at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Photo: Steven Martinez
A cone course designed to exhibit the FTR’s handling and maneuverability was set up at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Photo: Steven Martinez

Of the six vehicles, the FTR placed third and fourth in acceleration tests of varying miles-per-hour limits. In two braking tests, the FTR placed fourth and tied for third place. The FTR placed first in turning radius. Measuring fuel economy, the FTR won first place in both the mountain and city routes. In the city route, the FTR beat the next competitor by 16.1% and 22.3% over the last place finisher.

“People that spend time in (medium-duty) trucks, their expectations have traditionally been that they’re going to run a six cylinder,” Johnson said. “You didn’t expect to run a four-cylinder; the technology just wasn’t there.”

Johnson said the industry has seen incremental improvements in performance, emissions, and fuel economy with six-cylinder engines. “The next step in that improvement is displacement,” he said. “I believe in six to eight years a four-cylinder engine will be standard in Class 6. There is no comparative decrease in performance in a four-cylinder diesel truck engine today.”

Production of the 2018 Isuzu FTR began May 8 at Isuzu’s Charlotte, Michigan, plant. Isuzu expects to ship orders in mid-June.

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