By on April 1, 2013

You never really know what ideas will be successful in the auto industry. In the early 1990s, for example, a guy at Subaru actually said the following: “I know! Let’s raise the Legacy an inch, change its name, and paint the bottom part gold!” When you really think about it, this sounds no stupider than “Why isn’t there a version of the GMC Envoy for people who transport grandfather clocks?”

Of course, marketing is a big reason for success. While Outback commercials featured Crocodile Dundee in the bush (I swear this is not a lesbian joke), Envoy XUV ads glamorized the world of tree logistics. It should be no surprise, then, that one automaker went into bankruptcy while the other became a wild success story that eventually resulted in the Baja.

But there’s one auto industry idea I think we can all agree is a bad one, even if they put sexy Australian guys are in the commercials: the two-door SUV.

For my entire life and many years before that, automakers have been trying to “break in” to what some misguided market research must tell them is the lucrative two-door SUV market. In nearly every case, this has resulted in failure, and at least one automaker’s overall departure from the US market. Let’s revisit some of the highlights.

The Success Story

In an article about failed two-door SUVs, it seems only fair to first mention the sole success story: the Jeep Wrangler. Even in the darkest days at Chrysler (which lasted from 1972 until the new Durango came out last week with those LED taillights, a move that will undoubtedly save the company), the Jeep Wrangler served as a lone bright spot.

Of course, the Wrangler is popular. But it’s also a success because of its high residuals, its wealthy buyer base and its following among young people. It’s a cult icon, and it’s just as good at cruising the beach as it is climbing mountains. But it didn’t build its reputation overnight – a fact other automakers have, on occasion, forgotten when trying to create rivals.

The Wrangler Pretenders

The Wrangler seems like it wouldn’t be that hard to copy. Create a two-door SUV. Make it look like the kind of thing they use to cart around the Gitmo detainees. You don’t even need to add a roof. And yet…

The biggest screw-up here is Suzuki. Not because of the Sidekick/Vitara, now a failed two-door SUV in its own right, but because of a mid-‘90s offshoot called the X-90 that had T-tops and a trunk. Launch cars were painted purple, which only ever worked on the Plymouth Prowler – and based on the Prowler’s eventual spiral into oblivion, it didn’t work very well then, either. Suzuki pulled the X-90 from production after only a year and a half.

Another soft top Wrangler wannabe was the original Kia Sportage, which came as a two-door even though you’ve never seen one, presumably because the owners are hiding in shame. We all know about the Isuzu Amigo, later renamed Rodeo Sport to inspire sales success like Taurus X moniker was to revive the Ford Freestyle. (The results were about as good.)

The original Toyota RAV4 was also offered as a two-door for reasons completely unknown to anyone, especially the buying public. And you could get a two-door Land Rover Freelander, though no one did. Strangely, this didn’t stop Land Rover from resurrecting the two-door body style for the Range Rover Evoque, which records a sale every time Land Rover employees switch company cars.

Midsize Two-Doors

Of course, it hasn’t all been Wrangler wannabes. The two-door SUV world has also been graced by an astonishing number of midsize models, not one of which was even a minor sales success. Where to start?

Well, there’s the Isuzu Trooper, whose two-door variant looks so top-heavy that Consumer Reports probably would’ve rolled it just by getting inside. There’s the Chevy Blazer and of course the GMC Jimmy, which managed to make it to a second generation before fading into automotive oblivion. The Ford Explorer Sport actually reached a third generation, which must be solely due to orders from Progressive Auto Insurance.

Nissan also tried its hand at a two-door Pathfinder, while Toyota stuck us with a two-door 4Runner until 1992. Undoubtedly sales of this model were enough to scare Toyota into adding four doors to the FJ Cruiser, even though the only purpose of the rear doors is to annoy front-seat occupants who must open their door every time a rear passenger wants to get in or out.

You may think I’m done, but unfortunately everyone took a turn in this game. There was a two-door Jeep Cherokee. Failure. The Mazda Navajo was a two-door Ford Explorer rebadge that flopped. There was a two-door Mitsubishi Montero and a two-door Dodge version called the Raider. All failures. And nearly all lasted only one generation.

You’d think at some point, someone would’ve stepped in and reminded everyone that two-door SUVs make no sense. They cost the same as their four-door brethren and offer far less utility. But they just kept going and going, possibly as a tool for automakers to threaten dealers. “You build that new facility or else your lot will be full of two-door Explorers! And they won’t be white, so you can’t sell them to Progressive!”

