By on June 26, 2019

In today’s QOTD we conclude the discussion started a couple of weeks ago when we asked for the best-aged truck and SUV designs from the Nineties. First up were American brands, followed by Europe last week. Over 10,000 of you (probably) agreed with sample submission Discovery II last week; let’s see how well this week’s Asian selection sits.

Before we get to that, let’s review the rules of the game:

  1. All selections must be model years 1990 to 1999.
  2. Picks must be from an Asian manufacturer, even if sourced from an import (eg. Honda Crossroad).
  3. The only eligible body styles are trucks and SUVs.

Ready for some two-tone and/or gold badges action?

Ahh, there we are. For the 1998 model year Lexus replaced its O.G. large SUV offering, the LX 450 (headline image), with the LX 470 seen here. As before, the LX was a ruched leather and wood-toned version of the contemporary Land Cruiser. While the first generation (96-97) reeked of an afterthought compliance exercise, the 1998 version looked and felt more like a real Lexus. The LX was given the trapezoid grille and quad headlamp design shared by the GS and SC models. Inside, the interior featured upgraded materials over the Land Cruiser, and higher-end equipment like Nakamichi audio and satellite navigation.

The second generation lasted in its initial design through the 2002 model year. For 2003 visual upgrades coincided with additional electronic luxuries inside. Power also increased slightly, and the engine met ULEV-II emission standards. Refreshed once more for 2006, the horsepower figure of the LX increased from 235 to 268, and the four-speed automatic was swapped for a five-speed. In 2008 the LX 470 turned into the LX 570, as its basis moved to the 200 Series Land Cruiser.

While it might be argued that the LX with its more polarizing styling hasn’t aged as well as the more basic looking Land Cruiser, present day condition plays a part here. It’s easy to find late Nineties LX examples in clean, garaged condition with full service histories. Land Cruisers are more often taken off-road, abused, and generally modified by the snorkel and big tires crowd. LX wins on graceful aging metrics.

Let’s hear your selections from Asia.

[Images: Lexus]

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58 Comments on “QOTD: Trucking Great Nineties Design in Asia?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    Ooh, now we’re talking!

    I guess I personally like just about ALL the different SUVs made during this era, with just a few particular details I don’t care for: the optional 3 spoke wheels on mid-trim Mitsubishi Montero Sports and QX4s.

    A personal favorite? Isuzu Rodeo LS in two tone. Some of the best factory alloy wheels of the era IMO, nice chrome details, just a very purposeful vehicle with a more hunkered down look than the tippier Trooper (which I like a lot too make no mistake)

    consumerguide.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/93805031990108.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      ptschett

      I do like the Rodeo. My mom’s littlest sister had a monochrome red one that was a sharp-looking SUV in that era. I misremember which wheels it had, but it was 20-25 years ago…

  • avatar
    gtem

    ” It’s easy to find late Nineties LX examples in clean, garaged condition with full service histories. Land Cruisers are more often taken off-road, abused, and generally modified by the snorkel and big tires crowd. LX wins on graceful aging metrics.”

    FWIW it’s getting harder to find either one in well preserved condition, and the “overland” guys aren’t stupid, they’ve been scooping up the LX470s just as eagerly as the Land Cruisers. I personally much prefer the more traditional Land Cruiser front end over the overdone LX.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Any of the 100 series rigs are likely to be in good shape. The off-road crowd didn’t care for the IFS (US rigs…we didn’t get the 105 series).

      80 series rigs, regardless of the badge on the grill are getting thin.

      60 series…forget it

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        “The off-road crowd didn’t care for the IFS ”

        You should check out Expedition Portal/ih8mud/etc a bit more, the overlanding crowd has fully embraced the 100 series. IFS is perfectly adequate for the sort of outings most people in that field of offroading are into, where it’s more washboard roads than rockcrawling.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Iv’e built an expo rig out of a later 80 series. I don’t disagree with you on any of your points, but the offroading scene in the US leans heavily toward trails and rock crawling. It’s not as big as it is in other parts of the world. As such nice 100 series rigs are still plentiful. Honestly if I had to get back into a Land Cruiser I’d do a 100 series. Any of the later rigs were just too physically large for what I’d want to do and the IFS is fine for my purposes. Also I don’t have to deal with the stupid unobtainium or made of gold parts on the USDM 1FZ-FE or the cant get out of its own way in an 80 series 3FE.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    Look at all of that sidewall!

