There are a lot of great cars for sale in the United States, but plenty of fantastic foreign and fantasy models never make it into showrooms. Check out some of our favorite forbidden fruit.
The long-awaited revival of the VW Microbus may be just a couple of years away, but it could already be facing some "hippie bus" competition. General Motors' European division, Opel, has unveiled the Vivaro Surf concept. The front-wheel-drive diesel van is outfitted with surfboard racks, a waterproof cargo area with drawers and racks to handle all sorts of sloppy adventure gear, a snazzy two-tone paint job, and a spirit that hearkens back to the Holden Sandman, a 1970's lifestyle classic from GM's Australian brand. And while Holden is considering putting the Vivaro on sale Down Under, with the recent success of European-style vans like the Ford Transit and Ram Promaster in the USA, don't be surprised to see it on the California coast soon, too.
Sure, Mercedes-Benz's latest concept car has a plug-in hybrid drivetrain and next-generation safety technology that allows it to talk to other vehicles and the road's infrastructure in order to autonomously avoid accidents, but its what's on the outside that really counts. The sleek sedan can alter its shape to improve its aerodynamics on the highway. It has hidden louvers and deployable flaps up front, deep dish wheels that flatten at speed, and bodywork that extends 15 inches from its tail to help it slice through the air like a silver arrow.
Tesla's had the electric luxury car market to itself all these years, but that can't last forever. Case in point: The Porsche Mission E concept is a 600 hp all-electric sedan with a (European rated) range of 310 miles -- the same as the Tesla Model S -- that can sprint to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. It's ace in the hole is a new, undisclosed charging system that can fill it with 250 miles worth of energy in just 15 minutes, much quicker than any electric car today. The catch? It'll be at least three and a half years before it goes on sale, if ever, so who knows what Tesla and others will cook up by then.
Don't let the name get your hopes up. The Renault Alaskan Concept is a dressed-up sneak peek at the company's upcoming pickup. Based on the Nissan Navara (no, you can't buy that here,) the Alaskan features a twin-turbo diesel engine, 2,200-pound payload capacity, three storage bins in the sides of the bed, and cameras mounted in the side-view mirror housings to record your journeys. The solar-powered box on top? A mystery to be revealed at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. The bad news, of course, is that Renault doesn't sell cars anywhere near Alaska, not even in Canada. But the truck is set to be the basis for Mercedes-Benz first pickup, too, which may be coming to a dealer near you, if not that soon.
Considering the Land Rover Defender hasn't been sold in the United States since 1997, and is going out of production next year, this one hurts twice as much. Or perhaps six times. The Flying Huntsman is a Defender done up by British custom shop Kahn Design with leather, Harris tweed, a 500 hp engine and, yea, six-wheel-drive. The price? £200,000, or just over $300,000 if it were sold here, which it's not, and, even if it were, you probably couldn't afford it, but that doesn't make it any easier.
Mitsubishi may be best known in the U.S. today for its Outlander crossovers and Mirage subcompact, but there was a day when it sold some serious off-road machines. It still does in other countries, and just unveiled its new Pajero Sport. The truck-based utility vehicle features body-on-frame construction, a 2.4-liter diesel engine, eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive, and high-tech features that include one that won’t let you accidentally accelerate away from a stop if something is in front of the truck and you don’t happen to see it. If they sold it here, it’d likely be called the Montero Sport, but since Mitsubishi would need to invest $50 million to meet U.S. safety standards, don’t worry about rear-ending one anytime soon.
It may be called the California, but don’t expect to see it cruising down Highway 1 anytime soon. Volkswagen’s latest Transporter-based camper van comes with the kitchen sink, plus a two-burner stove, refrigerator, picnic table, second row seating that converts to a double bed, and another one on the roof under a pop-up canopy. All-wheel-drive is available for the outdoorsy stuff, along with a 200 hp engine and adaptive suspension for the open road. Just about the only things it’s missing are a toilet, and EPA and NHTSA approvals, which do come in handy here. Oh well, anyone up for a grand tour of Europe?
