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A mini SUV increasingly outdistanced by the competition.
Standard V6, distinctive looks, low-range transfer case on 4x4 models.
Harsh suspension, unimpressive brakes, cramped rear seats, lack of cargo space.
Available Grand Vitara SUV Models
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Standard Grand Vitaras get redesigned front and rear bumpers and a restyled grille. New interior features include a larger double-DIN AM/FM stereo with an in-dash CD player, adjustable front seat armrests, redesigned head restraints, child seat-tether hooks, and a new seat fabric. Top-of-the-line Grand Vitara Limiteds also get the improved stereo along with a tilt-and-slide power sunroof and new aluminum wheels.
With a title that sounds more like a sprawling Spanish estate than a mini-SUV, the Grand Vitara is Suzuki's top-of-the-line entrant into the rapidly growing mini-ute segment. Based on the four-door Vitara, the Grand Vitara is aimed at customers looking for a mini-SUV that includes all the amenities usually reserved for sport-utes in the more expensive midsize class. An extensive list of standard features comes with every Grand Vitara, the only options consisting of a four-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive.
There are three different trim levels: base JLS, JLS+, and top-of-the-line Limited. The JLS includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, tilt steering, premium AM/FM stereo, and comfy front bucket seats. Step up to the JLS+ and you're rewarded with four-wheel ABS, an in-dash CD player, and newly styled 16-inch alloy wheels. The Grand Vitara Limited builds upon this impressive list of features with a standard four-speed automatic, leather seating, deep-tinted glass, and a monochrome paint scheme.
All Grand Vitaras come with a V6 engine rated at 155 horsepower and 160 ft-lbs. of torque. Although this may have been a class-leading engine a couple years ago, the mini-ute segment has spawned gutsy new entries in the form of the Nissan Xterra and Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute twins. Packing 170-horsepower and 200-horsepower V6s respectively, these new competitors make the Grand Vitara's powerplant seem average at best. The Suzuki's suspension is an advanced MacPherson strut design up front and a five-link coil-spring design in back that delivers a controlled ride off-road, but we consider it a little harsh on the highway.
Suzuki's top sport-ute does offer a low-range transfer case and bulletproof body-on-frame construction for traction and durability, but without a strong source of motivation, it's hard to consider the Grand Vitara a formidable off-road machine. Add that to its lack of rear seat room and minute amount of cargo space and you begin to see why the Grand Vitara pales in comparison to its more modern colleagues. Of course, most mini-ute buyers aren't looking for a Baja racer or wannabe Suburban anyway, leaving the Grand Vitara, with its extensive standard feature list and competitive price, a relevant competitor even amongst more powerful competition.
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