Foreign market vehicles have a certain appeal, probably because you can’t buy one no matter how badly you want to. If a vehicle does not have an original license for sale in the US, you will have to wait 25 years before importing it. Detroit builds some of the best trucks in the world and jeeps. But other markets demand very different 4WD, and the result is some very interesting SUVs. Here are four I’d love to drive across the US… one day.
Once humble international workhorses, the Land Rover Series I and Toyota Land Cruiser have become opulent international status symbols. In many parts of the world, the Suzuki Jimny has become the cheap go-anywhere jeep. In many ways, the little two-door 4×4 is closer in form and function to Willys’ original CJ-2A than it is to a modern Wrangler Unlimited. I especially love how this SUV’s diminutive size doesn’t stop many owners from tossing 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 they pulled it out of the North American market. That means there’s no way to get your hands on the redesigned 2018-present generation.
Find out how a 1986 Suzuki Samurai snatched a record from a Jeep Wrangler in Chile.
Toyota Land Cruiser 300
Toyota has completely redesigned its full-frame truck 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 US 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 3.4-liter turbocharged V6 engine mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The redesign resulted in a larger SUV, but it also improved its approach and departure angles and added off-road driver-assist software to make it more capable on the road.
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 styling of this Radwood-era 4×4 has made it a 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 new Land Cruiser 70 in foreign markets like Australia. Styling is straight out of the ’80s, though the truck does enjoy some modern tech, like AWD and a locking center differential on certain models. The J70 is available as a station wagon or work van, and it’s so popular that Toyota says the waiting list is two years. I’m sure it would be very popular here in the US too!
Quick, what comes to mind when I say “Jeep Commander”? It’s understandable if you think of the Jeep Commander “XK,” or the five- to seven-passenger midsize SUV that sold in the US until 2010. But that familiar “square-body” Jeep is one of several Commanders available. around the world. In Brazil and India, Jeep sells a Compass-based three-row Jeep badged as Commander. In China, Jeep sold a Cherokee-based three-row Jeep badged as Grand Commander. Jeep plans to discontinue the Grand Commander after its 2022 model year, which is very unfortunate because buyers could pick it up as one of Jeep’s first plug-in hybrids. Finally, Magna Steyer of Austria (maker of the G Wagen) built a Jeep Commander XK with a 3.0-litre I6 diesel engine, directly from the G Wagen, for foreign markets. That would be a cool SUV to import into the US!
Want more wacky SUVs? Check out my favorite used Jeep Wrangler alternatives, or watch Doug DeMuro’s argument for why Toyota should sell the Land Cruiser 300 in the US in the video below: