The 1990s were like a turning point for the automotive industry. It was then that cars began to feel considerably safer and more reliable than before. You will find tons of Japanese or even American or European classic cars from the 90s that have earned “Lasts Forever” status in terms of reliability. In the 1990s, the bright heads of the automotive industry finally developed the technology to meet emissions regulations. The service life of the motors has therefore increased significantly. Modern features like ABS or traction control weren’t too complicated, so there were fewer parts to lose. The 90s also saw the rise in popularity of SUVs over sedans and coupes.
Automakers get it, and we’ve seen a lot of SUVs come out one after another. These big vehicles were pretty decent, for the most part. But we can’t choose one blindly and assume it will be very reliable. That would be silly. Of course, there are SUVs we wouldn’t want to own even if we got them for free. The number of visits to a repair shop and the cost of maintenance are too high for some of these machines. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from, so here are 9 such vehicles, plus one popular SUV you should avoid.
ten 1990-2016 Land Rover Defender
This one is for all off-road enthusiasts. The Land Rover Defender takes the U of the SUV to the next level. Yes, that’s about as utilitarian as it gets for off-roading. You can compare it to the Wrangler, which is good.
But the Jeep is about recreation and lifestyle, while the Defender is about going where other vehicles can’t. Old Defenders are rare in the United States, but if you happen to find one, don’t ignore it. They can take hits and carry on, which is very essential for what they built in the first place.
9 1992—2006 Hummer H1
We understand that today the Hummer is one of the most criticized and condemned vehicles of all time. But in the 90s, they were as popular as The Simpsons. These things served in the army, so they had to be strong, powerful and reliable.
For the civilian version, Am General gave it softer springs, a more comfortable interior (or a real interior to be frank). And they removed the plates that increased the payload capacity. The result was that people could now get a taste of the power and utility the military was getting, and people loved it.
8 1991-1999 Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero
Nowadays, it is difficult to write about Mitsubishi without remembering its glorious past. For some of us, the Pajero (or Montero in the US) was one of the first cars to give SUVs a cool look. Even Jackie Chan couldn’t resist showing them in his films.
The Montero came to the States with a racing origin and some serious off-road chops. Therefore, it was great both on-road and off-road. It was Japanese so it was affordable, and in terms of reliability, look no further than Mitsubishi winning the Dakar Rally with this thing.
7 1992-1999 Chevrolet Suburban
Let the fact sink in that in 1992 Chevy brought the eighth generation of the Suburban. You can have it in a 5.7 liter small block, 7.4 liter big block or 6.5 liter turbo diesel engine, so it always has enough power for people. But there have been reports that the clutch installed with the diesel engine is not so reliable.
Further, from the Hummer in the military, we come to the Secret Service vehicle of choice. The GMT400 platform of this vehicle was solid, and the Suburban became a very powerful family SUV or trailer hauler.
6 Ford Explorer 1995-2003
The 1st, 3rd and 4th generations of the Ford Explorer fell short. But the 2nd generation 1995-2003 is Explorer’s golden hour. Ford gave the 2nd generation Explorer an improved chassis, so it was even more reliable and hassle-free.
4.0L V6 and 5.0L V8 engines are proven and long lasting. It’s one of the reasons we still see older explorers on the roads even today.
5 Toyota Land Cruiser 1990-2008
When it comes to reliable SUVs of the 90s, the FJ80 is a must-have and a documented hit. Its particular ability to withstand some of the most extreme conditions on the planet speaks to its reliability.
It’s so good that we’ve seen humanitarians and activist groups use the Land Cruiser all over the world thanks to its ruggedness. On the other hand, you can also see a lot of them in the suburbs because they are large, affordable, comfortable, practical and easy to maintain.
4 1996-2002 Toyota 4Runner
You may also have the 1990-1995 second generation 4Runner. But we suggest 3rd Gen 1996-2002 over it for now. Yeah, it wasn’t as fast or sophisticated. But it was much cheaper to run.
This was fitted with a 3.4-liter V6 developing 183 hp rather than a 4-cylinder engine. So you get plenty of convenience, utility, Toyota’s renowned reliability, and decent power all in one package. The 4Runner and the Hilux are easy choices for reliable SUVs.
3 Jeep Wrangler 1996-2006
Remember when we said the Wrangler was a recreational and lifestyle vehicle? Yes, it works for us too because it’s awesome at what it does. The previous generation YJ Wrangler featured a bulletproof 4.0-liter engine. But starting in 1996, Chrysler changed the master/slave cylinder clutch along with other body modifications.
This took the Wrangler to a whole new level of reliability. One of the reasons Jeep still makes Wranglers is their reliability and capability. If you want a hardcore off-roader with slightly better on-road driving dynamics compared to cars like the Defender, you’ll probably settle for the all-American Wrangler.
2 1997-2002 Subaru Forester
Complex AWD systems and reliability don’t mix. But they are incredibly useful and important for off-roading. Subaru had a proven AWD system through its rally R&D. So they struck a fine line between the two extremes to create a reliable AWD off-road SUV. The Forester was the resulting vehicle which also had soft technology.
It has a computer-controlled multi-disc transfer clutch that can sense the speed difference between the front and rear wheels and can provide sufficient traction accordingly. Even the first-generation Forester is a capable and reliable SUV by today’s standards.
1 Stay away from: Mazda Navajo
In the 90s, Ford and Mazda tried to conquer the market by manufacturing modified versions of each other’s vehicles. But when Ford came up with the Explorer, Mazda’s attempt for the same did not succeed. The Navajo marked the rare occasions when Ford provided a vehicle and Mazda rebadged it rather than the other way around.
But Mazda didn’t have Ford’s experience in making large SUVs at the time. The Navajo looked bad with those black plastic grilles. Moreover, he was also forgettable and overshadowed by the mighty explorer. Mazda learned how to make great SUVs today, but you should steer clear of their earlier attempts.
Back in the ’90s, they were the most reliable trucks you could own, and they’re still tough machines that can tackle mountainous terrain today.
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