Although the North American automotive market is home to some of the most iconic vehicles of all time, there are a handful of manufacturers that haven’t tapped into the large displacement mindset of the West. Most of these overseas companies have extensive catalogs that date back to the middle of the 20th century, bringing with them decades upon decades of experience, knowledge, and insight — but, for one reason or another, they’ve neglected to introduce some of their most popular variants to the American audience.
Whether it be strict import/export policies, safety regulations, apprehensive marketing teams, or any other specific reason, there are a hundred different contributors that can impede the release of an automotive model in the U.S. Often times, it’s far beyond the control of the consumer — many of whom would love to see a large portion of European, Spanish, and Japanese vehicles make their way stateside. For now, we’ll have to salivate as we read of their exploits from our computer screens, watch reviews from our favorite publications, and pray for their admittance onto our shores. So, for your viewing pleasure, we’ve outlined a handful of the most successful (and downright appealing) cars that aren’t available in North America.
France has a number of intriguing automotive manufacturers, but few hold a candle to Alpine, one of the country’s premier sport/luxury brands. While you won’t be able to buy the company’s fabled A110 in the United States, it goes without saying that the rally legend has become an iconic part of the manufacturer’s long-running catalog — dating back to its first appearance in 1961. The vehicle began as a “Berlinetta,” sporting a small, two-door design that made it both attractive and nimble. Both a 1.1L R8 Major and R8 Gordini engine were available throughout the vehicle’s early years, with the latter delivering just under 95 horsepower. In the early 1970s, it would garner most of its fame as an adversarial rally car before its discontinuation in 1977. Recently, Alpine reintroduced the A110 (2017) with a newly adopted 1.8L turbocharged I4 capable of 249 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, bringing the classic vehicle in line with modern-day expectations.
Aston Martin Lagonda Taraf
Aston Martin’s Lagonda line is the product of strife — through multiple different launches, iterations, and designs, the company emerged from the ashes of its former self near the tail end of the 20th century. As a celebration of the wing’s centennial anniversary, a four-door luxury vehicle was revealed in 2009 at the Geneva Motor Show, later becoming a full-fledged production model. Following a lengthy production cycle, the Lagonda Taraf was born in 2015, introducing a 6.0-liter V12 that produced 533 horsepower and 465 lb-ft of torque, utilizing Aston Martin’s VH Generation3 platform. The vehicle worked alongside the brand’s Rapide and DB9 to bring consumers into the realm of a larger wheelbase, while also keeping weight down, thanks to carbon fiber reinforced body panels. Only 200 examples of the car would be made, orienting themselves toward the European and Middle Eastern markets, with none of the completed platforms making their way to the U.S.
To date, the Audi S1 is the company’s smallest S model, boasting both a three-door hatchback and five-door hatchback variant. The aptly-named hot hatch is quite the pint-sized producer, utilizing the brand’s 2.0-liter TFSI (derived from Volkswagen’s EA888 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder) to procure a healthy 228 horsepower, alongside a six-speed manual transmission that makes it a force to be reckoned with. It accelerates from 0-62 in just under 5.8 seconds, ensuring a pleasurable performance vehicle in a small package. Unfortunately, the German automotive manufacturer has neglected to bring it stateside. But, there’s still hope — Audi might not be worried about the North American market, right now, but the company has never said that they won’t bring it to the western market in the future.
Holden’s Ute is a bit of a darkhorse — following its abnormal success in Australia, the company’s compact, two-door coupe utility vehicle has continued to stand out thanks to its “original” design. The vehicle launched in the land down under with a locally built 3.8-litre Ecotec V6 engine from Buick, prioritizing Australia’s call for a low-profile utility vehicle that could stand up to the locale’s adversarial terrain. In the same vein as the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero, the Ute fulfilled the role of the light pickup, with the same design terminology as a lengthened sedan, bringing it into popularity among the masses. In 2000, the first iteration of the vehicle would be birthed, producing just over 204 horsepower, thanks to the Ecotec V6, and following a large boost in popularity, it was rumored that the vehicle would be introduced within the United States as the Pontiac G8 ST. However, after a company-wide deliberation, the 2008 financial crisis, and a new approach toward Holden’s future catalog, the import of the Ute was shelved for good.
Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake
Jaguar’s XFR-S Sportbrake was the golden child of the company’s sport wagon lineup, bringing a 550-horsepower, supercharged variant that elaborated on the brand’s already popular XF and XFR. Its 186 mph top speed and 4.6-second 0-60 was intriguing for a hefty Sportbrake platform — especially one that encompassed all of the company’s most innovative technologies, from an Adaptive Dynamics chassis, a modified rear axle, and anti-roll bars that have been reevaluated and reimplemented to save weight. Suffice to say, America’s infatuation with wagons and sports sedans isn’t quite up-to-par with our overseas counterparts — aside from heading to the U.K. to pick one up off the lot, there’s virtually no way to buy one in North America. Although, if you’re willing to spend the cash, I’m sure there’s a way.
Lotus has been churning out some of the most attractive performance models for some time now, and the Exige is no slouch when it comes to stylistic speed that would feel at home on any American race track. While the car used to be available in the States prior to the release of the V6-powered “S,” the company pulled the car from future import listings following its debut. In 2000, the Exige was introduced as a sibling to the brand’s popular Elise roadster, warranting 177 bhp with a VHPD (Very High Performance Derivative) tune, making it as agile as its larger counterpart, but with a much smaller footprint. Thanks to its naturally aspirated 1.8-liter Rover K Series I4, the Exige would rocket from 0-60 in just under 4.7 seconds, giving it a significant boost toward its 136 mph top speed. The platform would remain stateside until the release of the “S” in 2006, rendering the original obsolete and ending its tenure in North America in the process.
Mercedes A45 AMG
Mercedes-Benz has a long-running history as one of the most popular luxury automotive brands in the United States, so, as most would assume, a large portion of the company’s extensive catalog is available for purchase in the West. Sadly, the company would never introduce its smallest and most affordable line to the North American market — a class of cars known as the “A” platform. Among the company’s interesting A-Class variants, the in-house tuned A45 AMG stands out as one of the most intriguing offerings, bringing all of the attributes of a performance hatchback to the table alongside a small, compact silhouette. The 376-horsepower A45 was outfitted with a 2-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine, giving it enough guts to stand out among a handful of competitive offerings at the time — but, due to the company’s focus on European audiences (or rather, an audience that would value a true sport-oriented hatchback), the vehicle would never see the light of day in the U.S.
Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
Nissan has created some of the most sought-after vehicles in the automotive industry, but the Japanese company’s crowning achievement is undoubtedly the GT-R (R34). As the fifth-generation of a long-running line of legendary Skyline variants, the R34 had a lot to live up to — fortunately, it established itself as perhaps the most popular platform in the entire series. Today, the 2.6-liter, twin-turbocharged RB26DETT I6-powered vehicle remains one of the most lusted-after Japanese cars ever, demarcating the golden age of import JDM, and becoming a generational symbol in the process. Though the vast majority of the monstrous cars were kept overseas, a handful of examples made their way to the Western market via legal importation by Motorex — making them the only variants to ever touch the North American blacktop.
To say that Noble is an understated brand in the U.S. is a little bit of an understatement — in fact, you’d be hardpressed to find a large portion of their catalog in the States at any given time. But, among the already-elusive catalog of Britain’s intriguing sports car manufacturer, the M600 stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer aesthetic beauty. However, that doesn’t mean it lacks in the performance department — the two-door coupe sports a longitudinal 4.4-liter Volvo/Yamaha B8444S V8 twin-turbo engine that’s capable of over 450 horsepower (with the option of either a 550-horsepower track setting or 650-horsepower track setting available through the use of an in-cabin switch), making it one of the fastest supercars around. Aside from the M600’s top speed of 225 mph, a sub-three-second 0-60 and Oerlikon Graziano transaxle six-speed manual gearbox offer even more attractive attributes that would add to the vehicle’s popularization in the West. Unfortunately, none of the manufactured platforms would make their way stateside.
