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Isuzu Impulse RS

Rsidx1aAfter hearing the news that Isuzu is leaving the North American market, my first instinct was to shrug it off.   I mean, really, who cares? Isuzu hasn't produced anything worth remembering or lusting after in quite a while, and its withdrawal really isn't a big deal in the automotive world; especially compared to other news. 

However, even companies as boring and derivative as Isuzu occasionally still make wonderful vehicles, and to bid Isuzu farewell I thought it necessary to write a Car Lust about one of the greatest hot hatches ever--the Isuzu Impulse RS.

257490497_57ec19ff17_oWhile the first-generation Impulse was pretty cool, it is this second version that really hits the mark; and most people don't even know it exists. What makes it so special? Specs: 160 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, 2,700 pounds, manual only, hood scoop.

Wow.   What's even  more insane is the fact that this car existed before Subaru created the WRX.   Did I mention the suspension was tuned by Lotus?

Unfortunately, these cars are extremely rare; most have been abused in the hands of teenagers and met an untimely demise. Others are rusting away into oblivion. On top of that, parts are relatively hard to find, although there are active support forums for the other people crazy enough to drive these.   

Isuzu_impulseJust look at the styling. It has eyebrows partially concealing the headlights to give it a muscular, aggressive tone; the hood is blessed with a NACA duct for the intercooler.

This car is extremely special. I don't know why, but it affects me. Every time I think about one, my heart rate goes up, and I dream about how much fun it would be to own one.

These originally cost roughly $14,000,and prices now range around $1,000-4,000, which is a bargain. Unfortunately, Isuzu only imported around 1,000 of them to the U.S., so if you've been bitten by the RS bug (I have), good luck finding one. Once I have a garage, you can be sure I'm going to try to find one.

The gorgeous black example is owned by Kip, who has an entire website devoted to RS information, available here. The white one was found on Flickr by user Adams Shoebox, and the red one (which I believe is a regular Impulse) is available on Wikipedia.

-- Rob the SVX Guy


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Great story, Rob! Yes, these are hot cars, and if they are so affordable, why not snag 2 or 3, regardless of wrecked condition, for a parts source?

Sorry to see Isuzu go.

My heart belongs to the first-gen Impulse, but I've always liked these too. I love the stubby, brooding styling. I'm ashamed to say, I had forgotten that these were available in AWD.

There is a Geo Storm in my neighborhood that has been unfortunately abused - but every time I walk by it in a parking lot I smile. The Storm and Impulse were cute little cars, and the Impulse RS packed a very respectable punch.

AWD, a Lotus suspension, and a curb weight of only 2700 pounds? I could go for that. Oh yeah, I could go for that!

Ummm... May I point out that this is a fastback HATCH! NICE!!!

My aunt had an Impulse RS. she got it after she finally got tired of her Porsche 944. i don't remember her ever missing the 944 :)

It's time that Isuzu gave up in the US. they have been pretty much been selling reheated GM crap for the last few years (esp after the end of the passport and axiom) so its no big loss. perhaps, shorn of their connection with the now-struggling GM they can re-enter the US market in a few years with their own vehicles (kei-cars perhaps?)

I was going to get one of those "Suspension by Lotus" placards for my 1992 Isuzu Trooper II - but my daughter-in-law drove it into a tree and demolished it. . .

My mom had a Geo Storm that was of the same generation - it has 170,000 miles on it and couldn't steer in a straight line to save its life. I'm not sure what was wrong with the steering, exactly; my suspicion was that I would've been better off figuring out what was RIGHT with it since it would have been a shorter list.

That said, when I was in college, she let me drive it for a week while she was out of town. My favorite moment in that thing was when a late '80s Civic CRX pulled up next to me with a couple of teens in it. It had gray primer paint and was about as knackered as the black Storm I was riding around in. At first, the Civic and I passed each other between lights - we just kept getting the jump on each other due to timing. Then, we both finally had to stop at the same light. He revved his engine. I laughed and revved mine. The light turned green and we both punched it. I nearly wet myself when the steering, being vague and shot as it was, nearly caused me to careen into... well, just about everything that wasn't directly in front of me. But, I was able to keep it together and, in surprisingly short order, got past that Civic. I still remember seeing their disappointed looks in the rear view mirror.

The moral of the story, of course, is that the fastest car in the world is a rental. The second-fastest, on the other hand, is your parent's.

Ack. Spell check! Will fix tonight!

Kinda makes you wonder why Isuzu didn't whore out the RS goodies to Chevy for the Storm, where it would've sold much better as a top-line model. And if they offered it in the wagon-back body, well...let the drooling begin.

There's a Geo Storm in my neighborhood with the wagon-back body attachment on it.

One of the windows is smashed out. Not badly knackered other than that, at least on the outside. Anyone want me to act as an agent and make an offer for you?