It may look like an F1 car, but the Quantum GP700 is street legal...in Australia, at least. The two-seater is currently being road tested with a 700 hp twin-supercharged 2.7-liter four cylinder engine and weighs just 700 kg (1543 lbs,) hence the name. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds, but even more impressive is the claim that it's big wings generate 1.8 g of downforce at 175 mph, which theoretically means it can drive on the ceiling. Lionel Richie would love it, and you'll probably have to be a superstar like him to buy one since it's expected to cost $695,000 when it goes on sale in Asia, the Middle East and (upside?) Down Under later this year.
From the moment it went on sale practically everywhere but North America in 1984, the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 cemented its position as one of the most lust-worthy utilitarian vehicles in the world. Believe it or not, it still is. Three decades on, the trusty truck is still available in Africa and Australia, where it comes in a variety of SUV and cargo versions, including this double cab chassis Workmate that’s powered by a 4.5-liter V8 diesel that breathes through a standard dust filter snorkel, just to rub in how cool it is.
Like Land Rovers, pickup trucks and symmetry? Well, A. Kahn Design has got you covered with its new Flying Huntsman 105 Pick Up. The British customizer stretched a Defender 90 wheelbase by over 15 inches in front of the passenger cabin to create an engine compartment long enough to accommodate a V8 that’s nicely balanced by a tiny two-seat cabin and open bed. The unique creation costs about $90,000 in U.S. dollars, but since the Defender hasn’t been legally sold in here since 1997, if you want one it’ll cost you £58,875 and a trip to the U.K.
It’s been a while since Honda sold a small, affordable, open-top sports car in the United States, but it just unveiled one just for Japan that is all of those things. The S660 is a tiny, mid-engine 2-seater with a targa top and a 660cc three-cylinder turbocharged engine built to Japan’s kei car specifications, which limits power to 64 hp and comes with tax and parking privileges. The S660 offers a six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive, a 45/55 weight distribution for nimble handling, and a drop-down rear window to make things even cooler.
Auto racing is banned in Switzerland, but you'd never know it from this oddity built by local custom car builder Sbarro (no relation to the pizza you had for lunch.) Not only does it look like Speed Racer's Mach 5, but it has three seats so you can bring a couple of friends along for hot laps at the track. According to Motor Trend, it's powered by a 7.7 liter GM big block V8 and will cost about $200,000 if any buyers are found, but it's unlikley they'll be looking for any in the USA.
Subcompact SUVs like the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke and Buick Encore are a hot ticket these days, so the Suzuki iM-4 concept looks like a surefire hit. The 12-foot-long hybrid 4x4 is a possible replacement for the Jimny, which is what the Samurai is called these days in the markets where it’s still sold. Too bad Suzuki pulled out of ours in 2013, because it would’ve made a super-cute off-road competitor for the new Jeep Renegade. Then again, considering the Renegade is built in Italy and sold around the world, the two are likely to but their little heads out in the wilderness someday.
This may be the ultimate vehicle for social climbers. The Mercedes-Benz G 500 4x4² is a jacked-up take on the truck that won't die. The G-Class has been on sale since 1979 and there's still no stopping it. This extreme off-road version gets a 422 hp twin-turbo V8 from Mercedes' new GT supercar and a set of portal axles that give it nearly 18 feet of ground clearance and the ability to ford water more than a meter deep. If they build it (and since Mercedes sold 100 units of the even crazier G63 6x6 that debuted a couple of years ago that's not a very big if) expect it to cost a mountain of money, about $300,000.
Toyota is giving one of its sportiest cars a nose job. The 86 Style Cb is a special edition of the car sold in the United States as the Scion FR-S. It's new rounded front end and bulbous headlights give it a distinctive, kind of 1990's look, while wood trim and a set of Cyber Stork white on black gauges class things up inside. The price? 4,180,582 yen in Japan, the only place it's going to be available. We're not sure what the parts to convert your FR-S would cost.
