Let me introduce you to what could be the least logical new car purchase of 2017, the Isuzu Panther. This is a car made by Astra Isuzu and famously holds the slogan “Rajanya Diesel” which in English means “The King of Diesels”. Of course, that slogan is one tall summit to climb and even harder to prove to its loyal Isuzu Panther fandom, PantherMania.
With the presence of PantherMania a real thing, this Isuzu Panther must be one hell of a car. And, as a matter of fact, the current generation of the Panther, commonly named the “Capsule” Panther from its considerably rounder body design compared to its predecessor, has been on sale since late 2000. I am not joking, before I was even born until today, I’m almost 16 years old, this same car has been on sale. It is one absolute achievement to manage to sell the exact same car for 17 years consecutively with just putting some frosty facelifts from time to time, or is it?
The Panther Grand Touring packs up a very utilitarian design. A very ready-to-go offroad design that works really, really well until today. And the 2017 model has a facelift design that originates back to 2011. 6 years of not changing a thing! How the hell do people still vaguely even get interested in the Panther today to a point where Astra Isuzu just won’t stop selling them even without any major upgrade for 6 years?
Well, actually, I tell a lie, because in 2014, there was a redesign of the Panther, very specifically on the Grand Touring model.
Before the 2014 redesign, all Panther Grand Touring models feature a rear-mounted spare wheel. It was a design of its own when it comes to distinguish the Grand Touring models from the lesser LS, LV, and Touring models at the time.
All of this seemed to look like a great idea,and it was! From others’ experience, the rear spare wheel mount was a very little disturbance when it comes to parking maneuverability, which says a lot considering the size of that wheel. It all changed in 2014 when after many complains were thrown to Isuzu regarding the structural rigidity of the wheel mount. The problem it created varied but most of the complains reported many issues surrounding the door hinges. Isuzu could’ve solved the problem by maybe creating different, stronger hinges for the Grand Touring models but nope, they decided to remove the rear tyre mount completely.
This created various feedbacks from various accounts. On one hand, the general masses were happy with the new update regarding the deletion of the rear door mounted spare tire to improve rear visibility and getting rid of the hinge rigidity issues, while the general Panther enthusiasts were pretty damn disappointed.
I won’t blame them, because with the removal of the rear spare tire mount, the Grand Touring just lost about 50% of its distinguishing exterior design and with it, removing the “macho” design that was very associated with the Grand Touring Panthers in the past. I applaud Isuzu’s effort to make amends with the deletion of the very distinctive rear spare tire mount by giving the Grand Touring’s new rear door a “bulky” look, albeit by not very much different from the standard LS model.
Well, enough with the back, the rest of the car features a utilitarian design language, as this car was originally designed as fleet cars. What Isuzu did to make it appeal to regular customers was they garnished it continually from its first production until today and this year’s facelift came from 2014 which featured a chromed grille and chromed foglight ring, and overall, a garnished fleet car.
This picture was taken in a 2013 Isuzu Panther. Yes, you heard me, 2013. This is taken from an LS model, which is the upper-middle trim level of the Panther. I know, I know, it doesn’t look 2013 anywhere at all. The interior looks like it came from the late 90’s because, well, it is from the 90’s. The only big difference from the late 90’s interior is probably the fact that you can now have a two-tone black and beige interior. Mind you, the “black” comes from the exquisitely crafted hard plastics.
Oh, and do you see that little upper storage compartment on the passenger side? Well, you might be thinking “Cool, they hid the airbags under that storage,” let me tell you it doesn’t. It doesn’t have passenger side airbags. Hell, even the driver doesn’t get airbags! None. None. Side curtain airbags? Don’t even hope. Well, at least it has side impact beams…wait it doesn’t. This is 2013, by the way. By which time even the cheap cars in Indonesia has airbags for the front occupants. The Panther? Nope. Even until 2017 it doesn’t even have airbags.
Well, okay, you might think since this is an off-road oriented car, it should come with many off roading electronic assists? Nope. Not even hill start assists are here. Anti lock brakes? Nope. Traction control? Nope. Power steering? Hydraulic. Vehicle stability control? Very frighteningly, nope. Does it have rear brake disks? Nope, just drum brakes.