The Full-Sizers

One reason for the litany of failed two-door SUVs is because three models were actually quite popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Like the Wrangler, they, too, inspired pretenders.

The Dodge Ramcharger, Chevy K5 Blazer and Ford Bronco were apparently pretty cool back in the day thanks to V8 power and sheer enormity. Of course, they, too, eventually failed. But back then, they passed for cool the same way that the Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser passed for luxury. It was a simpler time.

The problem is that because these big two-doors were so popular, other automakers simply decided to follow suit and make two-doors of their own. The thought process was this: no one had any idea what would work in the early ‘90s, so why not try everything? A similar theory led to Ross Perot’s popularity as a presidential candidate.

The Most Persistent

While the early ‘90s may have been a time of experimentation, one brand sticks out for its persistence: Isuzu. The Trooper. The Amigo. The second-generation Amigo. The Rodeo Sport. And, eventually, the very most offensive two-door SUV of all: the VehiCROSS.

Styled like a mash-up of the Amigo and a child’s drawing of a spaceship, the VehiCROSS (note the capitalization; this was apparently important) was a weird plastic thing based on the Isuzu Trooper. I don’t want to say many mean things here because the VehiCROSS actually has a large following on the Internet, and I’m worried they’ll show up at my house, which will scare the neighborhood children. So I’ll stick to niceties. For example: the turn signals do a wonderful job indicating direction. Probably.

Actually, the VehiCROSS wasn’t all bad. Under the hood was a 3.5-liter V6 that made 215 horsepower, which is a big number considering it’s almost a foot shorter than a 1-Series. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to make it successful. Eventually, Isuzu just left the US market altogether in search of a place where they appreciate the VehiCROSS. They’re still looking.

The Lesson We’ve Learned

The lesson here is simple: please stop building two-door SUVs. A few years ago, the segment looked dormant. But with the Evoque and upcoming Mini Paceman, things seem to be heating up again.

To drive home my point, I return to the champ. Last year, the Jeep Wrangler recorded just over 141,000 sales. Of those, about 56,000 were two-doors. The remaining 85,000 – that’s 60 percent for all you Ross MBAs busily building a business case for a two-door Chevrolet Equinox – were sold with four doors. In other words, the two-door SUV world is starting to lose its king. And even Crocodile Dundee won’t be able to bring it back.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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111 Comments on “Attention Automakers: Please Stop Selling Two-Door SUVs...”

  • avatar

    If they sell, let the free market decide.

    My neighbor has a 2-door SUV which he drives in rain or snow because it’s an effortless 4×4.

    He has no small kids.

    Why lug around the extra mass of two more doors if you don’t need to?

    • 0 avatar

      For once, I agree with something BTSR says.

      Unlike the US, where SUVs almost never actually go off road and are much of a fashion statement as anything else, 2-door SUVs make a lot of sense.

      From the small Suzukis to the mid size Hilux Surfs and full size 70 series Land Cruisers and SWB Defender 90s, if you don’t need rear passenger doors, you’re better off without them.

      Stateside, for some time, I lived in West Virginia where it took a ten minute drive from the house to get onto to a paved road. I bought a beater 2-door Isuzu Rodeo Sport. I almost never had rear seat passengers. Why bother with two extra doors and a longer wheelbase vehicle if I didn’t need them?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      For a while, my grandfather had a loaded first-generation green-with-beige-cladding Tahoe two-door. Perhaps he still has it.

      As for the Range Rover Evoque, I think it’s a pretty neat idea. So is the MINI Paceman, so long as they can keep the price from climbing into the stratosphere…

      What’s even more interesting, though, is the demise of two-door trucks. I know that GM and Chrysler Group still make them, but they aren’t very popular…and they too will probably die.

      • 0 avatar

        I love my regular cab truck. No extended cab, no half-sized doors, extra seats, etc. I can park it easily, and I still have an 8′ bed. It’s all I need. They are indeed getting quite rare.

    • 0 avatar

      The folks for whom 2 door SUVs make sense, like the folks for whom

      – manual diesel wagons
      – wagons PERIOD
      – cheap “personal” coupes
      – Lotus Elises

      make sense are not numerous enough to warrant the investment in the sheetmetal presses, let alone dedicated platforms.

      You know the rules guys. If the market existed manufacturers would be building cars for it… especially in these nano-niche times. Signal 11 how much would you drop for one of these things? $30K? $40K? All of a sudden all the used ones out there start sounding a lot more logical

  • avatar

    i loved my old s-10/s-15 Jimmy. the two door version (a la typhoon) looked much better than the 4-door.

