2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $19,594
POWERTRAIN: 2.7-liter, 185-hp, 184-lb-ft V6; rwd, five-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT: 3452 lbs
0 TO 60 MPH: 9.0 seconds (est.)
FUEL MILEAGE (EPA COMBINED): 19.95 mpg
The 2006 model is 11.5 inches longer and 1.2 inches wider, with a 6.3-inch greater wheelbase, giving rear passengers 6.6 inches more legroom. Fold the seats down and there is an additional 18.7 cubic feet of cargo area. The Grand Vitaras overall size is now on par with the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4 (though Toyota will launch its new, larger RAV-4 in December).
Suzuki replaces the old Vitaras body-on-frame construction with a steel unibody featuring a welded-in ladder frame. The idea, Suzuki says, is to combine good on-road handling and smoothness while retaining the off-road ruggedness offered by body-on-frame vehicles.
It generally works well, as the Grand Vitara offers a comfortable ride and more responsive handling than its predecessor on paved surfaces. The Suzuki also copes well with moderately rough terrain, though its ultimate prowess depends on which drivetrain package you buy: Rear-wheel drive, full-time awd and a four-mode awd with differential lock and low range are available.
The dual-cam V6 from Suzukis XL-7 provides 185 hp and 184 lb-ft, and doubles towing capacity to 3000 pounds. The buzzy engine is the trucklets weak point, though. We also dislike the JDM tailgate that swings open from the wrong side for a left-hand-drive vehicle, and Suzuki offers no power-seat option. On the other hand, the logically laid-out, high-quality interior pleases both eyes and hands.
Starting at $19,594 and maxing out at $24,994 for a loaded luxury edition, the new Grand Vitara represents a value worth consideration by those in the mini-ute market.