Base price: $19,249
Vehicle layout: Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine: 2.4L/166-hp/162-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Curb weight: 3479 lb
Wheelbase: 103.9 in
Lengthxwxh 177.1 x 71.3 x 66.7 (w/roof rails) in
Even before this year's massive gas-price-spike hit, buyers had begun fleeing the traditional SUV segment in favor of more fashionable and fuel-efficient crossovers. Automakers have noticed, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a compact SUV that's still actually an SUV. The 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara
is one of the few capable compact offerings left for the U.S. market.
The last time a Grand Vitara graced our garage -- a 2008 4WD model -- we were pleasantly Gone is the overburdened 184-hp 2.7L V-6 engine. In its place is the standard 2.5L four producing 166 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque and an optional 3.2L V-6 producing 230 hp and 213 lb-ft of torque.
The two-row, five passenger 2009 Grand Vitara
with just 1700 miles on the clock was fitted with the top-shelf Luxury trim package, the four-cylinder engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission. It was also 2WD, which meant I wouldn't be testing its off-road prowess. That's just fine, since most 'utes in the Grand Vitara's class spend most of their time on the pavement anyway.
The first thing you notice when you climb into the Grand Vitara is the simplicity of the interior. All the controls are within easy reach and easy to use, and there aren't too many of them -- enough buttons and dials to get the job done and no more. The black dash, carpet, doors and seats are set off by tasteful silver accents. Unfortunately, they're also offset by cheap-looking faux-marble trim around the gear selector and on the interior door handles. Marble works in kitchens, not cars, and cheap, plastic, fake marble really doesn't work. Still the trim is dark enough to overlook most of the time.
Although down 18 hp from our V-6 tester, the vehicle's four-cylinder engine actually feels quite peppy. Merging on the freeway and climbing hills requires only modest throttle input, as does passing on the freeway. Picking up my brother and his luggage did little to slow it down. What hampers the Grand Vitara more than the engine, though, is the old-school four-speed transmission. In most situations it's not a problem, but if you hit an incline on the freeway, things get ugly. The transmission constantly hunts back and forth between third and fourth gear, with third too strong and fourth too weak to make the climb. Worse, the downshifts are anything but smooth. A gearbox with at least one more cog -- say like the one in V-6 Grand Vitara -- would help immensely.
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Labels: 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara, autonews, Suzuki, Suzuki Grand Vitara