Peugeot’s RCZ is a beautifully defined sports compact car that would have found a strong following in North America, had the French company not decided to pick up and leave after releasing their final U.S. offering in 1992. While the renowned manufacturer isn’t a household name on our side of the Atlantic, Peugeot is a celebrated European brand — creating some of the finest cars available overseas. This specific model was the recipient of five successive ‘Best Sports Car’ awards from Diesel Car magazine, quantifying the popularity of the 161 horsepower, 2.0 l HDi FAP vehicle. A number of performance editions would be released over the lifespan of the RCZ — but due to its arrival almost a decade and a half after the company’s departure from the Western market, North America would see no such variant.
Porsche Panamera Diesel
Porsche continues to be one of the world’s best selling automotive brands, and the introduction of the manufacturer’s full-size luxury Panamera has only served to add fuel to the company’s flame. While the original platform is healthy and alive in the United States’ market, the highly-anticipated twin-turbocharged V8 diesel, which was released in 2017, has never made its way overseas. As an offering that boasts the most attractive performance characteristics of the company’s prolific 911 lineup, alongside the size, space, and stature of a full-size vehicle, the Panamera fulfills many of the roles that would make it an intriguing proposition for American buyers — sadly, it’s spending most of its time burning up the streets of Europe’s most renowned roadways.
SEAT Leon Cupra R
SEAT is another overseas automotive manufacturer that isn’t quite a household name in the West, but with popular platforms like the Golf R finding such wild success in the North American market, it’s a mystery as to why the brand’s Leon Cupra R hasn’t made its debut on our shores. While the first generation of the SEAT Leon Cupra R was the basis of many a hot hatch in today’s automotive world, the inclusion of the car’s very own 207 horsepower engine made it a runaway hit in Europe and South America. On top of that, a standard six-speed manual transmission and multi-link independent rear suspension made it all the more fun to drive, giving it a lustrous advantage with younger buyers. Today, the Leon is still one of the most popular vehicles from the brand — a platform that will remain overseas until the manufacturer decides to try its hand at a North American release.
The Subaru Levorg bares a striking resemblance to the brand’s most prominent platforms, including that of the legendary WRX hatchback. While the company has gone on record saying that the WRX will not be back for another iteration this season, Subi lovers everywhere can rejoice — the Levorg, an overseas variant of the fabled hatch, is essentially a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive platform that reinstates the best characteristics of the car, but in wagon form. While the Subaru is only available for European and Japanese buyers, the Levorg’s 1.6-liter FB16 H4 turbocharged engine and modern aptitude make it a blast to drive — fitting for a car that’s said to be a mixture of the company’s most prominent vehicles: the Impreza, Legacy, and WRX.
TVR has brought many intriguing models to the automotive world, many of which have never seen the light of day in the North American market. The Sagaris is one such offering, debuting as an attractive two-door coupe that would sport the company’s Tennis GH TVR Speed Six engine, capable of 406 horsepower and 349 lb-ft of torque. As with most of TVR’s offerings, the Sagaris excludes modern preventative measures like ABS, stability control, and traction control, citing that it impedes the driver’s ability to avoid injury due to their own overconfidence. The vehicle was only made for one year before it was removed from the production line, but due to its sleek silhouette and exceptional power, it’s remained an attractive vehicle for collectors. Sadly, you’ll likely never see one on this side of the world.
The Volkswagen Scirocco is an attractive sports compact vehicle from the fabled German brand, cited by many as the sportier version of the Golf. Thanks to the popularization of the Golf and its many variants in the West, the Scirocco would eventually become phased out of the company’s overall plan for its Western expansion around 1992. But, due to the evolution of the Golf, Volkswagen would once again revive the nameplate in 2008, bringing the 120-horsepower 1.4 TSI I4 turbo back to the market. That didn’t last long, however, and with performance characteristics taking the forefront, VW opted to upgrade the Scirocco with a Golf platform, bringing a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 300 horsepower over from the company’s Golf GT and Golf R. Unfortunately, the Scirocco would never make its way to the streets of North America.