Welcome to "What Happened To:" a series where we take a look at cars that seemed to have the potential, either in design or on paper, to be a great success. Whether it be uninspiring driving characteristic, price, or the badge on the hood we investigate "What Happened To: Isuzu VehiCROSS".
It may be a bit ambitious to do a PUV (Performance Utility Vehicle) for just the second installment of "What Happened To:". Possibly even committing Jalop suicide, but if I am being entirely honest this is the vehicle that started it all in my head.
What Is This VehiCROSS You Speak Of?
The VehiCROSS was introduced as a concept in 1993 and started production in the Japanese market in 1997. The VehiCROSS didn't reach the great American shores until 1999 but Isuzu made sure it was ready. It used the same 3.5L V6 found in the badge sharing Trooper which had already establish a foot in the off-road door. Where the Trooper was a top-heavy box that fit the entire family and gear for camping at Jellystone Park, the VehiCROSS promised to be a sporty, multi-terrain, aggressive utility vehicle that the Jeep Compass can only dream about.
Did Isuzu Deliver On Its Promise?
Yes. Yes it did. In the states we received the all-time 4wd Torque on Demand (TOD) drivetrain. The TOD system is a mix of an electromagnetic multi-plate clutch (which is located in the transfer case), a computerized control unit, front and rear speed sensors, and a throttle position sensor that monitors engine output and a little witchcraft that in basic terms keeps the slipping wheels from slipping and gripping wheels gripping. It was a breakthrough development for Isuzu and Borg-Warner, yes this technology was already in use but the execution in the VehiCROSS was the peanut butter to Elvis' Banana... sandwich.
Production and Styling
In a world before the design monstrosities that were the Pontiac Aztek and more recently Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, the VehiCROSS seemed over-stylized (Titanium Teeth). If it would have debut next to say a Nissan Juke this day and age, nobody would have blinked an eye. Instead it debuted during the scare of Y2K, the same year our minds were blown by "The Matrix" and Tyler Durden taught life lessons through violence and multiple personality disorder. In the words of Dave Mustaine "hindsight is always 20-20". Production was kept low at 4,153 units in the US almost anticipating a failed reception.
What Happened To The Isuzu VehiCROSS?
I don't know. I absolutely love what Isuzu was trying to do but didn't know about it for several years after production stopped. I live in south texas where breakfast tacos are a morning ritual and the beaches are plentiful. I can count, on one hand, the number of VehiCROSSes I have encountered in this area and those outside the lone-star state on my other hand. For those curious of my hand appendage history, as of this writing I have all ten. In the comments some will say in a market where the Jeep Wrangler reigned supreme, the VehiCROSS never had a chance. Low production, the fact that consumers were oblivious to what the saber-tooth, plastic clad wearing PUV was capible of and the absence of a proper manual transmission is the reason we ask the question over a decade later What Happened To: Isuzu VehiCROSS.