During the 80s, the appetite for cheap and affordable sport utilities and pickup trucks was starting to grow. The Samurai was at the forefront of the affordable new segment. Suzuki was a relatively unknown entity in the automotive market. With that kind of clientele, it would only seem natural to market an off-road SUV. The Samurai was lightweight, good on gas, and featured a removable top. Many attributes were the same as the Wrangler. But the Samurai was better on gas and had a much higher ground clearance.
Although the Samurai was at the center of the roll-over controversy of the 80s, the overall design was one that you could take just about anywhere. More outdoor enthusiasts were becoming interested in the Samurai. From lightbars to different removable tops, you can customize a Samurai just like a Wrangler. Consumer interest in the Samurai has grown exponentially due to the SUVs inexpensive price. The Samurai is also one of the easiest SUVs to repair, which intrigues many do-it-yourself mechanics.
The Mitsubishi partnership with Chrysler during the 80s was fruitful for the domestic automaker. The company got to bring inexpensive imports to its dealership network without having to do the research and development. The appetite for lightweight SUVs was growing and the Samurai was more popular than ever. Chrysler decided to jump on this bandwagon with the Dodge Raider. The Raider was based on the Mitsubishi Montero, which was a great SUV. Take one look at the Raider and it pretty much looks the same except for the Dodge badges.
But the Raider did have some unique features such as a removable top. The interior featured some enhancements to give it that Dodge flare. Power and refinement were much improved over the barebones Samurai, which lead a lot of drivers into Dodge showrooms. The Raider had an optional V6 engine, which is a lightweight SUV that makes the difference. Ground clearance was also on par with the Samurai, meaning you could take your Raider just about anywhere. These little Dodge SUVs are rare as the model never really sold great and reliability was questionable. But if you can find a well-maintained Raider, you’ll be in for a treat.
There are quite a few variations of the Land Cruiser that make for a cool SUV, but the J40 is the pinnacle. You might have seen the J40 at one point or another as a mail truck. But there was a time when the J40 was the go-to off-road SUV. The notoriety of the Land Cruiser brand has been around for a long time, and the J40 is well known for its high ground clearance and superb durability. There were features of the J40 that made it a lot like a Wrangler model. First and foremost was the removable top, a feature that has become synonymous with this type of SUV.
The J40 was lightweight and the engine was one of the most reliable to come out of Toyota. In terms of features, the J40 was bare, but that’s what you’d expect out of an SUV in this category. Back then, it wasn’t about having a Bluetooth radio or an air conditioner. Instead, the J40 was a serious off-road vehicle that could trek just about anywhere. Toyota built these J40 models to last a long time, and the durability shows in the overall design. The Land Cruiser is a special vehicle line. You can expect to pay a pretty penny for the J40 as these have exploded in value in recent years.
When it comes to iconic SUVs, there’s one that has been a legend since its debut – the GMC Typhoon. Just the name sounds a bit ominous. The Typhoon was a supercharged compact SUV based on the Blazer platform. Interesting features included a limited edition teal paint job and a leather interior that made the SUV stand out from the crowd. To this day, the Typhoon is one of the fastest production SUVs in the world, and getting your hands on one can be a bit tough.
The Typhoon was developed at a time when GM was trying to reinvent the companies performance car image. The Silverado 454 SS had just hit the market in addition to the GMC Syclone, which was another supercharged pickup truck. While the Typhoon didn’t have the off-road capabilities of a Wrangler, there’s no doubt that the Typhoon is still one of the most iconic SUVs to have hit the road in recent years. If you’re looking for one of the most unique SUV models around, the Typhoon is it.
Long before the Land Rover was associated with celebrities, it was a hardcore outdoor enthusiast’s vehicle. Take one look at the Defender and you know that this isn’t your neighbor’s Range Rover. The Defender is one of the most well-known SUV models in the world, selling millions since 1983.