    Anyways – I’ve found a few Lexus GXs cheaper than the same era 4Runners; though the “comfort” setting of the GX I test drove was barf-inducing.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    4-Runner, hands down, so much better looking in the 90s then now

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Like minds think alike…we had to hit Post within seconds of each other.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Definitely “peak” 4Runner. These days an older one makes me take a second look.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I wish TTAC had a way to share photos, I’d love to share my immaculately kept 1996 4Runner Limited in Evergreen over Anthracite :) finally crested 150k miles a few months ago, I bought it back in 2013 with 99k miles from someone who had not driven it in the winter since 2000. It’s been an awesome truck and I’ve taken it all over the Midwest/East Coast, iced over mud holes in NY to yanking stuck Subarus out on the beaches of the Outer Banks.

        Truly the one thing that will take a 3rd gen 4Runner off the road is frame rot. I’ve seen a number of them leaving the roads these past few years with immaculate sheetmetal and swiss-cheese frames. Keep ’em oil undercoated folks! I keep mine out of the salt whenever possible to begin with.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Just post a link to a host, we’ll look

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Here’s a few I had posted in a discussion over at CC, both from a trip with friends to the Outer Banks in 2017. Aired down, the 4Runner absolutely waltzes across the most treacherous dry/deep parts of the beach where many newer (heavier) trucks and SUVs with low hanging airdams might struggle.

            http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/comment-image/643635.jpg

            http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/comment-image/643767.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Great looking truck, I like the way you had to help the Subie out of the sand ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          newenthusiast

          “I’d love to share my immaculately kept 1996 4Runner Limited in Evergreen over Anthracite”

          A dark green over a light gray, tan/beige, or even saddle brown is the best color combo for any vehicle.

          That is an excellent looking example.

        • 0 avatar
          formula m

          Great Looking 4Runner!! I loved my 98′

          Looks wise I like the 1995 4Runner Sequoia Edition in green. Came with gold badges, fender flares and even gold window tint. Girl I lived with out in the Canadian Rockies drove one of these and we drove it thru hell and back. Fantastic vehicle!!

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I’m a little biased with this one because I had one in my overseas living days and beat the living hell out of it in places with dirt tracks for “roads” – the 1995-6 era Toyota 4Runner. Still body on frame, old-school lever for 4WD (I recall the previous version still had the option of twisting the front wheel hubs to activate 4WD), still a little underpowered, and plenty thirsty – minus the catalytic converter due to leaded gas, I was lucky to get 11-12 mpg in mixed driving – but I was able to just flat out use and abuse this truck and it came back for more.
    I could nominate the previous gen 4Runner as well, but that was more of an 80’s design. Both generations were just a clean, honest looking design that has aged well, stupid reliable to the point of bulletproof, and to me, is what a real SUV was meant to be.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’m not sure if this meets the criteria since it was (as far as I know) a US-only design but made by Toyota.

    The Toyota T100 is one of my favorite truck designs. Clean lines, good proportions, just the right size (for me), and tough (minus the rust issues). Yes, my ’98 was underpowered with the 3.4L lugging all of that weight, but I still have a weakness for these trucks.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I fully agree with the LC and LX; classic designs. I’ll add the 1994+ Trooper to the mix – all purpose, no fluff, especially after the refinement in 1998. I also thought the ‘96+ 4Runner and Pathfinder has great designs.

  • avatar
    WhatsMyNextCar

    The ’95 Tacoma Xtra Cab 4×4 V6 was the pickup I really wanted. Even then, they were too expensive for my budget. I got a Mazda equivalent, instead. It was a nice truck, but I always felt like I settled.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    The Toyota Land Cruiser has been flawlessly curated since it’s inception.

    I cannot think of another model that has so effortlessly honed a genre…

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Isuzu Amigo-The removable rear top and pop up sunroof make it a fun two door ute.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    It’s early with the comments, but I have to ask…what the bloody hell happened Toyota? Every single REAL truck/SUV Toyota offered is all right here (notice no one mentioned the original RAV4…) and there’s a lot of love for how real they were. Now they are just overstyled posers of what remains of their reputation. How the mighty has fallen.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “what the bloody hell happened Toyota?”
      ” ” ” ” ” GM?
      ” ” ” ” ” Ford?
      ” ” ” ” ” Nissan?

      I don’t know, at least we’ve still got Jeep

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Aside from how ugly they are, how are any of the new Toyota trucks “posers?” They offer some of the most wide-ranging and serious off-road hardware of any of the big manufacturers, the 4Runner is literally the last midsize BOF SUV standing (Wrangler JKU is of course another option but kind of its own thing).