  • avatar

    How did the Suzuki Samurai not get mentioned here? As I recall it was a pretty huge hit, until many of its buyers forgot they weren’t sports cars and started parking them wheels up.

    • 0 avatar

      And the one or two-year Dihatsu Rocky!

    • 0 avatar

      Because it’s one of the unholy triumvirate of two door SUVs that still sells. The Jimny/Samurai, the Land Rover Defender and Jeep Wrangler are all products that have gone well past their sell-by date, and they’re still going strong. The Jimny is still being sold almost everywhere (except the US) and the old Samurai is so popular with the off-road crowd that Suzuki/Maruti is actually bringing it back.

      Still won’t sell it in the US. But if you want something almost as wretched, you could probably buy a Mahindra…

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      ISTR the 2-door XJ Cherokee was/is well-regarded.

  • avatar

    Local dealer ads continue to be split on the pronunciation of Sportage: is it like “fundage” (slang) or like “taj” as in Taj Mahal? And why do I care?

    • 0 avatar

      I think Kia Canada’s position is that it’s pronounced like “Portage” with an S tacked on front. Problem is, by the time Kia built a Sportage you’d want to (s)portage in, it was rather ill equipped to (s)portage. I’m hoping they’ll rename it the Kia Scoffeerun.

  • avatar

    I pretty much never carry rear seat passengers, and I am a BIG guy. I would prefer the much longer doors of a two door for ease of access. When I was Cherokee shopping I would have loved a two-door XJ, but decent ones go for truly INSANE money. How insane? There is a two-door ’98 on eBay, super stripper no-tach base model 4cyl 5spd with 100K on the clock going for over $7K!

    • 0 avatar

      Normally I’m completely in agreement here — rented a Challenger last week and found myself liking the ease of ingress/egress so much that I almost could overlook the fact that nearly everything else about it was awful. (Almost.)

      But the odd thing about most two-door SUVs is that the doors aren’t any bigger — look at all the examples pictured above. The XJ is the only exception I can think of, offhand.

      Odd that despite so many of them sharing doors with pickups, none ever picked up the crew cab half doors.

  • avatar

    I thought the Isuzu Amigo was a great little car at the time. I’m still not exactly sure why I didn’t end up buying the one I test drove, but in retrospect it probably would have worked out better for me that my eventual purchase of a Geo Metro followed by a quick trade for a K5 Jimmy.

    I understand that the Amigo had some pretty horrible crash test results, though…

    Also, I used to rent the Geo Tracker from time to time when a ship I was on swung through Hawaii. They were pretty good little fun-in-the-sun wagons. I’m not sure I would want one for my daily driver, but for dropping the top and cruising around town they were cute, economical and generally fuel efficient.

    Frankly, I think the 4 door SUV is a dog. Unless you live in the Yukon, buy a van if you need to kart around a passle of young ‘uns.

  • avatar

    You forgot the cool-as-heck 2-door Tahoe and Tahoe SS/Sport (can’t remember). Looks great in all black with the red outline bow tie.

    You also forgot that the OLDEST Jimmy generation was a 2-door SUV, a la the High Sierra.

    Thus, I’d argue that GM wins for longest duration of 2-door SUVs. Also might add that I’ve never seen a 2-door Trooper in real life. I like the picture of that black/tan combo one up there though.

  • avatar

    “And you could get a two-door Land Rover Freelander, though no one did.”

    I was one that did get the Freelander 2-door. It was the rarest car I ever owned, I only spotted another 3 or 4 of them during the 4 years I owned it.

    I will say that when I had the roof off it many people stopped to look at it and ask what it was it was and to comment that it was unique looking.

  • avatar

    Most people don’t realize this, but Jeep is an CURSED brand.
    Karl Probst cursed the original military GP’s after Bantam lost the contract to build the originals to Willy’s and Ford. (Ford made Jeeps, but ol’ Henry knew plenty about CURSED products, having learned the black art from Thomas Edison, who CURSED Nicola Tesla with live animal sacrifices in NY City. Henry saw Kar’s curse coming a mile away and ran screaming from the little trucks after the war was over. As proof, remember that he, himself later in life CURSED the Edsel brand into oblivion.)
    Ever since then, all who have taken ownership of Jeep have perished, from Willy’s to Kaiser to AMC to Chrysler I. Daimler figured out the curse after Karl’s surviving family clued them in, and they got rid of Chrysler and the CURSED Jeep in the nick of time, barely surviving. Now those poor Italians own the CURSED Jeep brand until they fall and anther hapless bastard picks up the CURSED Jeep brand.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    As a Trooper owner and lover, I can only imagine how the 2-door drove. Finesse is an understatement in driving my 4-door.

