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Found on Autotrader: 1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS

This Isuzu VehiCROSS found in the Autotrader Classifieds is a perfect example of the delights you can uncover when scrolling through the site’s used-car listings. It’s a 1999 model, one of the first to arrive in the United States. Just over 4,000 units eventually arrived from Japan, with 2001 as the last model year. You probably won’t be seeing many others on the road unless you go to an owners’ club meeting. If you do, you’ll be dealing with people who had the foresight and imagination to understand what the VehiCROSS is all about. Basically, it was ahead of its time. Remember, crossovers still hadn’t reached everyday car conversation when this car was designed. Even the few soft-roaders of the day remained staunchly utilitarian and, therefore, boring to look at.

The Past Is Now

It could be argued that we haven’t reached the point where the VehiCROSS could be considered contemporary, yet it was unveiled as a concept at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1993. The idea of a 2-door, coupelike vehicle with a raised suspension and all-wheel drive has only just been embraced by other companies. For example, the Audi allroad shooting brake concept was unveiled in Detroit in 2014, and the following year, we saw the Volvo Concept XC Coupe. At the 2014 Geneva show, Volkswagen unveiled its T-ROC concept, which is rumored to go into production for 2017.

Hardware for Hard Roads

It’s not just looks and layout where the VehiCROSS forges ahead, as some of its hardware is equally as cutting-edge. These days, we expect all-wheel-drive systems to be intelligent, using computer control to send torque to whichever wheels have the most traction. Back in the late ’90s, this technology was still pretty advanced, and yet, it was in a factory-spec Isuzu, along with aluminum-bodied monotube shock absorbers sporting external reservoirs (typically aftermarket specialist equipment), a low-range transfer case and locking differential for proper off-roading. If there’s any doubt about its all-terrain credentials, just look at those short overhangs and big tires.

The Nuts and Bolts of Ownership

If this Isuzu VehiCROSS is still more or less stock, it should have a (rather thirsty) 3.5-liter V6 making 215 horsepower and a 4-speed automatic transmission. Isuzu used the same engine in its Trooper SUV. Once they get old, they start burning oil, so be aware.

Get an expert inspection before buying anything, make sure it’s been properly maintained and do some homework on how to keep it in good running order. If you ever need a new engine, it might be possible to put a GM LS small-block V8 in there. That could be a fun project.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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  1. I’m the proud owner of a RHD Japanese model ‘VX’ as they are affectionately known in the community and can honestly say that I’d rather sell my 1997 Facelift JZA80 Supra Twin Turbo VVTi Tiptronic than this truck, which handles way better with far less body roll on stock suspension and with a 3.2 Litre V6 it’s also quite rapid and satisfying to drive when you want it to be but uses less fuel despite being heavier as it’s normally aspirated. This also means a higher compression ratio so it’s more punchy and immediate off the line, whereas the Supra is laggy and sluggish without boost and has no power off the line unless you floor it and wait for the tyre smoke to gradually translate into grip, catapulting you forward. The Supra is just smooth and restrained until you get moving. For winter driving, the VX is unstoppable with decent all terrain rubber and you want to drive through the deepest snow you can find rather than avoid it at all costs. The Supra on the other hand wouldn’t even back out of my garage on compacted snow without wheelspin even in Snow Mode traction control setting which kicks in when you wheel spin which in my case, is very frequently even on dry roads. That’s why I bought the VX and have no regrets except headroom as the seats are quite high but I’m very tall. Also, the VX can carry some serious weight in the back and the KYB rally racing suspension just laughs at it.

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