      By the way, those original Rav4s were actually pretty decent offroad, as good as any Subaru anyways with a 50/50 fulltime AWD split and an optional rear LSD.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I’ll add: overpriced gingerbread aside, the current 200 series LandCruiser is still incredibly durable and offroad, and definitely builds on the 100 series that Corey featured. Yes they lost the solid front axle of the 80 series, but are still immensely capable/durable rigs, with superior comfort and road holding to the old 80.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        Body on frame aside, when Toyota changed their mission from “go anywhere, do anything” to $50,000+ take the kids to soccer vehicles, to me, that’s when they lost the mission and became posers.
        Can you still beat up a 4Runner or a Tacoma offroad? Yes, no problem. But, and especially with the 4Runner, you’ll have all kinds of electro-nannys controlling your descent, stability, and power to each wheel. Compare that to offroading with a 1995 4Runner where control was how talented your feet, hands, and what’s between your ears.
        Can a modern Tacoma survive the Top Gear Hilux torture test? (Still one of the greatest moments in Top Gear history) I doubt it. Would anyone on this planet even dream about taking their $80,000 Land Cruiser off of anything more challenging than the gravel road to their cabin?
        I recall over a decade ago, and I’m not sure if they still sell them, but where I worked in Africa, we had a small fleet of real Land Cruisers – vinyl seats, diesel engines, stick shifts, 4WD, locking diffs, these things were TANKS. They would go anywhere and everywhere, have a lot of space, and really lived up to the name “Land Cruiser.”
        I know the market has spoken…even the Jeep Wrangler has modernized to the point where one wouldn’t recognize it from 20 years ago…so the tech is here to stay. But something has been lost and I think it was the purity of having a vehicle that just could do anything and go anywhere and not worry about electronics and tech butting into everything.
        And that’s why I have a tough time looking at a new 4Runner and comparing it to the first few generations. It still might be the same inefficient body on frame with the sit-on-the-floor feeling that they are known for and the same thirsty engines, but overloading it with nannys and tech seems to have removed it from what it was meant to be.
        …rant over…

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “we had a small fleet of real Land Cruisers – vinyl seats, diesel engines, stick shifts, 4WD, locking diffs, these things were TANKS.”

          If that’s what you want then your “golden era” isn’t really the 90s Toyotas either.

        • 0 avatar
          jh26036

          Your views are unrealistic and unfair to Toyota.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Well you can still buy the Landcruisers you dream of… overseas (LC70). ajla is right, if that level of spartan-ness is what you crave, Toyota’s SUVs left that by the late 80s arguably.

          I get the frustration at modern offroad traction aids and all the beeping/buzzing that accompanies their work on Toyotas especially, I myself enjoy that my ’96 missed the ATRAC system that was introduced in ’00 and replaced the mechanical locking rear diff (which mine has). At the same time, these modern brake-based systems really DO enhance offroad capability. Here’s the beautiful thing about new 4Runners/Tacomas: they have BOTH. They still have the traditional hard mechanical systems/features like solid rear axles with good articulation, BOF construction, and mechanical diff locks. But layered on top of that are the modern systems. You can disable them if you’d like as well.

          • 0 avatar
            theflyersfan

            I had never seen a Land Cruiser so stripped before until I went overseas – had no idea they existed. These were basic vehicles meant for severe use in the tropics that could never break down in the worst place! Because I was one of the few who knew how to drive a stick, I was lucky enough to give one of these Land Cruisers a good pounding and they never felt like they were breaking a sweat. Even my 4Runner – modified slightly for use over there – was simple and any shadetree mechanic was able to get parts and perform repairs.

            Your 96 4Runner had to be screaming PLEASE TAKE ME OFFROAD!!! ;-)

            And in the US market, there’s no way in hell that anything as basic as a stripped Land Cruiser or a back to basics 4Runner would sell 500 units. The dearly departed FJ probably was as close as we’ll get, and at least the Tacoma is still right-sized to hit the trails with.

            And as a side note, I still cannot forgive Nissan for giving up on the Xterra – had one as a rental a while back, so took it on some forest trails with a lot of mud and had way too much fun with it. To me, that’s what the 4Runner was in the generations we are writing about.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I agree about the Xterra, but you can still sorta, kinda get it in truck form

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          Also this:

          ” to $50,000+ take the kids to soccer vehicles,”

          Guess how much my ’96 4Runner Limited cost, adjusted for inflation?

          $55k.

          Guess who bought it new?
          A well to do engineer who never took it offroad.

        • 0 avatar
          cgjeep

          But there isn’t a single vehicle made today that doesn’t have all of that. Jeeps too.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        The goofy body kits do seem to have knee-capped the capability of the Lexus SUVs.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    The Nissan “Hardbody” pickup.
    No idea what they were like to live with, but I had a Nylint replica of it, and my high school music teacher had a red regular cab stickshift 4×2 that I drove once to help him move some band equipment from the school to a church where we were going to have a concert. (He’d driven the music department’s truck, a former-USAF Chevy van-based truck we called ‘the Julie-mobile’ for reasons I don’t remember. Probably because it annoyed Julie.)

    (…also, I wonder if Nylint’s still around? I have doubts.)

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      My first car that I bought with a loan was a used ’94 Nissan Hardbody; kingcab, manual, and a 4X2. It was black with a green decal splash on the side. Very spartan interior but I never complained – it was a truck!

      When the Frontier came out, I didn’t like the rounded look versus the squareness of the Hardbody. The HB was a durable truck, not much power, but it could still get out of its own way. So useful when I bought my first house – travels to the dump, hardware store, moving, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris Ransdell

      I owned a used 1993 Hardbody 4×4 SE-V6 with 5-speed manual. Departed for over 10 years, it remains my most fondly remembered vehicle ever. Mine being an SE had (for its day) a very plush interior with great softly upholstered seats, nice carpeting throughout etc. The paint (deep blue) and alloy wheels held up amazingly well even well into it’s over 100K mile age.

      While reliable, it wasn’t completely trouble free. Mine had a recurring problem with rear wheel bearings needing servicing and it seemed to eat up brakes faster than any other car I’ve owned. It also wasn’t well suited to high speed cruising because the gearing had it spinning pretty fast at 70 MPH and though wonderfully smooth and refined, the VG30 engine wasn’t all that powerful so taller gearing probably wouldn’t have been all that useful. Still, I enjoyed every day with it and was very sad when I sold it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I had an ‘88 Nissan SE-V6 King Cab with the 5 speed. It was a great vehicle for me; I sold it with 200k+ miles 13 years after I bought it. Only maintenance that I recall was the usual brakes, tires, fluids, etc.

  • avatar
    jh26036

    The 90s definitely had some great stuff, which includes the 1st gen Pathfinder SE with those blocky lego wheels! My favorite when optioned with green exterior + gray cloth + 5MT + 4WD.

    The real unicorn 3rd gen 4Runner is a 4Runner Sport in green with no running boards or roof rack, but has 5MT + rear locker. Swoon.

    Honorable mention 90s SUVs that aged well in my opinion:
    Honda CR-V
    Suzuki Vitara
    Mitsubishi Montero Sport pre-face lift
    Full size Montero (2nd to last generation)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Nailed it on every point.

      2nd gen Montero is an absolute beast and totally underappreciated in the US (although overlanding guys sick of $10-15k 80 series have started to notice). Montero Sports are like 90% of a 3rd gen 4Runner at half the cost (or less) used, with very fetching styling on the pre-refresh ones, and stronger motors than a 5VZ-FE in the later years.

      Stick shift factory-rear locker 3rd gens are indeed incredibly desirable, of course I wish my own was a stick, but the reality is these days if you find a clean one with minimal salt exposure and not a zillion miles, you snatch it up.

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        The Mitsubishi Montero/Pajero was the other SUV you saw everywhere in a lot of Africa. And they were easy to love and beat up just as hard as those Toyotas. When people left post to return home, and it was time to sell your car (if you didn’t want the hassle of trying to convert it back to US emissions standards), if you had any kind of Mitsubishi or Toyota truck/SUV, there would be a bidding war for it.
        Look up the Nissan Patrol as well – another honest-to-goodness rugged SUV.
        And if you really wanted something different, and couldn’t get here, the SsangYong Musso was something to pound the trails with.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yes, to all of the above. I wondered how long it would be until someone mentioned when Pathfinder was a real SUV instead of a blubbery station wagon

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      Second the Honda CR-V and I’ll add the Suzuki Sidekick 4-door.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Before anyone here says Isuzu VehiCROSS, the pre-emptive reply is: oh hell no. That pile goes into the inevitable “Worst 90s” QOTD.

    • 0 avatar
      ptschett

      It’d be in my top 5 for this… I just hadn’t remembered it being a 1990’s vehicle because of how late it came out.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      It’s a polarizing design, but I will say this: how many other late 90s SUVs still look relevant in the automotive design landscape? I guess that could be commentary on just how ugly modern automotive design is.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    70 Series Land Cruiser

  • avatar
    Zipster

    Speaking of pictures, what is more appropriate than a CO2 spewing Suv in front of a retreating glacier?


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