Quirky Off-Roader: 1997 Suzuki X-90

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Sometimes it can be very easy to measure the success, or the failure, of a particular vehicle model. The Suzuki X-90 demonstrates this better than most cars because even though production of the distinctive little 2-seater ended in 1997, and for the 1997 model year Suzuki slashed the price of the car by 25%, the last new example finally rolled out of a showroom in 1999. Barn Finder Roger referred the quirky little Suzuki to us, so thank you for that Roger. It is located in Tucson, Arizona, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $4,450 for the Japanese classic.

Suzuki had high hopes of attracting younger buyers with the X-90, but the car proved that hope does spring eternal. The vast majority of people just couldn’t warm to the styling. I remember the first time that I saw one of these and saying to my wife that I quite liked it. She stared at me, shook her head, and then walked away. I think it’s because they truly are an ugly duckling, but they are an ugly duckling with a few endearing features. The most obvious of these is the glass T-Top, which transforms the car into an interesting little 2-seater that provides a true wind in the hair experience. This particular car looks like it is in pretty good condition. The Antares Red paint looks good, and there are no signs of any nasty rust issues, dings or dents. The aftermarket wheels don’t look out of place, while the minimal external trim and badges also look good.

By the standards of the day, the interior of the X-90 really wasn’t anything to write home about. The plastic trim wasn’t anything special, but at least the trim inserts in the seats and door trims added a splash of color to an otherwise quite dreary interior. The interior of this Suzuki looks to be in quite decent condition, with no obvious rips, tears, or stains. Apart from a pair of airbags, the interior also features a radio/cassette player, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, and power locks.

It was when you delved below that distinctive skin that things became truly confusing with an X-90. They were available in both 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel drive, so theoretically, they could be considered as a potential off-roader. Where this all fell in a heap was that the standard tires fitted to an X-90 were designed more for on-road than off, and this meant that they could be easily confused by surfaces that were only mildly slippery. The X-90 was no more comfortable on sealed roads because the body roll when pushed made them pretty unpleasant. This left two solutions. If you wanted to use the car for serious on-road driving, then it was a matter of upgrading the springs and shocks to tame the handling. If off-road was your thing, then the standard tires needed to be dropped in the nearest skip, and a decent set of off-road tires could then be fitted. This one is a 4-wheel-drive, and it isn’t clear whether any changes have been made to the springs or shocks. The owner does say that it is an awesome car to drive and that it runs well, so maybe he has made some changes there. My biggest disappointment with this car is that it is fitted with the optional 4-speed automatic transmission, which will blunt the performance from the 1,590cc 4-cylinder engine.

Even though the X-90 is not a stunningly beautiful car, I still like them in a strange way. They are an automotive ugly duckling, but they are distinctive. This one is in good condition, and their sales failure does make them a bit of a rarity. If they are treated less as a serious 4-wheel-drive, and more as a sunny day cruiser, then that’s a role that they perform quite well. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they remain a vehicle that attracts plenty of attention.

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  1. Evan

    I was about to book a flight until I saw the shifter.

    Like 2
  2. CanuckCarGuy

    The styling of these reminds me of a kei car, with it’s soft-edged oddball appearance. It would make a great around town car, especially for those of us that see snow.

    Like 4
  3. Sam61

    Retired from Red Bull duty….

    Like 1
  4. Gary K

    Seen one climb sand dunes along Lake Michigan that left Jeeps stuck, I was very impressed with the off road performance.

    Like 0
  5. Frank Y

    Canuckcarguy is on the right track. If this were available today the x y and z generations would be all over it especially in big city’s where parking is at a premium or gas is above what people can afford. BTW did those rims come standard they look aftermarket to me??

    Like 0
  6. PRA4SNW

    Did they make this as a convertible?. I seem to remember seeing a red one with the top down and 4WD. It caught my eye so much that I still remember it.
    The guy was using it for pizza delivery duty.

    Like 0
    • chrlsful

      yeah, seems like they had 3 or 4 different models like this one (late 80s – late 90s?).
      All ‘chick cars’ in my mind.

      Like 1

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