The Nissan Juke NISMO RS is already an odd-looking bird, and that goes double for this snowbird version. Nissan threw a set of Dominator tracks on it, a pair of new bumpers, reprogrammed its computer systems, and sent it on its way into the wilds of Finland as a support vehicle for an ice driving event, so your local snow-covered parking lot is cake. It's not for sale, but the mod cost about $15,000 to build, so go do that.
Two of the biggest American car stories this year have been the growth in Ram 1500 pickup sales and the incredible 707 hp V8 in Dodge Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcat muscle cars, so its tempting to wonder what would happen if the twain should meet. TopSpeed.com did just that, rendering a Ram 1500 SRT Hellcat with a vented hood, LED lighting, and a wheel and brake package inspired by the cars. A Ram rep tells us the Hellcat will fit in the 1500, but the boss says there are no plans to put one there just yet. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from buying one of each and doing the swap yourself.
The new aluminum F-150 may be the talk of your truck-loving town, but did you know there is a new Ford Ranger, too? The small pickup is getting an update for 2015 and Ford has revealed its new look. No word on the mechanical specifications, just yet, but the current Ranger can be hand with a four-cylinder gas engine and five-cylinder diesel. At least it can in the countries where it its sold, which is pretty much everywhere but the United States and Canada. Spring break trip to Mexico anybody?
The little CLA has been a huge hit for Mercedes-Benz, its low $29,900 price and high style leading to huge sales. Well, now there's a slightly larger version called the CLA Shooting Brake, which is European for "station wagon," more or less. It's no dowdy family hauler, with a sleek roofline that may look even better than the sedan's. But you'll have to judge by this photo, because it's not ready for a road trip to the USA. No worries, if you want an affordable Mercedes with room for the kids, there's always the GLA crossover, which is targeted at Americans and is the reason why we can't have nice things like the CLA Shooting Brake.
And you thought your Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer was cool. Land Rover has teamed up with one of the world’s most prestigious gun manufacturers to create the Holland & Holland Range Rover. Along with a unique green paint job, walnut interior trim that matches company’s stocks, and etching on the door handles that looks just like the design on an H&H gun receiver, it has a leather and Alcantara appointed gun box set on a damped, aluminum and carbon fiber deck that slides out from the cargo area to present your firearms in a very dignified manner. But don’t go applying for a permit just yet, Tex. For now, the ultra-luxury SUV is only on sale in the UK and Europe for $280,000, roughly the same price as a Holland & Holland .700 caliber Royal Double Barrel Rifle.
Even predators have chicks. The Ford EcoSport Storm unveiled at the Sao Paulo Auto Show is a subcompact, four-cylinder CUV inspired by the F-150 SVT Raptor pickup. The “Ford” emblazoned egg crate grille looks like it was snatched straight off the big truck, while black fender trim and lower body cladding, silver skid-plate style bumper inserts, and meaty 215/75 R15 off-road tires complete the look. Ai, while there have been rumblings that the EcoSport could be on the horizon in the U.S., even in Brazil where the standard EcoSport is made, the Storm is just a car show mirage.
This one might be worth a run to the border, and over it. Ram Mexico has introduced the Ram 700 compact pickup. The front-wheel-drive “truck” is a redesigned, made in Brazil Fiat Strada. Powered by a 115 hp 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 119 lb-ft of torque, it can haul more than half its 2,700 pound weight and comes in standard and crew cab versions. Alas, while a likely prototype of it was spied undergoing testing in Michigan recently, it’s unlikely the Ram 700 will be filling out an I-140 for a work visa anytime soon.
Now this is an all-purpose pickup Ford Racing drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. is cooking up a custom F-150 that looks slammed street style, but has 12-inches of wheel travel courtesy of an adjustable Air Lift Performance suspension that Gittin says will let him drift, off-road and jump it. Unfortunately its not the next F-150 SVT Raptor, just a one-off custom for the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas this November, so don’t go looking for it in your local showroom. But, if you’ve got the time and money, there’s nothing stopping you from building your own.