During its entire run, the Defender was seldom changed from its original design. The Defender made its way across every part of the world, and along the way became a more modern SUV. There’s nothing simplistic about the Defender, even though the basic design is over 40 years old. Later versions of the vehicle had features such as heated seats and a removable top, all of which make for an exceptional vehicle. Getting your hands on an earlier model Defender is not as easy as you’d think. But if you want an off-road legend sitting in your driveway, the Defender is the way to go.
The original Range Rover that came to the US from overseas was universally panned for its lack of reliability. But when they were running right, it was one of the most capable SUVs you could get. The Range Rover was also one of the first luxury SUVs to hit the market before it was a popular thing. The factory V8 engine was a powerhouse when it was running right, and the Range Rover had plenty of low-end torque if you wanted to tow a boat for the weekend. The Range Rover became a popular addition to movies during the late 90s and is one of the more affordable Land Rover body styles.
Electric problems plagued the first generation of these SUVs, as well as overheating. Still, if you can find an original Range Rover that was maintained properly, you’re in for a treat. The overall design of the Range Rover has survived the test of time. It’s a durable SUV that you can take just about anywhere. Range Rover owners are extremely loyal to the brand and there is a huge aftermarket list of accessories. There are also Range Rover clubs all around the country that have made the SUV an iconic part of off-roading.
During the 90s, the SUV was becoming the norm for most car buyers. The high sitting position coupled with cheap fuel prices made the popularity explode. Toyota already had a variation of the Land Cruiser on the market, but it wasn’t up to par for most modern buyers. Thus, the Land Cruiser was redesigned from the ground up into a more modern SUV that featured a quiet ride and leather-appointed interior. SUV buyers have also greeted the legendary off-road capability that made the Land Cruiser one of the most well-known brand names in the world.
The FJ-80 also brought to America the first Toyota-powered V8 SUV. What made the FJ-80 great was the refined interior that made the SUV a pleasure to own. Drivers were greeted by heated front bucket seats, a six-disc changer, and even dual-zone climate control. There were a lot of features that made this generation of the Land Cruiser stand out the most. The best thing about the FJ-80 is that it’s one of the most affordable body styles of the Land Cruiser to date.
During the early 2000s, the SUV boom was in full swing and the Hummer brand was on top. Although the H1 was made famous in the 90s during the Iraq War, the civilian incarnation of the SUV was universally panned for its high price tag and lousy fuel economy. But if you want a go-anywhere SUV that can take you just about anywhere, the H1 is it. The H1 featured a powerful V8 diesel engine and a whopping 16 inches of ground clearance. Want to go out into the forest for the weekend? Well, the H1 was able to tackle the elements with ease.
When it comes to accessories, there’s an endless array that you can get for the H1. From brush guards to bigger wheels, the H1 was a popular aftermarket SUV. Even in today’s world of high fuel prices and increasing smog regulations, the H1 remains an instant classic. This is the go-anywhere and does anything SUV that will take you just about anywhere that you want to go. The Hummer H1 has permanently cemented itself in the world of off-roading with the same level of prestige and respect as the Wrangler.
It should be without question that we include the Toyota 4Runner on our list of iconic SUVs. The 4Runner has been around in one form or another since the 80es. It was originally based on the Toyota pickup truck, which was renowned for its reliability and durability. Buyers have always enjoyed the off-road characteristics that make the 4Runner such a special vehicle. The third generation 4Runners were the first to offer a V8 engine, which the Wrangler never has. Ground clearance on the 4Runner is higher than most mid-size SUVs out of the factory. This means buyers can take the 4Runner pretty much anywhere right from the gate.
Step into the TRD-Pro version of the 4Runner and you’re in for something special. The TRD-Pro is like Toyota’s version of the Raptor. For the foreseeable future, the 4Runner will remain a staple of the Toyota lineup and the SUV world in general. The go-anywhere do-anything design of the ute has made it a hit with buyers for decades. The 4Runner manages to hold its value pretty well so you can expect to pay quite a bit to get one on the used market. But for that price, you get one of the most capable and reliable SUVs that has ever been built.
