Buy/Drive/Burn: Oddball Semi-premium SUVs From 1998

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn oddball semi premium suvs from 1998

The Buy/Drive/Burn series has been stuck in a time warp lately. After tackling domestic minivans from 1994 with luxury appointments, we moved on to 1997 and some nontraditional imported minivans.

Once again, we’re going to keep it in the ’90s and determine which of three imported, alternative semi-luxury SUVs should burn at the stake. Are you ready for gold badges and two-tone? Rhetorical question.

Acura SLX

The imported minivans article linked above discussed the Honda Odyssey, which was also sold as the Isuzu Oasis in its first generation. Here we have an Isuzu sold by the luxury arm of Honda. The SLX was on offer at Acura dealers between 1996 and 1999. The 1998 model year saw a visual refresh with larger grille and headlamps, and a change from 3.2 to 3.5 liters for the Isuzu V6 engine. All SLX models were loaded, and featured ruched leather on all five seats, wood, and a huge sunroof. The SLX was a stop-gap measure at a time when Honda wasn’t too keen on SUVs (remember the Passport?). There was no SLX replacement from Acura until 2001, when the MDX was finally readied for sale. Buyers should look out for that GM 4L30-E transmission, though — it doesn’t like motivating the heft of the SLX.

Land Rover Discovery I

The Land Rover is perhaps the most prestigious of our oddball luxury collection. It’s the reason 1998 is our selected year, because 1999 would see the dawn of the Discovery II. All three of our rides today were roughly at the end of their lives in 1998. Like above, Honda also rebadged a Discovery and called it the Crossroad for the Japanese market. On sale in the US since the 1994 model year, the Discovery gained luxury appointments throughout its development. All 1996 to 1998 Discovery models had the 4.0-liter Rover V8 under the hood. For our purposes, today’s Discovery is the top trim LSE. It features five regular leather-clad seats, and two jump seats in the back for people you dislike. Buyers should keep an eye on those Lucas electrics.

Mitsubishi Montero

The second generation Montero arrived in North America for the 1994 model year, replacing the very boxy and much less refined first-generation model. For 1998 the Montero got a slight visual update (revised cladding) and a simplification in trims (one model). Standard features include seven real seats and a split third row which folded up and to the side. Ours will be fully-loaded, with wood trim, leather seats, and an even larger sunroof than the SLX. The Montero has the added benefit of having a better ride quality than most vehicles in its class. All 1998 Monteros were powered by the 3.5-liter V6, making 200 horsepower. Honda did not rebadge the Montero, and buyers might watch out for oil leaks in various places under the hood.

Which of these two semi-forgotten import SUVs do you take home or borrow, and which one magically bursts into flames?

[Images: Acura, Land Rover, Mitsubishi]

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  • 2000ChevyImpalaLS 2000ChevyImpalaLS on Mar 10, 2018

    Another round of congrats on the Ford, John. I know that has to be special to you. To answer the question, I'd buy the Montero. My previous employer had one that we all kind of used as a runabout. I'm not a Mitsubishi fan, but the one we had was dead-solid reliable and fairly comfortable to drive. Borrow the Discovery. I've never driven one, but I've heard bad things about their reliability. But it'd be interesting to try one for a while. Burn the Isuzu in an Acura costume. I've never liked the Trooper.

  • Asterix Asterix on Mar 11, 2018

    Owned the 1998 Disco so will still "take home" again. Wouldn't mind "borrowing" the Montero. The Acura (Trooper) can burn.

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  • Kwik_Shift My brother inherited his work travel 2013 Ford Escape 1.6L EcoBoost to be replaced with a 2019. Right its a beater vehicle to take my mother out for shopping/appts, etc.Right now it has 420,000 (HWY) kms still on original engine/turbo/transmission. Impressive, but doesn't mean I'd intentionally buy any Ford EB combination vehicle. I've heard lots of bad things as well.
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  • Jeff71960 once a fun fast little car (if you can find an unmolested one)... unfortunately boy racer types trashed most of them