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The Impulse RS is the Opposite of Everything Isuzu is Remembered For.

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author photo by Will Kinton November 2016

When you think of Isuzu, you probably think of trucks, SUVs and Honda Passports. What you don't usually think of is an all-wheel-drive turbocharged sports coupe, with handling developed by Lotus. But that's exactly what the 1990-1992 Impulse RS was.

The Impulse RS came at a time when GM owned both Lotus and Isuzu -- and therefore, it's a bit of a mind meld between the two brands. The engine was a 1.6-liter turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder that made 160 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. This power, combined with the rear-biased AWD and 2700-pound curb weight, allowed the Impulse RS to hit 60 in 7 seconds, which was faster than the contemporary Mustang GT and Toyota Supra Turbo. It could also stop quicker than a Lamborghini Diablo, which was really impressive for the time.

Furthermore, the "Handling by Lotus" badge prominently placed on the Impulse RS's fenders wasn't a falsification -- Lotus was tapped to develop the suspension of the Impulse RS, and they gave the car softer springs, stiffer dampers and wider sway bars. The Impulse also featured a passive rear-wheel steering system that would change the toe angle through suspension travel, allowing it to handle mountain roads quite well.

The Impulse RS looked great, too -- at least in my opinion. The styling was done by Shiro Nakamura, who later left Isuzu to be the chief creative officer at Nissan. Nakamura was inspired by design cues from classic GM cars of the 1960s and 70s, and the Impulse RS's mean-looking face was new and different at a time when the Miata was brand-spanking-new. It even managed to look different from the Geo Storm, which was effectively a cheaper Impulse with no turbocharger or all-wheel drive.

Today, the Impulse RS is incredibly rare. Isuzu only built 802 of them, with 602 for the U.S. and 200 for Canada. Today, only 130 Impulse RS models are known to be working by the car's community -- and many Impulse RS enthusiasts have a couple of the non-working cars to cannibalize for spares. Thankfully, though, these enthusiasts are passionate about keeping their oddball Isuzus on the road. The world is a better place with them.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The Impulse RS is the Opposite of Everything Isuzu is Remembered For. - Autotrader