This hatchback isn't just hot, its volcanic. The Honda Civic Type R has a 276 hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission, adaptive suspension system and a "+R" button that turns everything up to 11. Honda says the big-winged compact is its highest performing car ever, and that includes the legendary NSX, which was sold as an Acura in the USA. Sadly, that won't be the case for the Civic Type R, which is based on the European Civic, will be built in England, and won't be imported here. Oh well, there's always the Civic Si. Deal.
You'll have to act fast if you want this quick pickup. The HSV GTS Maloo is poised to be the fastest ever pickup-style vehicle. The "ute" that it's based on is built by GM's Australian division and souped up by its partner Holden Special Vehicles. The $75,000 rear-wheel-drive two-seater is powered by the 580 hp 6.2-liter supercharged V8 from the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and gets a performance suspension and body kit to match. Official performance figures haven't be revealed, but the much less powerful last generation of the model set the current Guinness record for world's fastest pickup at 169 mph in 2006. HSV originally only planned to build 150 GTS Maloos, but they sold out so quickly that its looking to add another 100. That'll likely be it, as GM is ending production Down Under at the end of 2016 and this uniquely Australian vehicle is primed to be its bittersweet high-speed hooroo.
If it's tough enough for Siberia, suburbia would have no chance. The Chevrolet Niva concept previews the next generation of its Russian-built compact SUV. Smaller than the upcoming Jeep Renegade, the Niva will be powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and feature a 5-speed stick and locking 4x4 system. Equipped with a snorkel, winch, roof lights and cargo racks, the tough little trucklet looks the business, but likely still can't bridge the divide between the U.S. and Russia -- due to safety and emissions regulations, not politics -- so don't expect it to cross the Bering Strait into showrooms when it goes on sale in 2016.
The Ford Falcon name died in the USA in 1970, but has lived on in Australia ever since. The latest edition is a rear-wheel-drive sedan that's like nothing Ford sells in America. While exact specifications haven't yet been revealed, along with its standard inline-6-cylinder engines (you read that right: inline-6-cylinder) expect the Falcon XR8 model to be powered by a supercharged version of the 5.0-liter V8 from the Mustang. Sadly, dreams of Ford ever bringing it stateside to do battle with the Chevrolet SS and Dodge Charger are just that, as the Falcon is set to die with Ford's Australian car production in 2016.
Sure, it's a promotional stunt, but who cares? This Ariel Atom track car has been outfitted in police garb for the Avon and Somerset Constabulary to support their Safer Rider motorcycle safety campaign. That's because, it can accelerate to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, pretty much quicker than just about anything on the road, including lightweight superbikes. So don't even think about trying to outrun it on a public road in the U.K., where it's actually street legal. Save the speed for the track.
Ford made jeeps (lowercase, name not yet trademarked) during WWII, but hasn’t been in the two-door, back to basics off-road game since it let the Bronco die on the leaf some years ago. Then in 2007 it bought a small Brazilian truck company called Troller, which builds exactly that sort of thing. The all-new T4 is the fruit of that relationship, and it was worth the wait. It has a composite body on a steel frame, two live axles with sway bar disconnect, a snorkel ready air intake and – take a deep breath, truck nerds -- is powered by the 3.2-liter inline-5-cylinder turbodiesel engine used by the latest not-for-U.S.-sale Ford Ranger, plus a six speed stick. Unfortunately, despite it’s obvious ability to drive from its factory in the city of Horizonte straight through the Amazon rainforest to the USA, that’s one trip the T4 won’t be making anytime soon
You may remember the Pulsar as that funky 1980's car with the interchangeable bodywork that could switch it from coupe, to convertible to two-door wagon, but for decades it was Nissan's answer to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf. Well, now its back in Europe and ready to take on the continent's hot hatches with a lineup of turbo four-cylinder engines, while we settle in to our sedate Sentra sedans and funky Juke crossovers.
Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler sells Freightliner big rigs in the United States, but it may be keeping the best stuff closer to home. This is a photo of a Mercedes-Benz cab-over Actros tractor towing what appears to be a 220 ton mining dump truck, which is actually no sweat. According to Road & Track, the Actros can handle 250 tons, so toss a couple of rocks in that thing, would ya?
