Vehicles in foreign markets have a certain allure, probably because you can’t buy one no matter how much you want to. If a vehicle is not originally licensed for sale in the United States, you must wait 25 years before importing it. Detroit builds some of the world’s best trucks and SUVs. But other markets require very different 4WD, and the result is some very cool SUVs. Here are four I’d love to drive around the US…someday.
The Land Rover Series I and Toyota Land Cruiser may have once been humble international workhorses, but they have evolved into opulent international status symbols. In many parts of the world, the Suzuki Jimny has become the cheap “jeep” that goes everywhere. In many ways, the little two-door 4×4 is closer in form and function to Willy’s original CJ-2A than a modern Wrangler Unlimited. I especially love how this SUV’s small size doesn’t stop many owners from throwing them on modern 33-inch tires, even if it requires a monstrous 6-inch lift. Suzuki sold the Jimny in the US as the “Samurai” until 2010. But then it removed it from the North American market. That means there’s no way to get your hands on the redesigned 2018-current generation.
Find out how a 1986 Suzuki Samurai took a Jeep Wrangler record in Chile.
Toyota Land Cruiser 300
Toyota has completely redesigned its full-frame trucks and SUV architecture. In the US, we can enjoy this new powertrain and suspension in the 2022 Toyota Tundra and Lexus LX600 as well as the 2023 Toyota Sequoia. But at the same time, Toyota canceled the Land Cruiser in American markets. The all-new Land Cruiser 300 was the first vehicle on the next-generation Toyota SUV chassis, and many would call it the coolest. Like the Sequoia and LX600, the Land Cruiser 600 has a solid rear axle and rear coil springs. It is powered by a turbocharged 3.4-liter V6 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic. The redesign resulted in a larger SUV, but also improved its approach and departure angles and added off-road driver assistance software to make it more capable on the trail.
See how Toyota is positioning the Lexus LX600 as a Land Cruiser replacement.
Toyota Land Cruiser 70 (J70)
Toyota launched its 70-series Land Cruiser in 1984. The blocky design of this Radwood-era 4×4 has made it a hot collector’s item. I sometimes see these decades old SUVs for sale in Brooklyn for $40,000 or more. But here’s the kicker: You can still buy a brand new Land Cruiser 70 in overseas markets like Australia. The design is straight out of the ’80s, although the truck enjoys some modern technology, such as AWD and a locking center differential in some trims. The J70 is available as a wagon or work truck, and it’s so popular that Toyota says the waiting list is two years long. I’m sure it would be very popular here in the US too!
Quick, what do I think of when I say “Jeep Commander?” It’s understandable if you think of the Jeep Commander “XK” or the five- to seven-passenger midsize SUV Jeep sold in the US until 2010. But the familiar “square body” Jeep is one of several Commanders available worldwide. In Brazil and India, Jeep sells a Compass-based three-row Jeep branded as the Commander. Over in China, Jeep sold a Cherokee-based three-row Jeep with the Grand Commander badge. Jeep plans to discontinue the Grand Commander after the 2022 model year, which is very unfortunate because buyers can choose it as one of Jeep’s very first plug-in hybrids. Finally, Austria’s Magna Steyer (maker of the G Wagen) built a Jeep Commander XK with a 3.0-liter diesel I6 – straight out of the G Wagen – for foreign markets. That would be a cool SUV to import into the US!
Want more quirky SUVs? See my favorite used Jeep Wrangler options or watch Doug DeMuro’s case for why Toyota should sell the Land Cruiser 300 in the US in the video below: