1997 Isuzu Vehicross reconsidered

Spare a thought for the Isuzu Vehicross. Isuzu revealed the Vehicross as a concept at the 1993 Tokyo Motor show and the production car went on sale in 1997. Who thinks about it today?

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

The Vehicross survived for four years until 2001 and has sunk without leaving very much of a trace. However, it merits a second look. In 2013, Michael George at Jalopnik wrote : “Let’s check off all the ways the Vehicross is a unique snowflake in the most boring automotive landscape of all. A design that still seems futuristic today? Check. It comes from a much-beloved dead brand? Check. Sophisticated all-wheel-drive technology that makes it a highly-competent off roader? Check. General mechanical toughness? Check. Rarity? Check. Always designed to be a one-run niche vehicle? Check.” For this reason he sees it as future classic. If you want one, look here  where a 1998 with an absurd 3.2 litre engine is for sale for £6500. That´s not a lot of money for a rather interesting motor car.

Dull.
Dull.

While crossovers today are just another class of car, the Vehicross broke new ground and did so with remarkable élan. The styling remains fresh and interesting and it´s remarkable it seems to have had no successors. Perhaps this is an example of a car

1999 Isuzu Vehicross rear
1999 Isuzu Vehicross rear

with so much character, none could be rubbed off onto another design without homage being mistaken for plagiarism.

1993 Isuzu Vehicross concept
1993 Isuzu Vehicross concept

Looking at the form language, the impression is of robustness yet the character of the lines is smooth transitions. The lower body is demarcated from the upper by a smoothly 1993-isuzu-vehicross-concept-photo-334694-s-520x318marked boundary running around the car. The lamps have a slightly vertical orientation, rounded without looking cute. Despite the strongly expressed character, it remains rational, deviating from the engineering minimum in a very controlled way. Often such deviations seem contrived and excessive. In this case, it manages that compromise between effectiveness and accent flawlessly. This is not my type of car but I feel it´s a superb example of a show car making it to reality with its soul intact. Alas, the interior is rather ordinary but I think I can forgive the car for this, such is the originality of the exterior.

2001 Cadillac Imaj
2001 Cadillac Imaj

For Isuzu, the praise heaped on the car´s style (articles in Car and Car and Driver, for example), meant nothing for sales. Isuzu produced a remodelled Civic which they sold as a Vertex (partly covering the Vehicross´s production life) and the remaining passenger vehicles they produced thereafter were light trucks and SUVs. In total, they produced six further cars or light trucks since the Vehicross went on sale and are now a maker of commercial trucks.

The Vehicross´s designer, Simon Cox, has however survived. He is now the chief designer at Infiniti, having consulted for them at the UK-based firm, Futura. In the interim he conceived Cadillac´s art and science theme in the form of the 2001 Cadillac Imaj concept car. This theme has had a long run. Whether you like it or not, it has demonstrated considerable resilience and flexibility. And,further, Cox is an example of a designer being able to adopt the form language suitable for each car, rather than simply doing “his” car for different clients.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “1997 Isuzu Vehicross reconsidered”

  1. Interesting car, with race-car suspension. Very expensive stuff…
    They seem to be rather popular in Malaysia these days, as I have seen few in the adds for (and I am not kidding!) 30-40,000 USD!!

    Future classic, probably..if you can find one these days!

    1. Yes, really. It looks exactly like a concep car but you can buy one. Nobody expected it from Isuzu and it did nothing for the firm’s reputation. That was unfair.
      Thanks for all your comments today. How did you find the site? A search or a redirect from somewhere? We really appreciate this interest and hope you have enjoyed what you’ve seen.

  2. I agree, Isuzu deserved better rep. Vehicross did well on Dakar rally long time ago, but somehow Isuzu never profited from this success, at least in Europe.

    As for me finding your site, it was your article about Senator on CC that led me here. I like unpretentius, simple layout and interesting articles about European vehicles and decided to explore it 🙂 A flu gave me enough time to do this, so you’ll hear more from me in next 2-3 days 🙂

  3. How come such a beautiful AWD vehicle was not even known when they came out? I got one back in 2001 and as up today 2016 every where i take it turns heads and many ask me what kind of car is this? I hardly see any around. I live in California btw.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jacob.

      Perplexing. Nobody expected it from Isuzu perhaps. Was it too futuristic? Today it *still* looks futuristic. I like that but many are more cautious. My preferred explanation is that Isuzu didn’t know how to market the car. The car itself is excellent.

    2. I always liked it too. I noticed a while back looking at the Wikipedia entry for it that the Isuzu fanboys had been busy – this is what they have to say:

      “Sales were intentionally limited, with only 5958 vehicles being produced between 1997 and 2001; 1805 were produced for the domestic Japanese market and the remaining 4,153 sold in the United States. Japanese sales were limited by the fact that the exterior width dimensions were not in compliance with Japanese Government dimension regulations, and the engine displacement obligated Japanese drivers for higher levels of annual road tax. The vehicle had a base price of $28,900.”

      I would have said that number is reasonably good considering Isuzu was more or less dead in the US by the turn of the century.

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