    I thought the VehiCROSS was based on the Rodeo chassis with the Trooper engine. But I might be wrong.

    There is only one JEEP. Althought the Cherokee 2 door was pretty cool.

  • avatar

    Jeep should never, ever stop building 2-door Wranglers or offering manual transmissions. On another note, I actually saw an X-90 the other day. Who’da thought any would still exist.

  • avatar

    The Toyota FJ Cruiser is still a popular two door SUV. If you want a family truckster version, meaning a four door, then buy a 4Runner.

    That’s the only reason four door SUVs are popular these days is because they serve duty as a glorified family station wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      The FJ Cruiser has four doors though.

      • 0 avatar

        It may appear to the casual observer that the FJ Cruiser has four doors, but if you’ve ever tried to let someone out of the back seat or, worse, retrieve something from the back seat in a tight parking space, you realize the utter non-utility of suicide doors.

        Still, a lot of fun. Thirsty beast, though.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      A four door SUV is potentially a family vehicle. Driving anything with two doors is a way of signalling that you’re single without children. It works for SUVs only if the resulting vehicle is a masculine truck. Works for the Jeep Wrangler or O. J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco. The aftermarket offers many opportunities to butch up the truck with huge tires and off-road accessories. Two door SUVs fail for the Asian imitators because their unibody two door cute-utes are about as masculine as a Volkswagen Beetle.

  • avatar

    I for one like the two door SUV’s. I’m single, and currently drive an Outback for camping and dog transportation purposes. My backseat is basically just an extension of the cargo area 99% of the time. If they made a two door, I’d be on board. I’m a big fan of having as little vehicle as possible to get the job done, so for me the back two doors are basically vestigial.

    I test drove a new Evoque just because the dealership had a 2 door. It was fantastic, unique looking, and it drives amazingly well. If I won the lotto it’d be my daily driver tomorrow.

  • avatar

    I have fond memories of ridding in the back of my elementary school friends’ mom’s k5 blazer.

    I’m still looking to pick up a bronco. Great short wheel base, enclosed cargo area, and all the same drivetrain as the f150. I am a ford truck guy after all.

    One thing you forgot was the old sj cherokee pretty much a 2 door wagoneer, and the xj cherokee also came in two doors.

    I will miss the day when the wrangler loses the 2 doors. I’m not a huge fan of the 4 door versions at all.

  • avatar

    I never understood why people think two-door cars / trucks look better than four-door. It must be trained behavior and quite possibly misguided thinking. The aesthetic mastery of a car comes not from the door-count, but from all the visible parts complementing each other’s presence in precise locations.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, I’ve never known a 4-door car that was notably inferior to its 2-door counterpart.

      • 0 avatar

        Tell that to classic car buyers.

        When you add more doors, in most cases…
        -The B pillar shifts forward and crowds the driver.
        -The glass and roof extends, usually making it look less sleek.
        -Added weight of doors, power windows, etc.
        -Extend that wheelbase.

        In a Caprice, yeah sure, it works. In an Impreza or a Geo Metro? Hell no.

    • 0 avatar

      Also agreed. I look at what people say are “better looking” coupes, and in my eyes, they are generally uglier than similar sedans. Perhaps the definition of beauty has changed with time.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh ya, and another thing – I hate the usual response when one asks the following:

      “Why do you like two-door models?”

      The answer typically is: “Because it looks sporty.”

      A better answer would be: “It is simpler-looking and favors single or double occupancy only.”

    • 0 avatar

      Look at the red Wrangler Rubicon in two doors and compare it with the green four-door Wrangler. The 2-door looks classic, rugged, and well-proportioned. It’s what you think of when you think “Jeep”, learned behavior or not.

      The four door looks boxy and thrown together. If you’re going to buy a jeep, do it right. The four-door is like a Vette with automatic.

      • 0 avatar

        2 door cars absolutely look better. Sporty is not the right word. They look better because its clear the driver doesn’t give a rat’s ass about kids. The less pratical the car is – the ‘cooler’ it is as a general rule.

        Kids = not cool. So thus a kid hauler like a CR-V or a Minivan = very uncool.

        Doubt me? Some easy examples..

        Dodge Challenger > Dodge Charger
        Audi A5 > A4
        Classic Impala 2 door > classic Impala 4 door.

        Hell people don’t even BOTHER restoring the 4 doors versions. Don’t get me wrong sometimes the car companies screw up and the 4 door looks better. But its rare.

