Suzuki Grand Vitara
POSTED: Monday, April 2, 2012 - 6:38pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 10:37am
The name Suzuki has meant different things to different people. In the 1960’s, they took the US by storm with tough, affordable, very fast motorcycles. In the 1980’s, they again wowed the market with a cute little 7/8ths scale version of the Jeep CJ called the Samurai. It was based on their successful LJ80 and would scamper up almost anything you wanted to climb in a vivid demonstration that it ain’t just about horsepower but power-to-weight ratios.
The idiotic and libelous Consumer Reports silliness killed the Samurai and almost did in it’s more sophisticated sibling, the Sidekick. Everywhere else in the world, the Sidekick was known as the Vitara and now, it is the Grand Vitara. Since it now has a bigger stablemate, the XL-7, perhaps they ought to drop the “Grand”, but no matter. It is a great little ute.
Now, the Grand Vitara does battle in a class of vehicles we blithely call “crossovers.” Yet even though the latest Grand Vitara has chucked the separate body/frame construction it previously enjoyed for a modern unibody, it still is more of a real off-roader than it’s competition from Toyota, GM, Ford, Honda and Hyundai. New for 2006, the 2007 version didn’t change much. The look is angular but fairly clean. Like the bigger XL-7, it looks more purposeful than it’s competitors. While the chunkier look might lose some female customers, it should indicate to buyers that there’s a serious truck under all those airbags. Approach and departure angles are good and the wheelbase is longer than my old Wrangler YJ.
Interior styling is a bit more frivolous, but even here; the swoopy, ultra-modern idiom many have adopted is not to be found. A very contemporary three-ring instrument cluster faces you with a curving center stack to the right. Materials are sub-Toyota and better than Hyundai. The ergonomics are excellent, and you are perfectly positioned for serious driving, or toodling around town.
The Ultimate Adventure edition we drove had, in addition to a name that sounds like the next Indiana Jones movie, for crying out loud, water resistant seats, which means vinyl. Rubber floor mats are standard, and all in all, it is a fairly bare bones fun trucklet.
Power comes from a 2.4-liter, 166-horsepower four cylinder engine. With 162-ft.lbs.of torque, it will take the Vitara anywhere you point it. The suspension is fully independent and our Ultimate Adventure model rode on 17-inch wheels. The five-speed automatic gearbox in our test truck was smooth, but the Suzuk’ is so much fun off road, it begs for the optional manual box. It is full time all-wheel-drive, but has no low range, so don’t plan on bouncing over the Rockies in this thing.
Side and front and rear side and curtain airbags are standard and our trim level includes pretty much everything you can imagine including that useless little bit of modern overkill, the keyless starter.
The whole shebang comes to $24,600. The base model starts at just over $19,000 in two-wheel-drive. And the luxury edition tops out at $25,000. As you might have gathered, I like it a lot. And as someone who once owned a tough little Samurai, and refuses to apologize for that, I’m glad Suzuki hasn’t sacrificed it’s off-road cred to play with the little crossover crowd.