The Ford Escort has returned! Not here, of course, but in China, where the all-new model goes on sale next year. Based on the Ford Focus compact, the Escort features a roomier cabin and smoother style than its edgy donor car and was designed with the Chinese consumer in mind. But feel free to keep your hopes up, because Automotive News reports that thanks to the One Ford plan, where the same cars are sold around the world, CEO Alan Mulally says it could one day be in a showroom near you.
How do you say "British Subaru Brat" in German?
Apprentice engineers at MINI's parent company BMW have turned a Paceman into a pickup truck, adding a bed behind the two-seat front cabin of the two-door all-wheel-drive crossover. Enhancing the off-road look are a roof-mounted spare tire along with rack and grille-mounted auxiliary lights, while a snorkel-style air intake allows it to go where no MINI has gone before: under water.
Sadly, this one's a double-downer as it's not only unavailable in the U.S., but is only a concept and not intended for production anywhere.
Ford's got everyone excited about its aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 pickup, but it's not the company's first effort to feature the lightweight material. In Australia, Ford builds this marvelous hybrid, which features the unibody front end of a Falcon sedan spliced to a body-on-frame rear that can be fitted with, you guessed it, an aluminum pickup bed. With the party up front and business in the rear its the opposite of a mullet hairdo, and the southern hemisphere's take on the Ranchero; except that the Ranchero didn't have a 4.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine and available 6-speed manual transmission. Want one? Better head Down Under in a jiffy, Ford is shutting down its manufacturing operations there in 2016 and parking the Falcon Ute in the history books.
The rally-inspired Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution has long been known in sports car circles as a giant-killer, but this one looks ready for a clash with the Titans. With a high-strung 440 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, twin-clutch transmission, lowered suspension and Mitsu's Super All-Wheel Control system, it's a compact car for the ages, but probably not for you. Just 40 cars will be built to celebrate the company's 40 years of car sales in the United Kingdom, and it will only be sold there. Adding insult to injury, the Evolution is being discontinued worldwide after this model year, although it may return in the future powered by batteries. Fun!
Remember the Ford Explorer? No, not the crossover currently on sale, but the body-on-frame original based on the Ford Ranger pickup? Well, Ford has a new one, except now its called the Everest and its built on the platform of today's not-for-U.S.-sale Ranger. Needless to say, the Thailand-built three-row SUV is targeted at Southeast Asia and "global" markets, Ford word for "not the USA."
The standard Vauxhall/Opel Astra used to be sold in Saturn dealerships, but nobody bought any so it and the entire brand were discontinued here. Too bad, because now there's the Astra VXR Extreme, an aluminum-bodied, 300 horsepower insane machine with a safety cage where the rear seats used to be. A different kind of car, indeed.
The multi-million dollar Bugatti Veyron is the only French car currently available in the USA, and that's a shame, because there's this little treat on the other end of the spectrum. Renault's new entry-level five-door subcompact features a rear-mounted three-cylinder engine and rear-wheel-drive for sporty handling. The good news? The Twingo shares a platform with the next generation cars from Smart.
Jaguar will soon build an SUV for the USA, but Europeans get this. What gives?! The XFR-S Sportbrake is a 550 hp wagon with racetrack chops and a top speed so high they had to electronically limit it to 186 mph. In something this sexy, you'd never again complain about having to make a run to the grocery.
Honda makes cars and motorcycles, and the twain may soon meet. Sort of. The NEOWING concept is a three-wheeler set to debut at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Honda’s not saying much about it, except that it combines low-speed stability with the cornering feel of a large motorcycle, suggesting that it can lean into turns. Neat. It also says it has a hybrid powertrain with a four-cylinder engine and electric motors, but isn’t saying how many or where they are. A three-wheel-drive Honda? It’s possible.
There are a lot of great cars for sale in the United States, but plenty of fantastic foreign and fantasy models never make it into showrooms. Check out some of our favorite forbidden fruit.