No iconic SUV list would be complete without the Ford Bronco. When you think about a big, burly, do-everything SUV that became a cultural phenomenon, it is the Bronco. What makes the Bronco cool is that it combines a powerful V8 engine with a removable top. The SUV takes command of any road that its on, and to this day a Bronco still garners attention. Broncos came in a variety of packages, one of which included the Eddie Bauer edition. The great thing about a Bronco besides its off-road capability is the price tag.
You can still get a Bronco for a reasonable amount of money. The Jeep Wrangler, on the other hand, has continued to increase in resale prices, and you can expect to pay a bit. The Bronco is a stellar SUV when coupled with the capable V8 engine. You get a firm amount of power and all of the positives that come with driving an F-Series truck from this era. The modern Broncos that came out toward the end of the brand’s lifespan featured electronic four-wheel-drive. Aftermarket accessories are abundant for the Bronco, which makes owning one even better.
Long before Ford had an entire lineup of SUVs, there was the Explorer and the Bronco. If you wanted a full-size four-door SUV, you had to go to a GM dealership. But luckily for Bronco shoppers, there was an aftermarket coach company that designed Ford’s version of the Suburban. The Centurion is a very limited production version of the Bronco that you could order directly at a Ford dealership. The SUV is based on the F-350 design and the company incorporated Bronco body panels to give the SUV that signature Bronco look. The Centurion is a very expensive collector’s item and is a capable SUV.
The eight-passenger seating was perfect for families who wanted more passenger room without having to opt for a GM product. Nowadays, the Centurion is a collector’s item. You don’t see these big SUVs very often on the road so they stand out from the crowd. A pristine Centurion will set you back quite a bit of money but enthusiasts say that the SUV is worth every penny. The Centurion will forever be one of the most interesting additions to the Ford Bronco lineup to date.
By the late 90s, the Isuzu brand was one of the dominant forces in the SUV marketplace. But the company was vastly becoming outdated. The product line was stale compared to other SUVs on the market, and Isuzu relied on a partnership with GM for R&D. Take one look at the VehiCROSS and you’ll know it’s something different. There’s nothing about this SUV that looks like anything else on the road. In fact, the VehiCROSS is still one of the most interesting looking vehicles on the road to this day. In terms of actual features, the VehiCROSS wasn’t very unique and was based on the Rodeo SUV.
The only thing unique about the VehiCROSS is the exterior paneling; everything else is the same as the Rodeo. But for sheer off-road capability and unique looks, you cannot beat the little Isuzu concept SUV. It looks like something out of a movie, and that’s what the company intended. Sadly, there weren’t many of the VehiCROSS models that hit the market. It was more of a halo SUV for the Isuzu brand to raise awareness. However, if you want an SUV that stands out from anything else on the road, this is it. From the sheer versatility and durability of the Isuzu brand to the stylish sheet metal, the VehiCROSS has it going on.
There is nothing practical about this entry. The LM002 was an SUV that looked like a ‘Rambo Lambo,’ as it is often called. Powered by the same engine as a Lamborghini Countach, the LM002 was fast and authoritative off-road and on the pavement. Interior-wise, the vehicle was just as roomy and luxurious as you’d expect. Given its huge presence on the road, the LM002 is a big and bold statement on the off-road circuit. Take the time to drive the LM002 and you’ll realize that the vehicle can go just about anywhere with ease. The vehicle looks more like a Hummer H1 then anything.
Resale values on the LM002 have been going up because the SUV has been experiencing a resurgence in interest. We like the unique styling that makes the LM002 look different than anything else on the road. The high ground clearance of the LM002 makes it an ample performer in anything from a mud hole to the outback. The powerful engine is nice and smooth considering the sheer amount of horsepower it has under the hood. If you want the one SUV that’s going to get stares for years to come, the LM002 is it.
One SUV model that never gets enough credit is the Dodge Durango 5.9RT. The Durango, in general, revolutionized the automotive industry as the first midsize seven-passenger SUV. Then the brand went a step further and created the first midsize SUV model to feature a full V8 engine. Toward the end of the first-generation Durango’s lifecycle, the brand introduced the 5.9RT. This powerful sports edition came in dark blue or cherry red and featured a powerful 5.9L V8 engine. The sheer exhaust note was something awesome, and the lowered body with the premium alloys gave the SUV a mean look.
