Suzuki is focused on fixing that with the Concept-X2, the company’s version of a chainsaw hungry for fresh timber.
This is the second SUV rolled out within six months by a company more widely known for its adrenalin-pumping motorcycles and go-anywhere all-terrain vehicles. Following the debut of the larger Concept-X at the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Concept-X2 took the stage for Suzuki’s press conference at the 2005 New York International Auto Show. Though presented in concept form, there will be a production version of the Concept-X2 arriving at Suzuki dealers by 2006 ready to compete with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and others. Among the Concept-X2’s features that may or may not make it to production are side curtain airbags, a more powerful V6 engine, black and silver interior trim, and XM satellite radio.
Sharing the stage with the Concept-X2 was the Concept-X, Suzuki’s largest SUV that will see production as a 2007 model.
Making its debut at the 2005 New York International Auto Show was the Suzuki Concept-X2. Pricing has not been announced, but look for a production version to hit the market early in 2006.
What it is
Suzuki’s new Concept-X2 is the long overdue replacement for the Grand Vitara SUV currently gathering dust on dealers’ lots. This new cute ute offers V6 power and seating for five. The concept vehicle includes a four-wheel-drive system as standard equipment, but the production version will likely be offered with a base two-wheel-drive configuration. Also built into the concept package are side-curtain airbags, stability control, antilock brakes, a keyless start system, and a seven-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio.
Why it matters
Suzuki needs a fresh small SUV to compete in today’s ultra competitive marketplace. Despite its true four-wheel-drive system, adequate horsepower rating, and reasonable price, the aging Suzuki Grand Vitara is simply outgunned against models that offer more power, more space, better handling, and more contemporary styling. To remedy that problem, the Concept-X2 includes a power boost, a more inviting interior, unibody construction with a built-in ladder frame for structural rigidity, and an updated design that is distinctly Suzuki.
When you can buy it
A production version of the Suzuki Concept-X2 should start arriving on dealers’ lots during the first few months of 2006. Suzuki officials expect to sell about 30,000 copies of the small SUV.
How much it costs
Pricing has not been released, but Suzuki is known for placing competitive values on its vehicles and the Concept-X2 should be no exception. Expect pricing to be in line with the current Suzuki Grand Vitara, which ranges from about $19,000 for a base front-wheel drive model to about $23,000 for a loaded four-wheel drive unit.
How quick it is
Residing under the hood of the Suzuki Concept-X2 is a dual overhead cam, six-cylinder engine that is rumored to put out about 185 horsepower. That’s a twenty-horse jump over the Suzuki Grand Vitara’s 165 horses, 25 horses more than the Honda CR-V, but 15 horsepower shy of the Ford Escape’s optional 3.0-liter V6. In terms of speed, that likely translates to faster than a BMW M3 on the trails and slower than a Chevrolet Cobalt SS on the highway.A five-speed manual transmission will be standard, with the option of a five-speed automatic.
What it looks like
In silhouette, the Suzuki Concept-X2 looks much like the Grand Vitara, with short overhangs and a tall greenhouse. Shine some light on the Concept-X2 and even more similarities become evident: significant wheel flares, dished door handle pockets, and rear door openings integrated with the rear quarter panels. Differences include the absence of lower body cladding and steel exterior C-pillars, as well as larger dimensions. In comparison with the Grand Vitara, the Concept-X2 has grown 12 inches in length, four inches in width, and has another six inches in wheelbase. All of the proportions have been kept in check, allowing the Suzuki Concept-X2 to carry the same general shape as the Grand Vitara.Up front, the appearance resembles a Volkswagen Touareg, with sculpted headlight housings and front lamps that look like the eyes of the Terminator robot. In the center of the chrome grille is an oversized S badge. The rear of the Suzuki Concept-X2 features a swing-out tailgate and an exterior-mounted spare tire.
Inside, the Concept-X2 looks like its ready to roll for production. Matte plastics abound, and silver trim is accented by matching piping on the leather seats. There’s also a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and a compact gauge cluster with a tachometer.
What it does best
Suzuki’s Concept-X2 is all about styling, a fact that is explicitly evident upon first glance. While the general lines and proportions are reminiscent of the model it replaces, the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Concept-X2 is somewhat larger and offers a more modern, upscale appearance. Behind the scenes, the basics have not really changed – V6 engine, five-passenger seating, and a capable four-wheel-drive system (likely optional).
Concept X coming
Making its debut at the 2005 North American International Auto Show, the Suzuki Concept-X is a midsize SUV with four-wheel-drive and six-cylinder power. At the 2005 New York International Auto Show, officials followed up with news that a production version of the Concept-X will make it to Suzuki showrooms for the 2007 model year, with annual sales projected to be about 50,000 units.
What we think
Suzuki is one of those brands that just hasn’t registered with the vast majority of buyers, though according to Tom Carney, Suzuki’s Director of Sales and Marketing, the tides are shifting. Carney is quick to point out Suzuki’s 48-percent sales jump in 2004, a statistic that Bill Ford and Bob Lutz would no doubt like to claim for themselves. Suzuki’s 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty is obviously successful at wooing consumers. Indeed, the attractive Suzuki Concept-X2 holds promise. If the greater dimensions translate into a more comfortable and spacious interior, handling has been improved, and the V6 offers crisp acceleration, more buyers may be willing to take a chance on this still relatively untested brand. If not, Suzuki’s goal of 30,000 annual sales will be a pipe dream.
Photos courtesy of Erik Hanson and Suzuki Motor Corporation