Meet the Weirdest Car You Forgot Existed: The Isuzu VehiCross Takes On Andre’s Pit!

The Isuzu VehiCross was mostly a design exercise for an off-roader that could handle the streets.

It’s hard to quantify the success of the Isuzu VehiCross as it was built in such limited numbers. Less than 6,000 were built in total, and they were produced from 1997 through 2001. The JDM (Japanese domestic market) built their own unique versions from 1997–1999. The U.S. market got their own from 1999–2001. Mainly the running gear and some electronics separated the two, but the styling was essentially the same.

Image: Isuzu Motors

Under the unique skin, a majority of the running gear came from the Isuzu Trooper of the time. That included the 215 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that made 230 lbs-feet of torque. Sadly, the VehiCross also came with a GM-sourced 4-speed automatic transmission, one that wasn’t well thought of in the Isuzu community.

Despite sharing many of the same components, the Isuzu VehiCross had a unique, high-tech TOD (torque on demand) system. Using 12 independent sensors, TOD worked with the ABS, traction control and mechanical systems to allocate power where needed, when needed. It was meant to mimic AWD systems on-road while still performing as a proper 4X4 off-road.

Isuzu built something way ahead of its time. The exterior design was meant to be aerodynamic, rugged AND futuristic. While it may be polarizing, I think they accomplished their goal. In addition, Isuzu engineers managed to use some motorcycle-style monotube shocks up front, which was unheard of at the time.

Image: Isuzu Motors

At the time, it didn’t catch on…

Sadly, Isuzu pulled the plug on the VehiCross before they could build a second generation. They had a four-door prototype/concept that appeared ready for production, but enthusiasm was low. A few years after the VehiCross’ demise, Isuzu ended its sales of production automobiles in the United States.

That sucks.

I admit, I was one of the naysayers at the time. You see, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want this painfully expensive vehicle, when Isuzu built the Amigo. The Amigo was about the same size, it was truck based, and not too shabby off-road. Still, by comparison, it was a relic of the past, while the VehiCross embraced the future.

I’m glad I got to ride in one off-road!