Hope springs for Suzuki’s SUV aspirations
IntroductionFew small suvs do as many things right as the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara, especially if you want an SUV that can be at once civilized and, at a moment’s notice, bawdy – in a dirty and muddy sort of way. Plus, the Grand Vitara is priced competitively, even at the base price where its standard 2.7-liter V6 engine outstrips its rivals. As if that’s not enough, it’s well equipped right out of the box and carries one of the best warranties going.
One of the most impressive things about the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara are the safety features that come standard on all models, including standard side curtain airbags, an electronic stability system with traction control, and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
A sticker price of $19,594.00 (inc. $599 destination charge) buys you a two-wheel-drive variant, equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. You can get a five-speed automatic for a little more. A Grand Vitara with a full-time single mode four-wheel-drive system and a manual transmission costs $20,794.00. Base model options include a Premium package for $900 that includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer, alloy wheels and privacy glass. One step up is the XSport at $21,694.00, which includes the Premium package and a five-speed automatic plus a keyless entry and start system. The XSport 4WD variant bumps up to a four-mode system for $23,094.00.Add leather, wood trim and 17-inch alloy wheels and you’ve got yourself the Luxury model, priced at $23,594.00 for 2WD and $24,994.00 for the 4WD version.
The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara’s 2.7-liter V6 engine offers one of the highest horsepower ratings in its class, compared across base models. Competitors that offer multiple engine choices catch up with Suzuki as you climb the trim tree, however, and do so at comparable prices. Despite this, credit Suzuki for offering a powerplant that is competitive at the upper reaches of the segment – at the same time offering base trim shoppers a boost in power.
The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara’s 2.7-liter V6 engine improves the Grand Vitara’s tow rating to 3,000 lbs., among the best in the class. Add to that the fact that Suzuki has kept the weight down, coming in at 3,505 lbs., which is less than the Jeep Liberty, but more than the Ford Escape.
Fuel economy isn’t so pleasing. The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara is rated at 18 city and 23 mpg highway while several competitors such as the Hyundai Tucson (22/27) and the Honda CR-V (23/39) offer better efficiency.
Off-road is where Suzuki loyalists will cheer the loudest, as the 2006 Grand Vitara is the real deal when traversing boulders and streams. There are two available four-wheel-drive options; a full-time single-mode system for light off-roading in 4-Hi, and a full-time four-mode system with 4-Lo, 4-Lo locked, and a neutral setting that allows for towing. It’s the kind of setup that can handle pretty much anything outside of Moab – and maybe even that. With good visibility, approach and departure angles, the Grand Vitara 4WD handled everything in its way on a difficult course. That kind of performance is sure to rekindle Suzuki’s reputation as a credible source for off-road vehicles, though a little more than the allotted 7.9-inch ground clearance would be nice.
Based on the Concept X-2 that debuted last year at the New York International Auto Show, the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara stayed close to the overall look of the concept enough so that you can see a relationship between fact and fiction. Exterior design highlights include large fender flares, and a blended light display, both front and rear. The rear hatch opens from the side, and the spare tire is kept on the back hatch. Overall, lines are smooth and taut, with a conservative bent much like all other SUVs.
If the exterior of the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara is nicely conservative, the interior is like a lapel-pin republican, what with its carefully chosen materials, excellent noise control and a design that takes a page from the Toyota playbook: Simple, straightforward, clean, and effective. The basics are well covered inside the Grand Vitara. Fit and finish looks nice, there’s not much road and wind noise, and materials throughout the cabin bespeak a quality designed to last.
You don’t have to think about driving this car. And while that may sound weird, it’s an important quality when you’re trying to convince people to forego the Honda CR-V or the Toyota RAV4. People don’t want to think about driving a small SUV. They want to get behind the wheel and, 30 minutes later, find themselves at home. No hassle with torque steer, little annoying engine noise, and enough power to keep you from thinking, gee, I wish I had a more powerful car.
Overall, the initial impression behind the wheel in on-and-off road environments provided ample evidence as to why this vehicle is better than many small SUVs. It’s got tough four-wheel-drive system, a stylish exterior, and better interior quality – making for a happier driver, whether on the commute home or during weekend play.
Though the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers a 2.7-liter V6 engine that outmatches its base trim competitors in horsepower and torque, traversing hills and making quick moves can illicit an unbecoming engine whine and hesitation. It’s likely due to a torque curve that peaks at least 500 revolutions per minute higher than the competition, making the Grand Vitara seem a bit sluggish.
How does the Grand Vitara fare in terms of fuel economy? The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara is rated at 18 city and 23 mpg highway, while several competitors such as the Hyundai Tucson (22/27) and the Honda CR-V (23/39) offer better efficiency.
How does the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara measure up against the competition? Very well, especially at the base price. The Grand Vitara offers as much or more off-road capability of any small SUV except the Jeep Liberty and the Nissan Xterra, its powerplant measures up well against other base models in the class, and its interior is among the roomiest available.
Test Vehicle: Suzuki Grand Vitara Luxury 4WD
Price Range: $19,594.00 - $24,994.00 (inc. destination of $599)
Engine Size and Type: 2.7-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 185 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 184 at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual; 5-speed automatic
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,505 lbs. (automatic transmission)
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 18/23
Length: 176.0 inches
Width: 71.3 inches
Wheelbase: 103.9 inches
Height: 66.7 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 41.3/37.2 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 40.0/38.2 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: 5
Max. Cargo Volume: 67.3 cu. ft.
Max. Towing Capacity: 3,000 lbs.
Ground Clearance: 7.9 inches
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda Element, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sorento, Kia Sportage, Mazda Tribute, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Xterra, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Vue, Toyota RAV4
Photos courtesy of Suzuki Motors