Okay, I’m not getting the fancy features, but, at least can I have dual-zone climate contr-Nope. Is it automatic? Nope. Okay, please, does it have soft-touch panels? No, no, no, don’t even try to find said soft touch panels.
Alright, sure, from its design, both outside and inside, the Panther is just some ancient car model that has managed to stay in production without big improvements by capitalising Indonesia’s loose safety regulations.
Oh, and I have to mention its third row seat. Or to call it more appropriately, bench. Unless your arsecheeks are as flat as airport runways, there’s no way you are going to feel comfortable in any way, shape, or form.
Think about it, the Panther is an all back to basic offroad small diesel SUV that takes a no-frills approach to the car market. Sounds like a great, cheap alternative to the likes of Toyota’s Rush and single cabin Hilux, right? Well…
After reading the previous part of this article, in which I wrote about the features (or the lack thereof) of the highest trim level Panther, you’d think this car will cost you next to none. Well, prepare to be astonished. Kind of. Not in a particularly good way, either.
These will set you a rather expensive (for us little Indonesian) IDR313,500,000 or US$21,945. And, consider this, many used Panther GTs go for less than IDR200,000,000.
And yes, our currency is that worthless.
Let me get this summarized: For $22,000, you get 0 airbags, 1 zone climate control, manual transmission, a structure that can be traced to almost 20 years ago, no traction control, no ABS, not even a damn hill start assist nor hill descent assist.
For a nicer picture, let’s compare the Panther with an actually new, and slightly cheaper diesel compact SUV, the Renault Duster. Which, by the way, starts at IDR280,000,000
For starters, let’s take a look at its safety and security features.
Duster has it, Panther does not.
Duster has front airbags, Panther has a steering wheel and a dashboard.
3. Brake Assist
Duster has Brake assist, Panther has your foot.
A clear victory for the Franco-Romanian car to the Indo-Japanese.
What about entertainment features? Surely it’s not going to be that bad. Right?
Not even gonna try…
2. Double din audio
Duster has it, Panther has not.
Duster has it, Panther has an AM/FM radio.
Okay, you get it, it’s a piece of shit compared to the Renault Duster. But there is still one question regarding its fandom, the PantherMania. Why? Why do they love this car so much?
This. This is the absolute reason to why this car was, and still is, adored to hundreds of thousands of people in this 17,000 island archipelago. You just have to experience travelling in one.
Let’s start with efficiency. The 2.5L Diesel 4 inline engine was, at the time of its launched, the most powerful and efficient engine in my country’s SUV market. As people in Indonesia couldn’t give a care about power, I’ll start with the efficiency. For the 2007 onwards model with the turbo engine, you are getting 15km/l in stop-go gridlock. In a gridlocked Jakarta! Just imagine what it can do on highway. This massive efficiency in a 7-seater is what got this SUV its well deserved popularity. Of course, the Panther has somewhat lost its popularity in Jakarta in favor of Toyota’s newer compact SUV, Rush (also rebadged as the Daihatsu Terios, which is a Daihatsu Be-go in Japan, rebadged as Terios due to the word Be-go is pronounced the same as “Bego” which translates to “Dumbass” in Indonesian).
The 20 kgm (196 nm) of torque that comes at a lowly 1700 rpm really helps the drivability in this car. In stop-go traffic, you can easily stay in 2nd gear without having to worry about stalling the car. This further improves the fuel economy.
This amount of torque also helps the Panther off road, where a lot of its buyers in forest areas make use of its capability dealing with treacherous terrains. The climbing power of the Panther is unmatched in its category (I will have to mention the Nissan Terrano, Ford Ranger and the Mitsubishi Triton are the Panther’s closest rival in its price and specification category).
Panther’s incredible suspension travel, its almost instantaneous torque, and soft dampers do help it off road. However, the soft damper does give something named “bodyroll” a disturbing presence on road. You just can’t help yourself from hoping that you won’t have to do a high speed change of direction or else you are almost guaranteed to end up with your roof on the asphalt. But not all of it is bad, though, since you can glide your way through the battered roads of Indonesia without feeling anything.
The Isuzu Panther is one capable car at, basically everything you throw at it. However, I will say, don’t buy this car brand new unless you really have to because, as you may know, is not worth it. 300 million and all you get is a not-too-pleasant time capsule from 17 years ago.
Adhitya Rates: 5.5/10 (And I’m being nice)