Topcar Magazine September 2000
The Isuzu KB undoubtedly rates as one of the most popular double cabs on the market.
And in 3,2-litre V6 guise, it has huge performance potential.
But with a simple SAC conversion, it becomes a thrilling, tar-burning, hot hatch-devouring monster … and lots of fun to boot!
With their claimed power output of a class-leading 140kW and a similarly impressive torque peak of 265Nm, Isuzu’s top-range petrol KB models rate among the most popular double cabs on the market.
However, some critisism has been levelled at the KB320 due to its perceived disappointing performance in relation to the V6 engine’s claimed outputs.
In order to liberate the massive potential of the KB320 engine – without incurring huge costs – SAC has developed a simple, yet highly effective conversion that is aimed at creating a useful leap in both power and torque, while also focussing on reliability and affordability.
The SAC KB320 supplied for testing was equipped with a custom-built stainless steel exhaust system, comprising two silencers and stainless steel tail pipe.
The new low-pressure free-flow exhaust is designed to allow improved engine breathing and reduced pressure, which alone allows for greater engine efficiency and higher outputs.
The electronics of the V6 engine are now controlled by the UNICHIP piggyback computer, making it possible to change the engine’s performance, torque and fuel consumption characteristics according to individual driving styles and operating conditions.
Finally, the rear differential ratio has been changed from 4,3:1 to 4,5:1 to enhance outright acceleration and overall tractibility.
And bot does it work! SAC’s dynamometer figures show that power on the rear wheels has leaped from 82kW to 99kW, while torque has jumped from 230Nm to 267Nm.
The difference is immediately noticeable, with the KB exhibiting the kind of acceleration expected of a dedicated racing machine, rather than what is basically a glorified light commercial vehicle!
Whether screwing it on through each of the five gears, or flooring the accelerator at crawling speeds in top gear, the KB leaps forward with astounding eagerness, easily leaving the rest of the commuting brigade choking in your tyre smoke.
A 0-100km/h sprint time of around 10 seconds is the kind of figure expected of cars falling into the ‘hot hatch’ territory, but the SAC Isuzu is capable of charging to 100km/h from standstill in just 10,45 seconds, embarrasing everything but the true top-end performance hatches.
And it doesn’t hide away when it comes to the top-end stuff either, as it’s incredibly easy to bend the speedometer needle right out of shape while attaining a true top speed of 192,3km/h!
While the outright performance – and the extremely entertaining opportunities it presents by destroying the egos of many GTi, GSi, RXi and STi drivers – is invigorating, it’s the KB’s tractibility that is of most6 relevance in everyday use.
The massive torque available at virtually any engine speed allows the KB to pull strongly from low down, while remaining eager and free-revving right to the red line.
This results in impressive in-gear acceleration and the ability to effortlessly maintain decent cruising speeds in top gear up even the steepest of inclines. And this applies especially when exploiting the KB’s load-carrying abilities to the maximum.
Where a change down to fourth gear would be necessary on the standard version, the SAC KB charges along like a fire-breathing bull on heat, with little concern for any obstacles in its way.
There are clear benefits in terms of fuel consumption too, as it isn’t necessary to drive the KB 320 nearly as hard to achieve suitable performance.
Now that we gave the test vehicle much opportunity to reveal its fuel-sipping talents though, as we went the prowl for image-conscious yuppies in their flashy cars…
The cherry on the top of this cake, though, has to be the piercing howl that is produced by the free-flow exhaust as the V6 engine comes on song above 3 500 r/min, singing the sweetest of melodies to the dedicated petrolheads among us!
The SAC KB320 has to be one of the most entertaining and rewarding vehicles we’ve driven in ages, and we want one.
So be wary next time an average-looking KB pulls up next to you at the lights – it may just be one of SAC’s raging bulls!