In general, the Cartel Cruiser is a 4-door pickup truck, with the rear resembling a 2001-2004 Australian Toyota Hilux Vigo, but featuring frontal styling of a generic 1990s Ford pickup truck (possibly the Ford Ranger). The Cruiser also features a roll bar in the back, side runners, a blue paintjob, and foglights on the grill. Similar to the Forelli Exsess, Sindacco Argento and Yardie Lobo, it does not have a non-gang variant, but its closest non-gang counterpart is the Patriot. It is one of the only two 4-door pickup trucks in the 3D era
At one point of game development of GTA III, the Cartel Cruiser was known as the Columbia, possibly a reference to the Colombian Cartel's name. The old name is still evidently used in a showcase of the truck at the official Rockstar North website. In the beta, the car was also black.
With a V8 engine, it is powerful enough to send its all wheel drive system into slides, which is unusual for the GTA III engine. The car is also turbocharged, but suffers from turbo lag, where the car has poor acceleration from a standing start, until the turbo cuts in. This can be heard, when the engine noise becomes louder and more aggressive. At higher revs, it can defeat a Patriot (a similar vehicle) in a straight line drag race. However, its high center of gravity causes the body to roll in corners. Strangely enough, it has the engine sound of a turbocharged vintage engine (the same as BF Injection, Diablo Stallion and Cuban Hermes), which is unusual for a four-door SUV. It is possible that the Cartel Cruiser's engine is customized like a muscle car, but without hood-mounted supercharger.
In GTA Liberty City Stories, the Cartel Cruiser is considerably slower than in GTA III, but the engine sound has been changed to suit better for a four-door SUV and still maintains much of its predecessor's design, engine and accessories, with a noticeable change in the grill mounted spotlights (from white to red). While possessing poor acceleration, it's handling is reasonable, but it's top speed is moderate. The GTA LCS rendition shares the same performance as the Landstalker and the Sentinel.
- Two of them can be seen and obtained during the mission Bomb Da Base Act II (the only time it will spawn in Portland).
- In the construction site in Fort Staunton, Staunton Island (only until Grand Theft Aero).
- In the Cartel mansion in Cedar Grove, Shoreside Vale.
- Near D-Ice’s phone in Wichita Gardens, Shoreside Vale.
- Driving around Fort Staunton and Cedar Grove.
- Six Cartel Cruisers can be found during the mission The Exchange.
- Can be found as one of the burning vehicles during Firefighter missions.
GTA Liberty City Stories
- Driving around Cedar Grove, Shoreside Vale.
- Driving around Francis International Airport, Shoreside Vale.
- Can be obtained during the Panlantic Land Grab and Love on the Run.
- In GTA Liberty City Stories, the Cartel Cruiser was meant to have a same engine sound as the Leone Sentinel and the Sentinel XS, but it is changed to the typical engine sound of SUVs like Patriot and the Landstalker, as Leone Sentinel's engine sound are considered too speedy for a pickup truck.
- The GTA III rendition's performance seems to be reused on the Sandking.
- Cavalcade FXT, a somewhat similar truck in Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, but with more luxury design and larger engine.
- Patriot, a four-wheel-drive crew cab truck that shares the same vehicle polygon model as the Cartel Cruiser, but different textures, accessories (bumpers and trunk rack), and handling characteristics.
- Contender, another truck in GTA IV which has a similar body design, but not crew cab and is based on a newer model Ford F150.
- Gang Rancher, GTA Vice City Stories counterpart which shares an almost similar performance.
- Vapid Double Cab Truck, another truck in GTA V which is based on a newer Ford F-250 crew cab, which when modified in Los Santos Customs, resembles the Cartel Cruiser.