        • 0 avatar

          “They look better because its clear the driver doesn’t give a rat’s ass about kids.” – Bingo!

          More about attitude rather than looks though, as there are many four-door examples of sleekness…

          Maserati Quattroporte
          Audi S8
          1965 Lincoln Continental
          Aston Martin Rapide
          Rolls Royce Phantom or the new 200EX “Ghost”
          BMW 5/7 Series
          Even the current Chrysler 300C looks pretty svelte, albeit common.

  • avatar

    My parents had a 2001 Explorer. I liked it.


  • avatar

    “There was a two-door Jeep Cherokee. Failure.”

    If the two-door was such a failure, why did AMC, Renault, and Chrysler keep it in production from 1974 until 2001?

    • 0 avatar

      The first Cherokee was indeed a two-door, shortened version of the Wagoneer. The survivors look great once restored. I rarely see one on the road.

    • 0 avatar

      You have an interesting definition of “1974,” since the Cherokee came out in 1984. Unless you are referring to the SJ Jeep Cherokee, which of course was really just a Jeep Wagoneer, which eventually also ditched its two-door bodystyle in favor of a four-door.

      To the finer point in your question: remember, this is a mashup than also brought us the Eagle Premier.

      • 0 avatar

        If the author can reference Ramchargers, Blazers and Broncos, I can refer to the SJ Cherokee. Nevertheless, whether you include that first edition of the Cherokee or not, it was always available in 2-door form in North America.

  • avatar

    Good “big picture” take on the 2-door SUV. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the Samurai, however. This little Suzuki was quite popular in the 2000’s. I suspect it was declining in sales prior to the Consumer Report article on its tippy behavior, but there were a lot sold for a while.

    My beater car is a 2000 Blazer two-door, LS, manual transmission, crank windows. It’s saving grace is GM air conditioning. But I sure do get a lot of people asking me if I’m willing to sell it. So, the market may be too small to justify production, but there’s a market nevertheless.

    Maybe the key is to keep the styling Jeep-basic. The CJ’s and the Samurai’s looks (as well as the original Bronco) offered nothing more than simple, open-roof transportation with off-road capability. I suspect that formula might still sell.

  • avatar

    There are those of us who want a compact 4×4 and will actually use it off road, too. I own a ’95 Suzuki Sidekick with a lift, off-road tires, WARN winch, etc. It’s just my wife and me, and I have no need for a larger vehicle. I wish we had the two-door options. And, as I wrote in my blog post on my site last week, I’m surprised no one wants a slice of Wrangler’s pie, even if the majority of Wrangler sales are four doors.

    (FYI, I wrote this last week. Pretty similar posting, actually …)×4-will.html

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been looking to get ahold of a vehicle similar to the Sidekick you describe there, but it’s hard going.. as for the real reason I personally think that the small 4×4 of that class has pretty-much dried-up outside of the 2-door Wrangler I believe it’s two factors.

      1) OEMs abandoning the rural market in the US. We see this with the brands shrinking their dealership networks and retreating from small towns (There used to be three Chevrolet dealerships within reasonable distance from my home town, now the nearest one is 50 miles away) and the greater emphasis on global market-share rather than chasing every last dollar available in the US. That and regulatory pressures making it very difficult to make a car that’s both optimal for rural/small-town and dense urban use. Pretty much the only thing keeping the 2-door Wrangler around is the fact that it’s brand has enough cachet with the urban crowd to make it status worthy.

      2) Side-by-side UTVs taking over many of the jobs that used to be done by the old CJs, Scouts, first-gen Broncos etc…

  • avatar

    Did they even sell the Isuzu VehiCROSS in the US?

    I’m not surprised that it has a fanbase, the equally tacky Aztek has a fair amount of fans too.

  • avatar

    I think the two door truck was initially borne out of necessity, as they were almost all sprung from pickup trucks. They just put a cabin in the back, instead of a bed. The front part of the vehicle remains similar to its pickup brethen, all the way back to the front doors. Why the automakers continue to do two doors on a brand new platform, sometimes even after they’ve invested in a four-door version, is beyond me. I guess it’s a hard habit to break.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Bingo! We have a winner! Many of the first SUVs (the exceptions being the Suburban, the original Wagoneer (pre-1984) and Land Cruiser) we created from pickup truck bodies, cheaply. Such as: Blazer, S10 Blazer, Bronco, Bronco II. Hence only two doors. The “new” Wagooner,Cherokee (introduced in 1984; I know, I bought one) came in both 4 and 2-door versions from the beginning as well as in a pickup version. Seeing the success of AMC’s Cherokee/Wagoneer, Ford got to work on a decent purpose-designed passenger body for it’s small pickup frame . . . and gave us the Explorer, which did come in 2 and 4-door versions. My recollection is that Ford called the 2-door Explorer the “Sport” model and it had a slightly shorter wheelbase than the 4-doors.

