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1999 Acura SLX Overview
For most consumers, buying a sport- utility vehicle for its off-road capabilities is like saying you live in New York City because it's the kind of town where you can go out for Chinese food at four o'clock in the morning: No one ever does it, but it's nice to know you could if you wanted to. Because the fact is, only 5% of sport-ute drivers actually take their vehicles off-road--but, you know, they can if they want to. Therein lies the paradox facing sport-utility designers. The dimensions of these vehicles--which are taller, wider, boxier and rougher-riding than sedans and coupes--clearly have off-roading in mind. But since most folks only drive them on paved roads, designers must consider other factors like ride smoothness, performance, styling, luxury amenities and overall comfort. Consequently, these big babies are rife with compromises. But it's obvious that buyers don't really care: Sport-utes continue to be the fastest-growing segment of the automotive market. Which brings us to the new-for-1996 Acura SLX--a luxury-equipped, new-and-improved version of the Isuzu Trooper, the best-selling import sport-ute ever. The Trooper is the second Isuzu vehicle scooped up by Honda Motor, which wanted a piece of the burgeoning sport-ute action faster than it could design and bring its own entry to market. First Honda inked a deal with Isuzu that rebadged the Isuzu Rodeo as a Honda Passport. Now, it's arranged for Isuzu to build the Trooper with an Acura nameplate--but not before sprucing it with some upmarket amenities. Which is saying something, since the Trooper is posh to begin with. Since the SLX is designed to compete with vehicles like the Range Rover and the new Lexus LX 450, most of these goodies--including 4-wheel drive--come standard, and our SLX Premium test model, with its $38,000 pricetag, features an exceptionally long list of standard equipment, which is listed in the data panel.