As much as we moan about all the hot hatches and hopped-up wagon variants we don’t have access to in the ‘States, we’re spoiled for choice with muscle cars, full-size SUVs, and an almost outrageous selection of the finest pickup trucks in the world—vehicles that many other markets don’t have access to. That hasn’t stopped our greedy minds from endlessly scrolling through image searches in hopes we’ll find something else to whine about, and we found a whole mess of off-road-focused 4×4 SUVs and trucks we don’t get in America. Naturally, the grass is always greener—or in this case, the mud is always thicker. Here are eight off-roaders we’re not allowed to drive in the U.S.
You knew this one was coming. Heck, this pint-sized Japanese G-Wagen partially inspired this list to begin with. When Suzuki revealed the adorable redesign of its popular mini-SUV, enthusiasts around the world erupted into immediate adoration. Its cutesy proportion and friendly face even won over gearheads that had no use for or prior interest in 4x4s.
Sadly, cries to bring the sweet little 4×4 to the U.S fell on deaf ears, and we can only daydream about tackling Moab in Suzuki’s best. Though, looking over the spec sheet, it’s no surprise Suzuki has little interest for federalization; aside from a complete lack of a dealer network and the unpleasant fact that the tiny SUV would likely never meet stringent safety requirements in the U.S., the final drive hooked up to the 100-hp 1.5-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder is geared too low for extended use on American highways. At 75 mph, that four-banger is spinning just short of 4,000 rpm—nothing dangerous, just unpleasant.
On the topic of Japanese off-road champions, no 4×4 list is worth its word count without mentioning the Toyota Land Cruiser and its many variants. Toyota’s venerable 4×4 remains the gold standard truck for high-stakes overlanding, desert excursions, and traipsing through war-torn landscapes without so much as an oil change.
In the States, we’re limited to the cushy and very complex J200 Land Cruiser—which is arguably the best luxury off-roader money can buy, but buyers elsewhere summit mountains and ford streams in the FJ70, an ultra-utilitarian variant of the Land Cruiser that hasn’t left production since it was introduced in 1984.
In places replete with inhospitable terrain like Australia, South America, Africa, and the Middle East, the FJ70 is marketed as the indestructible go-anywhere-forever 4×4 warhorse all those Instagram overlanders can only dream of. A range of diesel and gas four-, six-, and eight-cylinders are all available, as are different body configurations and transmissions.
While the world eagerly awaits its first real glimpse of the forthcoming Ford Bronco, the American automaker’s South American subbrand Troller is busy cranking out its own purpose-built Jeep Wrangler fighter. Select markets have enjoyed the Troller TX4 for just over two decades now, and it doesn’t look like Ford’s putting the kibosh on it anytime soon, as the second generation TX4 was recently updated with the new dirt-hungry “Trail” trim.
Aside from heavy duty front and rear bumpers, the TX4 Trail adds front and rear steel skid plates, a winch mount, and an intake snorkel for braving the deeper end of a river crossing. Even if the waterline cuts high, the Troller has plenty of grunt to push through, thanks to a 3.2-liter turbocharged diesel five-cylinder churning out 200 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque through a full four-wheel drive system and six-speed manual transmission.
Criticize the Russian-built Niva all you want, but there’s something to be said for outright simplicity of design. The Niva has remained largely unchanged since it entered production some 40 years ago, and that’s part of the appeal of the affordable little 4×4. This is the first clean-sheet build for VAZ not based on a Fiat, though it admittedly pulled some mechanicals from prior Fiat-based Lada models. While it’s likely not the most reliable vehicle you’ll come across in the backwoods, it’s likely one of the only new 4x4s still fixable with a basic tool kit.
If you’re reading this from Russia, good news! AvtoVAZ refreshed the Niva (now called 4×4) for the 2020 model year, so expect the Niva to last another 40 years. One last claim to fame—now that the old Defender is out of the picture, the Niva lays claim to the longest production run of any 4×4 vehicle still in its original configuration. It’s a rather specific honor, but we reckon Niva owners will take what they can get.
Mahindra must’ve taken a page out of Bollywood’s book on leading man machismo when deciding how to position the Scorpio, since the truck’s homepage is peppered with testosterone-boosting keywords like “All-Powerful” and “Domination.” Hey, can’t fault Mahindra for catering to an audience.
It certainly looks the part of something that would dominate. The upright, slab-sided body with prominent grille reminds us of a Land Rover, as does the truck-ish, rock-ready stance. Underneath is a burly body-on-frame configuration, with either rear- or four-wheel drive drivetrains motivated by an extensive range of gas and diesel four-cylinders. Good news for all you shift-it-yourself fans: the only transmission available is a five-speed manual. Not looking for an SUV? The Scorpio Getaway is the short-bed pickup truck variant.
There’s near zero chance the Scorpio will ever make it over here, but if you’re strangely jonesing for something Mahindra that isn’t an agricultural implement, the Indian automaker would be happy to sell you a Mahindra Roxor for all your off-roading side-by-side needs.
Mitsubishi Montero and Pajero
While Mitsubishi cut its U.S. lineup to just crossovers and the subcompact Mirage sedan/hatchback, the rest of the world continued to enjoy Mitsu’s impressive lineup of capable off-road SUVs and trucks. Globally, the automaker has cultivated a strong reputation for stout, reliable off-road SUVs, carried by the current iteration of both the Pajero and the Triton truck.
Though these are far from the most exciting 4x4s on the list, there’s something to be said for a straightforward, no-frills SUV that can get you across the desert and to your favorite restaurant without looking (and driving) like something that escaped the local military base.
In an era of unprecedented demand for any and all things with a truck bed, it’s hard to believe Ford would leave the U.S. without the latest and greatest off-road version of the popular Ranger truck. While markets like Europe and Australia romp around in Ford’s mid-size Baja bruiser, we can only watch in envy from the bed of the full-size F-150 Raptor—or if you’re impatient, a Hennessey VelociRaptor Ranger.
Steady on—Ford has committed to bring the Ranger Raptor to the ‘States, just not quite yet. The Ranger we see roaming our streets at present is a bit of a stop-gap measure to reclaim market share from Toyota, Nissan, and Chevrolet while the Blue Oval redesigns an all-new Ranger from the ground up. The current Ranger is almost a decade old when you take its longstanding presence overseas into account, and Ford wants to do right by the forthcoming Raptor. Plus, by the time Ford could federalize the Ranger Raptor to American regulations, it would be a bunch of money and time invested for only one or two model years before the redesigned Ranger arrives.
So, in a year or so, when the next-generation Ranger is unveiled, you can expect a U.S.-bound Raptor variant close behind, this time with all the modern refinement and updated tech the Ranger T6 platform doesn’t have.
You didn’t think I’d leave out the mack-daddy of all forbidden off-road fruit, did you? The behemoths chugging out of Mercedes’ Special Trucks factory in Wörth am Rhein, Germany tower over the other entries on this list, and are, for many, the be-all, end-all of terrain subjugation.
Where most of the 4x4s on this list are happy to wallow around in the muck and brave a rock-filled ravine, a properly configured Unimog could carry one of these aforementioned trucks on its back through the Atacama Desert without breaking a sweat. It doesn’t hurt that nearly all Unimogs look like a mix between a heavy-duty work pickup and a Germanic monster truck.
I’d go into mechanical details of what makes the Unimog tick, but there are so many different body and drivetrain configurations, it would be a Sisyphean task to document them all. Not that you’d stand a chance of seeing a new one in person, as the Unimog hasn’t been on official sale here since 2007.