      The military-Jeep styled and sized vehicles, including the CJ and its replacement, the Wrangler, were short wheelbase vehicles from the beginning with vestigial back seats, not worth the trouble of a second set of doors. Same for the Suzuki Samurai and it’s ilk.

  • avatar

    Has everyone forgotten about the Ford Bronco II.

    Best 2 door SUV from any MFG was hands down the GMC Typhoon and it’s sibling the Syclone. Still on my bucket list to own one.

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    The 2 Doors! Not for US consumption.
    I miss is the 3rd gen RamCharger sold in Mexica. 2WD only. 1999-2001.
    Nice Truck. Needs 4WD, Diesel and a wheel PKG with a lift kit.
    The VehiCross came from an Amigo. Same interior and all.
    The Mitsubishi Pajero (Montero) 2 Doors was still on sale worldwide. That is one good looking truck!
    The 2 Door Land Cruiser 2 Door van version seems to serve terrorists worldwide.
    I loved driving aq 70 loaded with 11 people in it on Fraser Island in Australia 10 years ago.
    Land Rover Defender 88/90. Like a Rangler with a british accent.
    The original LR Disco had 2 doors till just a few years ago.

    I think the Evoque can sell well in 2 door.

  • avatar

    In my opinion, people want their SUV to be a pleasant commuter and grocery getter – to include getting the kids out the back seat.

    The take-rate on two door anything has been in the dumps for about 10 years. Just take a look at the take-rate on four door pick up trucks.

    Single cab trucks are usually bought by fleet buyers.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “If it has the same tranny as the Trooper it’ll have problems around 130K and need a rebuild.”

    I wish. Round 1 at 60k, warranty covered. Round 2 at 160k, Dave M. covered (+/- $3600). Slippage at 210k is the reason it will soon be retired to vacation duty….

    Critical of course is the yearly maintenance (+/- $200). There is no fill cap nor plug except on the top of the housing, which makes perfect sense. Many mechanics have no idea how to service it.

    • 0 avatar

      What yearly maintenance should a transmission require? This is news to me. You’ve had bad luck though :. Is yours a Limited model I hope?

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        No, I’m not a fancy lad. Just the LS. Maybe not yearly; just every 20k. Which is yearly for me.

        Apparently the 4L30-E GM-France sourced transmission went in a Who’s Who of winners:
        1990–1995 BMW 525i
        1992–1995 BMW 325i
        1992–1998 BMW 318i
        1992-1998 Chevrolet Omega
        1994–2001 Honda Passport
        1996–1999 BMW 328i
        1996–1999 BMW 528i
        1996–2000 BMW Z3
        1996–2000 Acura SLX
        1996– Opel Frontera
        1997–1999 BMW 323i
        1997–2001 Cadillac Catera
        1999–2004 Isuzu Amigo
        1999-2001Isuzu VehiCROSS
        1991–1998 Isuzu Rodeo
        1990–2002 Isuzu Trooper

        Meanwhile, the Gen 2 Trooper (not to be confused with the Gen I Trooper II….) offered the 2 door in the US only for years 1993-1995….

        • 0 avatar

          Argh! Is that the transmission? You got lucky. We had a 1994 325is with the GM 4-speed. The first one lasted 30,000 miles. The second one lasted 30,000 miles. We sold the car with 90,000 miles. I should have figured you were talking about it when you said there was no drain plug. It came with ‘lifetime’ fluid. 30,000 miles isn’t an unusual life for ATF. Coming in a convenient $3,600 container is unusual for transmission fluid though. BMW paid for the first replacement transmission and for half of the second one. I’m still not a fan of transmissions that aren’t mean to be serviced.

          A friend has a Dodge Magnum R/T with a transmission dipstick tube, but no dipstick. The cap has a message telling you to take it to see the dipstick at the dealer service counter. Stay classy, Chrysler!

        • 0 avatar

          By default then this tranny should have gone into the Holden Jackaroo as well.

  • avatar

    Having only 2 doors allows for a shorter wheelbase, better turning radius, and less weight – all desirable characteristics when an SUV is used for its intended purpose.

