The 90s were the decade when people finally started to forget about the Age of Uneasiness and started talking about power again. But it was also around this time that interest in sedans began to wane, making it the decade of the SUV boom.
While everyone wanted a large family car, automakers turned to producing SUVs by the dozen. A lot of really cool and tough SUVs came out in the 90s and some of those nameplates are still around. On the flip side, a lot of weird SUVs have also popped up, especially when it comes to looks and features, as every automaker wanted their SUV to be in the spotlight.
Not all designs have worked, however, as sometimes the enthusiasm for doing different things leads to a mixed bag of results. So here are 10 of the weirdest SUVs from the 90s that you might not have heard of or seen much about.
Isuzu VehiCROSS: the vampire SUV
The VehiCROSS was a two-door made by Isuzu and perhaps one of the reasons this Japanese automaker rose and left American shores. With an odd bumper design, horns on the headlights, fangs on the grille, and gray plastic all over the exterior, this was an odd SUV.
The aftermarket fits into a weirdly curved tailgate and to top it off the key fob has a tailgate button that did absolutely nothing. Maybe that’s the inspiration behind the Pontiac Aztek, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Toyota RAV4 Cabriolet: the soft-top SUV
Toyota is an undeniable feat of the 4X4. So, once Toyota decided to make a RAV4 convertible. Why? Because they weren’t sure a compact SUV would sell and decided that shelf safety for a soft top SUV was the perfect answer. It was unpopular, of course.
Getting an otherwise safe SUV to have a soft top, leaving your noggin exposed to serious crash damage hasn’t been very well thought out by Toyota. Of course, the “normal” hardtop RAV4 managed to fix things.
Mercury Mountaineer: the Too Me-Too SUV
When you build a rebadged vehicle, you have to make the effort to give each of the four wheels its own identity. Like the Mercury Cougar and the Ford Mustang. But when Mercury decided he wanted his own Ford Explorer, they made the Mountaineer with a new but not much different grille.
It looked like such a blatant copy of the Ford Explorer that consumers decided they’d rather have the real thing and the Mountaineer was left to flounder in dealerships. In addition, the front seats with integrated headrests were more irritating than comfortable.
Pontiac Sunrunner: a pint of an SUV
In case you’re wondering why the Pontiac Sunrunner sounds so familiar to you, we’ve got a few names for you. Think of the Geo Tracker and the Suzuki Sidekick. Just another prime example of GM’s decision to rebadge a car in any way it could, the Pontiac Sunrunner was sold in Canada, after GM abandoned the Asuna brand almost as soon as it got it back.
Horsepower was decent from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine considering the small size of the car. Not a big hit, but a sure eye catcher today if you see one.
GMC Typhoon: the GMC Syclone SUV
The GMC Typhoon was the SUV version of the performance pickup that the GMC Syclone was and just like the truck, it could also sprint from 0 to 60 MPH in 5.3 seconds. For the early 90s it was awesome. But it has remained a halo vehicle and not a big seller.
The idea of an SUV at the time was a gradual evolution of a family vehicle, so no one really wanted to be tackled in the seats with massive acceleration with kids in the car. Plus, in the name of style, it all looked like a box on wheels.
Acura SLX: the badly rebadged SUV
The Acura SLX was Acura’s desperate decision to get a big SUV in their lineup, but instead of building one for themselves, they went to Isuzu and got themselves a Trooper. Literally. Isuzu was generous enough to give the Trooper to everyone who wanted one, from Honda, Chevrolet, and even Holden in Australia.
Acura tried to fill it with luxury, but the look was clearly that of the Trooper. Later, Acura added even more visual cues to the car, but the consumer was familiar with the skeleton inside and chose other SUVs instead.
Daihatsu Rocky: a difficult start and end
The Daihatsu Rocky was part of a slew of weird ’90s SUVs, including the Suzuki Sidekick, Geo Tracker, and even the Suzuki Samurai. Today, very few would remember this car as it is little sold and there is barely enough left.
It was a tough ride, with a short wheelbase but a high ride height, and passengers bounced in pleasant discomfort on less than stellar roads. Plus, it came with a hardtop or a soft top, in case you really want to live life dangerously.
Suzuki X-90: a truck-built SUV
The Suzuki X-90 was a barely there Kei small SUV, built on the chassis of a pickup. Honestly, it looked like a roller skate with its narrow wheelbase and rather high height. A two-seater SUV (wait, is that a thing?) With the semblance of cargo space, this subcompact vehicle was the strangest the ’90s had with automotive design.
Of course, sometimes the weird gets cute and today an X-90 on the road is likely to have all eyes on it, most of the eyes sticking out of its head. But frankly, it’s not a car that everyone needs.
Lamborghini LM002: the SUV that was a truck
If there ever was an SUV that only used the straightest lines possible, completely avoiding curves, it was the Rambo Lambo, aka Lamborghini LM0002. Lambo called it an SUV although there is an open bed in the back, so you technically call it a pickup or an SUT.
It was a crew cab pickup that carried Countach’s V12 and came from 1986 to 1993 and was a high performance four wheel drive that put out 444 horsepower. Lambo valued him at $ 120,000 and made him so nervous he might cut.
Isuzu Amigo: not a friend in need
The Isuzu Amigo, known as MU in Japan, came with optional power steering, and that says a lot. A basic, affordable SUV where air conditioning was only available in top trims, the Amigo’s convertible top option tended to wear off at the dealerships themselves.
Not particularly well built, it was nonetheless an affordable option for the younger ones, some of whom made the mistake of buying one. It was just another oddity back in the weird ’90s era, especially in the auto market.
Sources: TopGear, MotorTrend
Pickup trucks are perhaps the most beloved automotive segment in America, there are a lot of cool trucks that we can never drive in America.
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