In general, the Cartel Cruiser is a 4-door pickup truck, similar to a 2002–2006 Chevrolet Avalanche, but featuring frontal styling of a generic 1990s Ford pickup truck. 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.
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.
The Cartel Cruiser's engine is powerful enough to send its all wheel drive system into slides, which is unusual for the GTA III engine. The Cruiser is 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.
In GTA Liberty City Stories, the Cartel Cruiser isn't as speedy as it was in GTA III, with the engine sounds more like a truck's and heavier than the one on GTA III, but maintains much of its predecessor's design 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.
- 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.
GTA Liberty City Stories
- Driving around Cedar Grove, Shoreside Vale.
- Driving around Francis International Airport, Shoreside Vale.
- Driving around eastern Belleville Park, Staunton Island (occasionally).
- Cavalcade FXT, a somewhat similar truck in Grand Theft Auto IV and Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.
- 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.