    My full-size Bronco has a wheelbase a full foot shorter than that of an Wrangler Unlimited giving it maneuverability on and off-road that defies its size.

    If the ’90s had never happened I suspect most SUVs would still have 2 doors as that seemed to work well for the prior 50 years. Hopefully SUV design will return to some semblance of sanity after the SUV craze hangover aka the CUV craze finally subsides.

    As I’ve mentioned in the past the market for true SUVs still exists but is very much under-served by current offerings.

  • avatar

    Amazingly, I actually saw a real live Isuzu VehiCROSS on the highway today. For a minute I thought it was an April Fool’s mirage or something, but it was the actual vehicle. First time I’d ever seen someone driving one in real life.

  • avatar

    I tried to call IH and tell them I needed to order a fully loaded 2-door Travelall, but they didn’t pick up the phone.

  • avatar

    Wait…did they really sell 2 door Troopers like the one in that picture?

    I’ve never seen one like that, I think it looks kinda cool…also, Samurais are awesome.

  • avatar

    To the author:
    While it is easy to bash 3-door SUVs, I just want to remind that there is life outside of the US of A.
    Where these contraptions are perfectly logical and practical.
    So why not bash ye typical American world outlook (or the lack thereof) instead?..

    • 0 avatar

      Truthfully, I considered writing a whole section on the popularity many of these models had outside the US, but the piece seemed too long already. Suffice it to say, you and I would’ve appreciated it.

  • avatar

    As with many here I have to disagree with the author, some two door SUVs were tits, it depended in the masculinity of the vehicle, the Japanese manufacturers tried so hard to copy two door American SUVs, but its impossible for them to create something masculine as all of the USA manufacturers were using their BoF trucks as the base for their SUVs which were much better looking and much had much better quality and a known reputation.

    I’d take an IH scout any day of the week over one of these new faux SUVs.

  • avatar

    I haven’t found a reason to buy any SUV yet, and a 2-door would not make it more likely. Still, I’m pretty sure Land Rover sold every Defender 90 that made it to USA shores despite them leaking oil on the dealer lots. I’d rather have a 2-door Series I or Series II than one of the 109/110 4-doors.

    Then there’s the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 which did, indeed, copy the Jeep CJ formula successfully. They did everything right, clear down to the rust.

  • avatar

    I have a Land-Rover 90 and there just is not room on the sides for any more doors, you need the longer 110 to make it a five door station wagon.
    But the article has a point, the 1970 Range-Rover was a 2 door, and very nice it was too. But despite clear demand for a 4 door model they didn’t do that for over a decade. Why? Because government ownership in British Leyland’s case, but all the other manufacturers I have no explanation for.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Loved my ’97 2DR Tahoe. The short wheel base made it great for maneuvering while towing. The 5.7 Vortec mated to a 3:73 rear end pulled like a freight train and offered great fuel economy for what it was. I was single then so the lack of a second set of doors was a non-issue. Supposedly those trucks held their resale value better than anything else GM made at the time. I’ll tell you this, when I bought it, it was a lease return that they hadn’t even put out on the lot yet. When I traded it in I went back to the dealership 2 days afterwards just to see what they were selling it for and it was gone!

  • avatar

    Truly, I thought the Envoy XUV was one of the greatest ideas ever.

  • avatar

    Bah. The two best SUVs I ever owned were both 2 doors. A 72 Scout II – perhaps the only 3 speed manual/straight 6/2wd one ever made – and an 86 Isuzu Trooper LS. Sure the Scout dumped its tranny on the highway. Sure the Trooper burned valves every second oil change. But they were truly usable SUVs that no soccer mom in her right mind would have ever driven.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    By far my favorite company car was a new , 1994 Blazer two-door ,4-wheel-drive with the 350 4-barrel, rubber floor mats and the twin spots . It replaced a bilious blue eighties Cherokee with the 4-cylinder/ automatic that a co-worker totalled . Needless to say , I thought I got a great trade , though at the time I wondered why we needed the 4-wheel drive , the spots or the rubber mats as this was in Houston and it was normally used for hauling engineering plans .

  • avatar

    Very enjoyable read. I feel the same way… mostly any 2-door non-sports coupe or -cabrio seems a little pointless these days.

    Here’s my fave (non-US-market) 2-door SUV. How cool (horrible) would it be as a Lexus GX?!×782.jpg

  • avatar

    Having lived with a 2D jeep for a while, I have to say that the 4D version is much more practical. It tows way more (3500 vs 2500 in 3.8L versions, and some 2D with Pentastar are humbled all the way down to 1500 lbs). Its fuel tank is larger — so range is about 20% more and you don’t need to carry as many jerry cans, if any.

