Even in the SUV-mad noughties and crossover-mad present day, one type of jacked-up passenger vehicle has been conspicuously absent: the two/three-door SUV. As SUVs have transitioned from rural workhorses to family conveyances, SUVs with two fewer doors have vanished. Mostly.
Once the mainstream, the two-door SUV – or three-door, if you aren’t American and thus count the rear portal – is almost extinct in North America with only the Jeep Wrangler available. If you widen your search to include crossovers, there’s also only one: the Range Rover Evoque.
If you want a full-size, two-door SUV in North America, you’re out of luck. Ford axed their Bronco in 1996 and GM killed the two-door Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon after 1998. GM did consider releasing a two-door version of the GMT-800 Tahoe/Yukon but decided against it in light of declining sales.
There are buyers who want these, however. Perhaps a company needs a fleet vehicle that can traverse rough terrain but will be carrying only one employee. Maybe there’s a retired couple towing a caravan or horse float or boat. There could also be an off-roading enthusiast who wants the greater capabilities afforded by a shorter SUV. For those buyers, but only in a few markets like the UK, Mitsubishi continues to offer a two-door Pajero (aka Montero and Shogun) while Toyota offers a two-door version of the Land Cruiser Prado, related to the Lexus GX460.
Australia was one of those markets for a while. With our thousands of square miles of rugged terrain, there’s long been a market for SUVs (or four-wheel-drives, as we more commonly call them) and outback Australia is infested with them, mostly Toyota Land Cruisers. But if we ever had much of an appetite for two-door SUVs, it had largely evaporated by the 21st century. The Land Cruiser Prado’s shorty variant was axed after 2013, following the Pajero’s summary dismissal in 2009.
The shorty Prado was a curious introduction, considering past generations had not been offered in Australia with fewer than four doors. This example I photographed in a parking garage is the first one I’ve seen in a long time; the Prado has been a regular fixture in Australia’s Top 20, but clearly the two-door has been a bit player.
Toyota will still sell you a 70-Series Land Cruiser Troop Carrier that has two doors and can seat up to 11 people. Alas, I live in inner-city Brisbane and not Kalgoorlie or Emerald, so these are not a part of my surrounding scenery. This press photo will have to do. These are old-fashioned, rugged and iconic trucks and sell based on their reputation more so than the number of doors.
While the truncated Pajero looks chunky and handsome, the Prado looks like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. And it indeed has a stubby body, with a wheelbase of just 96.65 inches. That short span and the live axle rear suspension don’t help on-road manners and although the two-door has the edge off the road, the four-door is no shrinking violet in this respect.
Mitsubishi had long made a two-door version of the Pajero but also had never offered it in Australia until 2006. Unlike the Prado, which was available solely with a 170 hp/302 ft-lb 3.0 turbo diesel four mated to a five-speed automatic, the Pajero offered two engines. One was a 3.2 turbo diesel four with 167 hp and 264 ft-lbs, while the other was a 3.8 V6 petrol unit with 246 hp and 242 ft-lbs. Both came only with a five-speed automatic in Australia.
The Mitsubishi was 20 inches shorter than its four-door companion but had a longer wheelbase than the Prado, measuring 100.2 inches. Unlike the Prado, the Pajero utilized a unibody construction with independent front and rear suspensions and therefore had better on-road manners while still successfully tackling rough terrain. Unfortunately, its oiler was gruffer and less powerful than the Prado’s.
If you’re an empty-nester in Australia who tows or own a company in Canada that repairs rural telephone lines, you won’t be able to buy a brand new, two-door Prado or Pajero. But if you live in Japan, or the UK, or one of several other overseas markets, you’ll be able to buy one. The question is: for how much longer?