Although crossovers have practically taken over the market in recent years, precious few of them possess true off-road capabilities of bygone era SUVs. Unibody car/SUV mashup with few extra inches of ground clearance can’t really compete with rugged body-on-frame off-road SUVs of old. But, although off-road enthusiasts would take any classic SUV over comparable modern crossover, not all of them were successful back in the day. Back then, people were still content with their conventional sedans, half-ton pickups and occasional wagon. Choices were limited compared to modern crossover options, yet much more colorful than modern day body-on-frame SUV offering.
This time, we’ll be focusing on some forgotten SUVs and trucks with commendable off-road capabilities. Following nameplates weren’t exactly popular to begin with, so it’s understandable very few people remember them these days. However, they’ve earned their spot in the limitless history pages of former models. If nothing else, then for their off-road capabilities at least. That’s why we feel obliged to mention them every once in a while. Just to save them from oblivion which so often threatens to engulf vehicles like these.
1999-2001 Isuzu VehiCROSS
You don’t often hear about them, but Isuzu Motors are still alive. Barely, though, compared to a time frame of two or three decades ago. They now mostly deal in commercial vehicles, but it wasn’t that long ago they offered a full lineup of passenger cars. One might say Japanese giant is another automaker in the long list of GM casualties, but that’s not the topic this time around.
The topic is Isuzu VehiCROSS – compact V6-powered SUV of immense oddity and potential for becoming a future classic. Why, you might ask? Because there simply weren’t enough cars like these. VehiCROSS shared both its chassis and powertrain with larger and better-known Isuzu Trooper. It was initially marketed in Japan between 1997 and 1999. Back then, it came with smaller 3.2L V6 mill. Only 1,805 of them were produced due to strict Japanese tax regulations. Other 4,153 models were built for the U.S. market between 1999 and 2001. These packed 3.5L V6 with 215 hp and 230 lb-ft of torque. Aside from more than adequate power for a compact, VehiCROSS also boasted rather advanced all-wheel drive system. Even for today’s standards. BorgWarner’s Torque On Demand system consisted of 12 sensors which diverted power to the wheels with the most traction. Under normal condition, though, the system operates in rear-wheel drive mode.
Isuzu VehiCROSS has all the necessary prerequisites for a future classic. It’s long-gone, it’s produced by what’s basically a dead brand in limited numbers, it has unconventional yet still contemporary design, and it’s tough as nails. Not surprising it’s one of the first rare obscured off-road SUVs that come to mind.