    But most importantly, for a daily driver, the access to the rear seat is significantly better with 4 doors. In their infinite wisdom, Chrysler chose not to install seats that can be flipped forward, then returned back easily. Sure, you can fold the back, but your recline setting is now lost. Therefore, any time you put any small item in the back, accessing it becomes a huge chore. Not just groceries, but anything. With the cap off it’s not a problem, but we’re considering practicality here.

    This access thing is, by the way, how FJ shines with its strange semi-doors. I already saw some making “worst and dimmest” jokes about the way front seat occupant needs to open his door in FJ for the rear occupant to exit. But who in the world cares?!! Not someone who’s ever had a coupe, anyway. FJ’s doors are there to provide access for things, not people. [I am leaving the question of pets aside, because it’s a bit complex. As an example, I knew a guy whose pooch broke a leg jumping out of FJ, so he now carries a ramp and makes the dog use it.]

    Considering the manifold advantage of 4D jeep, people only buy 2D for sheer fun. Sure, it’s ramp angle is marginally better, but it’s not very important. The 2D is just cooler to drive, is all.

  • avatar

    i’m not quite sure i understand what the problem is with 2 door SUVs. my current DD is a ’96 ford explorer sport. why? i wanted an SUV to do some light off-roading with, to be able to haul cargo and/or people, yet i definitely didn’t need a big 4 door. the short wheelbase gives me the turning radius of a car, i have the ground clearance and 4WD for light trail riding, i can seat 5 + luggage for everyone in the back, i can fold the back seats down and haul two 4×12 guitar cabs + heads, a 4×10 bass cab + head, 2 guitars and a bass guitar, and minor misc equipment needed for a live show. why should i get a 4 door? why shoudn’t i have the 2 door? i, as a bachelor, have yet to find an argument against the 2 door. i’m not climbing in the back seat so that’s not my problem, HA.

  • avatar

    Since others have already posted reminders of the Toyota FJ non-“Cruiser”, and the Bronco II, all I’m left with is the 2-door Suzuki Grand Vitara. Introduced with the current generation 4-door for the 2006 year, it has sold in enough numbers outside North America to still be in production. This 2-door Grand Vitara, or Escudo, is used in the Trans-Siberia Rally to compete with a pack of factory prepared Cayennes.

  • avatar

    Bashing two-door SUVs? The shooting brakes of SUVs? This must be some kind of sick April Fools Day joke. Otherwise cancel my subscription.

    Other than the X-90 and Sportage this is basically a list of some of the coolest trucks ever made. The two-door Cherokee? That is basically America’s Lynx Eventer.

    That two door Trooper is awesome. Probably the coolest think Isuzu ever sold here. One of my dream purchases is an early two-door Range Rover.

  • avatar

    Supprised no one mention about chicken tax.
    Easy search on wiki

    “In 1989, the U.S. Customs changed vehicle classifications, automatically relegating two-door SUVs to light truck status”

    • 0 avatar

      It seems relevant, but wasn’t a back seat always a method of bypassing the chicken tax? Subaru BRATs dropped their back seats towards the end of their importation, but I don’t know why.

  • avatar

    I had a 1990 K5 Blazer, it’d go through front brakes every 30K miles and bounced over any little ripple in the road. But, it got 16 mpg, the interior while sparten by today’s standards held up very well, and it was great in the snow. I remember the first time I filled up that 35 gallon fuel tank, my wife actually got out and walked back to see if I was still there. Could you imagine filling that up weekly now with the price of petrol!

  • avatar

    Would you classify the original two-door Range Rover as a champ or a chump?

  • avatar

    They still build a 3-door Toyota Prado, and were sold here in Australia, but I have never seen one.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. 2 door SUVs are the epitome of cool .

  • avatar

    Small 2-door SUVs serve the practical purpose of making offroading easily accessible to a lot of people.

    You might want a small SUV just for weekend hunting trips or trailing. Jimnys, Vitaras and Lada Nivas are perfect little 4x4s for this purpose and much cheaper to keep and maintain than a Wrangler.

    2-Door Mercedes G wagons are used as military vehicles in many countries. The 2-door Pajero did very well in Paris-Dakar, as did the Vitara in Pikes Peak, not to mention that a Suzuki Samurai beat a Wrangler Unlimited for the highest altitude in a car a few years ago.

    2-door SUVs seem to be perfectly capable of doing anything other than carrying more than two people.

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