To this day, you can still find 5.9RT models that are in good shape. For a reasonable price, you can get your hands on one that has been well taken care of. The 5.9RT is a cool SUV that combines the Dodge racing spirit with the practicality of a family SUV. The overall design was subtle, but when it came time to take the 5.9RT onto the racetrack, the SUV will handle its own. While it might not be an off-road machine like the other models, the 5.9RT is still hands-down one of the coolest SUVs in our book.
The modern Tahoe two-door that was produced until 1999 was a leap forward in terms of drivability and refinement. While the SUV didn’t have a removable top like the Bronco, it made up for it in terms of driving dynamics. A common modification for this body style of Tahoe is to transplant a Corvette-derived LS1 motor into it. We love how this generation of Tahoe has managed to age so well, and you can still find these models with low mileage. Ex-government versions of this SUV came with a bench seat, which gives a cool retro feeling to the vehicle.
A good portion of these two-door Tahoes were used as Government vehicles. At this point, the demand for two-door SUVs had decreased dramatically, which is why the vehicle was finally discontinued. However, the demand for the two-door Tahoe has remained high and you can expect to pay a pretty penny for one. The ’96 and up models featured the new Vortec V8 motor. The Vortec models are the ones that everyone seems to want. The two-door Tahoe will forever remain one cool SUV.
When the Xterra hit the market it was a bit of an odd duck because Nissan already had the Pathfinder. However, in terms of size and functionality, the Xterra is almost on par with the Pathfinder. There was a certain type of buyer that Nissan was targeting with the Xterra, which is why the vehicle had such an extreme looking design. The first thing that you’ll notice about the Xterra was the bold-looking roof-rack. You can utilize the roof rack without having to buy any accessories.
The Xterra was powered by a solid V6 engine for its entire life. Reliability was a strong suit for the Xterra, and to this day you still see many of them on the roads. When you drive an Xterra, people know that you’re into the outdoors, which is why the vehicles have managed to sell so well over the past few decades. Unfortunately, the Xterra was canceled by Nissan so you’ll have to find one on the used market. You can find reasonably-priced Xterras on the market all the time and many of them come with a plethora of features.
Where do we start with the Element? Maybe it’s the boxy shape or the rubberized floors. The Element was a cool SUV that incorporated most of what outdoorsy types wanted in a vehicle. Honda designed the vehicle to be easy to clean, which is why the floors were rubber. While the Element wasn’t very big in terms of design, the vehicle made up for it in terms of practicality. The Element was a solid blend of the functionality and stellar build quality which Honda is known for. The standard engine was super reliable and the Element owners have nothing but good things to say about the vehicle.
There was also the special Element SC edition which was lowered and featured a custom paint scheme. The SC is more or less a sports version that is geared toward the urban consumer. Nevertheless, if you want an SUV that stands out from the crowd in terms of design and sheer uniqueness, the Element is it. Values on these things have remained steady and you can get one for a pretty affordable price. Plus you have the Honda reliability which makes the Element a superb choice for anyone who wants to live an outdoor lifestyle in fashionable comfort.
GM loves to slap a supercharger on a vehicle and call it a special edition. A few years back, the company did just that with their aging Trailblazer line. The Trailblazer SS was a screamingly fast SUV that came in black or silver and offered a fire-breathing Corvette engine under the hood. If you want an SUV that will burn rubber, the Trailblazer SS is the one for you. The vehicle looked intimidating when it was new and the style has held to this day. The Trailblazer SS has kept its value relatively high.
In terms of design and performance, you can’t go wrong with the bulletproof Corvette engine. GM engineers worked tirelessly to get it up to par. The SS model is nothing like the ordinary Trailblazer that you see. You can expect something special when you take this thing out for a Saturday drive. The values of the Trailblazer SS have managed to increase as time has gone on, so you’ll pay a good amount for one of these. But you’ll also be able to drive a true piece of GM history.