No, geo storms are lame. They have wimpy engines and they're FWD and they lack a turbo or intercooler. Oh, and no lotus suspension.

So if you take everything cool about an impulse, and remove it... you end up with a storm. Love the impulse, dislike the storm. :)

i must say that these cars are definitely a good piece of automotive history. doesn't mean our forum or love for working on the cars are dead.

i forgot to add - yes, Kip has done a LOT for the isuzu community. His car was also known as "Black Sunshine" and is considered a legend among impulse owners. All of those pictures are members from that forum.

As far as knocking the storm, you can make a transplant with the drivetrain from an RS to a storm. why would you do that? simply if the RS is too rusted out and you don't have another RS to put it in.

When's the last time you've seen a storm hit 160mph? :)

I have one with a t3/t4 turbo upgrade, I love it.

The RS looks are ok, but the tech under the hood is most impressive. My RS powered Storm enjoys the tech, and looks pretty good considering that it is 18 years old and still turns heads. The originality and beauty of these cars will increase over the years, too bad the value is still rock-bottom.

It's great to see an article about the [long forgotten] Isuzu Impulse. They really are great cars, but due to so many being ragged out, and well, over 18 years old, it's hard to find one that isn't scratched up and leaking oil.

I'm kind of sad to see Isuzu leave the US, but glad at the same time. GM did Isuzu wrong for many years and I hope one day that Isuzu will come back with a modern Impulse to help kick start the market... Oh well, at least we still have their awesome medium-duty trucks (NPR-esque whatever they are called).

ive owned several first generation impulses my latest being a 89 turbo 800 shipped to the us in 89. i have owned two 91 rs's liked them both. great cars and awesome head turners. parts are hard to find for both my 89 and and 91's i had but my heart is with my 89. the first gens grow on you after a bit. with being rwd and limited slip, 2,800lbs makes drifting fun.

It looks nice, but similar to other Japanesse 2-doors : Subarus, Celicas...(and maybe a little bit of Olds Cutlass from 90-ties..)
I don like asimetrical hood-vent..
I like 2 door WRX I've found on Your great blog :)

this black one (first picture) looks nice, though

What? No mention of the Isuzu Stylus? It's essentially the same car except it's a sedan and the DOHC engine is sans-turbo. Other than that, it's identical, lotus tuned suspension and all. Think 2nd generation I-Mark RS.

Here's mine:
I only drive it in the summer

Great website guys...Keep up the great posts!

I remember reading about this when they were being made. Apparently every time Lotus made a suspension tweak, the Isuzu guys would say "oh, that's a great idea!" and copy it for the non-Lotus model. Finally, the Lotus guys had to tell them to knock off the knocking off -- they'd been hired to make a Lotus version of the car, not Lotus up the entire line, and every time Lotus commandeered their work, they'd have to go back to the drawing board for something new and exclusive.


There needs to be better pictures of better examples of the impulse on this page.

To rob the svx guy: take the goods from the RS and slap it in the Geo Storm and you'll have a fast, better handling car with better aerodynamics to boot.

Jay Tea: please let me correct you. Lotus was hired to tweak the suspension on some of the cars in the Isuzu lineup. In return, they got to use the same motor from the Impulse RS to put in the Elan M100. As far as people using lotus parts to spruce up the non-lotus models, what's wrong with wanting more performance? Maybe putting exclusive parts on a non-exclusive car will make that car more exclusive than either of the two in stock form.

I have got an impulse xs in Hungary and i like it very much! Von't you buy it? Nice and good!

I had an Isuzu Impulse...It was my first car. I bought it used off a guy that owned a "tint" shop. It was blue. It was in great condition. I was only 17 at the time and bought it for 2,500 bucks! I couldn't believe that "lotus" tuned the suspension! I fell in love w/ the car when i first laid eyes on it but seeing those 2 little "green Lotus"decals on each side made it look that much better! The car would turn on a dime! I also loved the fact that it had a sports shifter. Too bad i sold it to my neice for next to nothing. I'd love to find another one...i've only seen 2 of these in my life! The one i had an a beat up white one. I miss you IMPULSE!

i'm in process of doing body work on my RS right now. it's gonna be hot!

Wow, I always thought my Storm was rare, at least when it got to be about 15 years old and the other ones in my area started dropping out of sight.

I found this site by Googling on the Impulse, because I thought I had 'forgotten' what they looked like. Nope, I had/have never seen one in real life before!! Amazing.

I have been aware of the Impulse/Stylus because of all my parts hunting for my Storm. In fact, part of why I looked up the Impulse was because I have recently acquired a near-mint 91 Impulse gastank. How is that for cool? They never made aftermarket gastanks for the Impulse or Storm, I am so lucky to have found it!

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