Skip to main content

The ’90s feel like a lifetime ago, yet only 23 years in the past. What makes the ’90s feel so far away is the massive paradigm shift that occurred between then and now. The internet, modern cell phones/smartphones, and SUVs. Yes, SUVs existed long before the ’90s, but it wasn’t until the ’90s that they turned into something more than pickup trucks with enclosed beds. During the time of this automotive transition, there were some pretty strange, wacky, and very cool side shoots to the SUV family tree. Here are some of the wildest and coolest SUVs from the ’90s that you might not have heard of. 

A man looking at two 1997 Hummers
Hummers for sale in 1997 | Via Getty Images

Acura SLX

Remember the Isuzu Trooper. Well, the Acura SLX was basically a rebranded “luxury” Trooper. The bodywork and mechanics of the Acura SLX and the Isuzu are essentially identical. The SLX wears different badging and a unique grille, but they are essentially the same. 

What makes the SLX interesting is that during this time, SUVs are trying to figure out what they were. The real difference between the two SUVs was that the SLX came with a luxury package, including roadside assistance services and computerized trip mapping. While the SLX wasn’t super popular, it did set the path for the Acura MDX soon to come. This weird in-between step is a fascinating look at Acura’s development. 

Suzuki X-90

The Suzuki X-90 is one of the strangest 90s SUVs there ever was.
Suzuki X-90 | Via Wikimedia Commons

As MotorTrend wisely points out, this is one of the weirdest SUVs of all time. The Suzuki S-90 is the perfect SUV to show how the market evolved and tried to find its place. 

If this looks like a Honda Del Sol that fell into a vat of radioactive goo, you aren’t crazy. A bad superhero origin story aside, the X-90 is basically a roadster set up on a body-on-frame chassis. This off-road roadster is prime time, “we don’t really know what an SUV is. Is this an SUV?” 

This wacky ’90s SUV made 95 hp from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It came with either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. 

Isuzu Vehicross

If you aren’t sure whether you really like this SUV or really hate it, you aren’t alone. This weird little moon buggy looks like a background vehicle from the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Total Recall. It’s bizarre, futuristic, goofy, and also kinda great(?). 

The Vehicross looks like something that wasn’t really meant to be made. If this had been a concept car, it would have made way more sense, but Isuzu made these things, and people drove them; some still do. 

More surprising than its looks, the Isuzu Vehicross, was powered by a strangely huge 3.5-liter V6 and a proper 4×4 driveline. It might have been goofy looking, but this thing could get down. MotorTrend notes that only 6,000 were ever made, making this weirdo one of the rarer SUVs on the list. 

RAV4 convertible

Uh-huh. You read that right, and no, this wasn’t a Bubba job done for a laugh. Toyota really made a two-door convertible Toyota RAV4. It’s ugly, it’s weird, it’s dumb, and it’s real. Powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 engine making 127 hp, this little go-kart had some pop. It also came in either a 4-speed auto or a 5-speed manual. 

Mitsubishi Pajero Evo

Over the past few years, this ’90s SUV model has emerged from its place in obscurity. Anything ’80s and ’90s rally has surfaced as cool, rare, and valuable collector cars. Despite its recent popularity, the Pajero Evo is still a strange evolutionary step for SUVs that should be named. 

The Pajero Evo was a street-legal homologation version of a proper rally SUV. This tiny SUV featured flared fenders, stabilization fins, a hood scoop, fully independent suspension, and more. The little cube had a 3.5-liter V6 engine making a shocking 275 hp, sending power to a four-wheel drive system by way of a five-speed automatic transmission. 

These were only made for three years, and only 2,500 units were made. Unfortunately, none of them were ever sold in America. 

Honda Crossroad

1994 Honda Crossroad
1994 Honda Crossroad | Via Wikimedia Commons

The last of these little freakshows is the Honda Crossroad. While you may never have seen this guy in action, you have seen a sorta one. The Crossroad was no more than a rebranded Land Rover Discovery. 

This is a great example of not all Honda’s being made equal. If you know anything about this generation of Discovery, you might know that they are notoriously troublesome. Honda rebadged plenty of cars and SUVs at this time, but this one is one of, if not the most, unreliable thing to wear a Honda badge. Interestingly, MotorTrend notes that this is the only V8 Honda ever used in a production car. It wasn’t much of a V8, coming in at only 3.9 liters and making only 182 hp, but it technically was one. 

’90s SUVs were weird

Looking back and seeing an entire industry trying to figure out how to offer a new product is a trip. If you lived through the 1990s, you watched it happen with the strange evolution of SUVs. We are currently living through another paradigm shift now, which is the advent of the EV. Chances are we’ll look back at modern EVs in 30 years and thin” “Look at these goofy thin”s.”