JDM Off-Road: Five Wild & Weird Japanese Market SUVs & 4x4s We Never Got
The history of Japanese market vehicles is filled with countless cool, desirable and just plain strange models that were never exported to the North American market. The most popular of these are performance cars and sports cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Honda Civic Type R and others.
But what about SUVs and 4x4s? Japanese automakers have built and sold some equally interesting off-roaders and crossovers that never made it our way and we've rounded up five that are worthy of your attention.
While crossover SUVs weren't nearly as popular in the mid 1990s as they are now, there were plenty of them offered in the Japanese market. One of them was the Nissan Rasheen, which featured ATESSA four-wheel-drive and a boxy, retro wagon body shape that made it stand out from the crowd.
Eventually the Rasheen as replaced by the more traditionally styled X-Trail crossover, which we came to know on our shores as the Nissan Rogue.
While Toyota had no shortage of its own homegrown 4x4s to be proud of, when it wanted to offer a small, two-door off-roader it got together with Daihatsu to produce a 4x4 called the Toyota Blizzard.
The Blizzard was based on the Daihatsu Rugger, which we was imported to the US as the Daihatsu Rocky. The Blizzard could be had with a turbodiesel engine as well as a folding windshield for maximum fun.
With the immense popularity of crossover SUVs today, it's strange to know that automakers experimented with the for a long time with many having short lifespans. One of these was the Honda Crossroad.
The original Honda Crossroad was an infamous rebadged version of the Land Rover Discovery sold in the early 1990s, but Honda brought the name back on a small Japanese market crossover that offered three-rows of seating and had optional Real-Time AWD. It was only sold in the Japanese market and was only sold between 2007 and 2010.
Think of Subaru and you'll naturally think of cars and car-based crossovers with AWD and boxer engines, but what about the Subaru Bighorn?
This rare Japanese market 4x4 sold by Subaru in the late '80s and early '90s and was actually a rebadged version of the Isuzu Trooper. It was powered exclusively by a turbodiesel engine and is easily one of the strangest vehicles ever to wear the Subaru badge. Also, the name "Bighorn" is pretty amazing.
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Last but not least we get what's easily one of the coolest off-roaders Japan has ever built—the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution. Built as a a homologated version of the Pajeros that raced at Dakar, it featured a 3.5L V6 that made 275hp, limited slip differentials in the front and rear, and fully independent suspension.
The body was also fully redone with flared fenders, a big hood scoop and more, instantly becoming one of the coolest and most unusual Japanese performance vehicles of all time.
Whether its cars built for the streets, the race track, the wilds or some combination of both—the Japanese domestic market never fails to impress...