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Here’s a fun breakdown of almost 40 of the first SUVs from the major automakers in the U.S. Some, like Lamborghini, you forget about their earlier forays into the SUV segment, while others, like Toyota or Ford, you know exactly which model was their first SUV. Anyway, here they are in alphabetical order. 

First SUVs from Volvo to Mitsubishi

Volvo XC90 2002

A spokesperson shows off the 2002 XC90 during a reveal.
2002 Volvo XC90 | JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The XC90 has proven to have been quite a success for Volvo. 

Volkswagen Touraeg 2002

This is the cheaper version of the Porsche Cayenne.

Toyota Land Cruiser 1954

1954 Toyota BJ/Land Cruiser front 3/4 view
1954 Toyota BJ/Land Cruiser | Toyota

First known as the Toyota BJ, it is one of the company’s first worldwide successes.

Tesla Model X 2015

A red Tesla Model X midsize SUV is parked.
The Tesla Model X | Tesla

The first all-electric SUV.

Subaru Forester 1997

This 2023 Subaru Forester is a great compact SUV for students.
2023 Subaru Forester | Subaru

In the history of Subaru, if you don’t consider the Outback an SUV, then Suburu’s first was the Forester.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan 2018

Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV front 3/4 view
2018 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV | Rolls-Royce

The public was not ready for a Rolls-Royce SUV.

Porsche Cayenne 2002

No one expected the first Porsche SUV to sell well as it was too far from the company’s roots.  

Nissan Patrol/Armada 1951

The Armada’s roots go all the way back to 1951 as the Nissan Patrol. It came to the U.S. as the Armada in 2004.

Mitsubishi Montero 1981

First out as the Shogun and Pajero in other parts in 1981, it made its way to the U.S. as the Montero in 1983.

First SUVs from Mini to Lamborghini

Mini Countryman 2010

2010 Mini Countryman front 3'4 view
2010 Mini Countryman | Mini

A somewhat awkward takeoff of the Mini hatchback.

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen 1979

Mercedes’ first G-Class SUV was more rugged SUV than Mercedes-like.

Mazda Tribute (Ford Escape) 2000

This was Mazda’s first SUV, which was a co-development with Ford.

Maserati Levante 2016

2016 Maserati Levante front 3/4 view
2016 Maserati Levante | Maserati

The Levante was a close production version of the Kubang concept SUV.  

Lincoln Navigator 1998

A dark black 2024 Lincoln Navigator full-size luxury SUV model demonstrating its illumination sequence
2024 Lincoln Navigator | Ford Motor Company

Lincoln’s first Navigator began production in July 1997 as a 1998 model. 

Lexus LX 1995

The LX was Lexus’s version of Toyota’s Land Cruiser. 

Land Rover Series 1 1948

One of the earliest SUVs.

Lamborghini LM002 1986

Lamborghini LM002 SUV front 3'4 view
Lamborghini LM002 SUV | Lamborghini

While you may have thought the Urus was the first Lamborghini SUV, it was actually the LM002 built from 1986 to 1993.

First SUVs from Kia to Dodge

Kia Sportage 1993

The 2023 Kia Sportage
2023 Sportage X-Pro

The first Sportage was in production for 10 years before it was dropped in after 2002. A new version hit showrooms in 2005. 

Jeep CJ-2A 1945

1945 Jeep CJ-2A driving on grass
1945 Jeep CJ-2A | Getty

This was Jeep’s first civilian vehicle.

Jaguar F-Pace 2016

Though some thought it was spun from a Land Rover platform, it was a total development of Jaguar’s.

Isuzu Trooper 1981

The Trooper was first sold in the U.S. in 1984. Autocar says 11 other companies rebadged it.

Infiniti QX4 1996

1994 Infinity QX4 front 3/4 view
1996 Infiniti QX4 | Infiniti

Built from the Nissan Infiniti platform.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2000 

This midsize SUV is the safe 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe
A Hyundai Santa Fe | Hyundai

Originally, Hyundai sold its 1991 Galloper SUV, which was a Mitsubishi Shogun. 

Honda CR-V 1995

1995 Honda CR-V front 3/4 view
1995 Honda CR-V | Honda

Honda’s first SUV was in 1993 and was a rebadged Isuzu, so the CR-V was the first real Honda SUV.

Ford Bronco Late-1965

1968 Ford Bronco U13 "Roadster" painted in black
1968 Ford Bronco U13 “Roadster” | Mecum

Not the first, but what we consider one of the first Sport Utility Vehicles.

Dodge Town Wagon 1956

1956 Dodge Town Wagon SUV front 3/4 view
1956 Dodge Town Wagon SUV | Stellantis

This was essentially a Dodge panel truck with windows and another bench seat. In 1957, it got the Power Wagon option. 

First SUVs from Chrysler to Acura

Chrysler Pacifica 2004

Some common Chrysler Pacifica problems this minivan is known for
A Chrysler Pacifica minivan | Chrysler

This original version of the Pacifica was only in production for three years.

Chevrolet Suburban 1935

Cream and black 1935 Chevrolet Suburban
1935 Chevrolet Suburban | Zhe Ji via Getty Images

Basically, a lower-trim Cadillac Escalade, but also the very first full-size SUV.

Cadillac Escalade 1998

This luxury SUV is the 2023 Cadillac Escalade V
The 2023 Cadillac Escalade V | Cadillac

Basically, it’s a luxury Chevrolet Suburban.

Buick Rendezvous 2001

The Rendezvous had the unfortunate distinction of being based on the Pontiac Aztek platform.

BMW X5 1999

1998 BMW X5 front 3/4 view
1998 BMW X5 | JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

High-performance versions have the X5 M moniker.

Bentley Bentayga 2012

The top Bentayga came with a W12-cylinder engine, but there were also a diesel, V8, and even a V6. 

Audi Q7 2005

The Q7 uses the same platform as the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg.

Aston Martin DBX 2020

2020 Aston Martin DBX SUV front 3/4 view
2020 Aston Martin DBX SUV | Aston Martin

The DBX became the official medical car for F1 in 2021.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio 2016

Alfa actually had its Matta SUV in the 1950s, built for the military.

Acura MDX 2000

Acura had a previous SUV to the MDX called SLX, but it was just a rebadged Isuzu Trooper. The MDX was the first in-house SUV.


The History of the Sport Utility Vehicle: Why Is It Called an SUV?