2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review
By Mark Gordon
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel
Someone once said, “a good tool is hard to find.” Maybe that’s not what they said. Maybe they said, “Tools makes strange bedfellows.” Actually seems like I’m a tool with this opening. So let us start again.
There is actually a method to this tool madness. Watch how this all begins to unfold right before your very eyes. I review automobiles. I live in the Rocky Mountains. It is winter in the Rocky Mountains. It snows in winter. This winter it snows and snows and snows and snows. The Vail roads are covered in snow here in the Rocky Mountains. In order to review a vehicle I must drive it. Driving on snow covered Rocky Mountain roads presents certain specific challenges. In order to overcome said challenges one needs the proper tools. See how that works?
So here’s the story. I was working on a review of an unnamed very nice and well-appointed sedan, and then the snows came. The tires that come standard on this very nice vehicle were woefully inadequate to handle the aforementioned snowy challenges. This very nice sedan, one which I would be very happy driving on dry or wet roads, sat in my snow covered driveway because I could barely make it up the slight hill that leads to my home. Needless to say I will not be reviewing that vehicle until I get the chance to drive it in other weather conditions. But then the right tool showed up on my doorstep. It was a sunny day. A momentary break in the incredible fourteen feet of snow we’ve had so far this season in Vail. I was able to dig out the sedan from the driveway and trade it in for the next vehicle. Thankfully that next vehicle was the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the perfect tool for snowy Rocky Mountain roads.
I love the fact that the Grand Vitara has keyless entry. RFID technology makes me very happy. It is very nice to see that the relatively inexpensive Suzuki has this option. It makes life so easy, especially when carrying groceries or a sleeping five year old. No more fumbling around in my overstuffed pockets for the keys. I just press the button on the door handle and the door unlocks. I get in and turn the ignition. All cars should come with RFID keys standard.
The Grand Vitara has decent ground clearance, 7.4 inches minimum. Normally this would be fine, but like I said Vail has received lots of snow. I think it was the second morning of my review time and we had over a foot in one night. Then the plows came. The guys from the Town of Vail do an amazing job of keeping the streets clear of deep snow. Unfortunately the neighbor up the hill hired a plowing company that just moved the snow into the public right of way. So when the plow came, it pushed all of the neighbor’s snow into our driveway. It was a mess. Probably two feet or more of snow was blocking in the Grand Vitara. I pondered, “Should I shovel.” “No, I’m going to see what this vehicle has in it.” “I’ll shovel if I get stuck.” I was feeling brave, partly because the Grand Vitara comes with a switch to lock the differential and go into 4WD Low. It was so easy to switch. Just turn the knob. So now I’m in 4WD Low with a locked differential. I have two or more feet of snow behind me, and I have 7.4 inches of clearance. A recipe for disaster you say…I say a piece of cake. The Suzuki backed up as if I was on a newly paved piece of asphalt in Death Valley. Backed right up and over, no shoveling necessary.
The Suzuki is very impressive. After the plows clear the roads they sometimes leave a slick thin layer of compacted and very slippery snow. This doesn’t always happen, it depends on the temperature and some other factors. But during the test drive it happened. Many cars couldn’t get up the hill to my house. The Suzuki and its Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) with Traction Control System (TCS) just rode right up. Going down the hill I used Suzuki’s Hill descent control. The Grand Vitara crushed it. I couldn’t be more pleased.
The vehicle holds five adults comfortably. The controls make sense and are very easy to use. The rear cargo space was very easy to access and held plenty of groceries and skis. I can’t really find anything to criticize in the Grand Vitara. I did get a chance to test the Grand Vitara on some dry highway roads. It handled competently. Not too noisy, but nothing special. OK acceleration, but not enough to cause whiplash. So maybe this would be a different review if I was living in Denver and it was summer. I might find the Grand Vitara to be just OK. But it isn’t summer, and I live in Vail.
The Suzuki comes with a great warranty. It has a seven year 100,000 mile, transferable power train warranty. And the best part about the Suzuki is what you get for the price. The Grand Vitara starts at $18,499.00 and goes up to $26,299.00 depending on the trim package. The keyless entry is standard, as is the auto on/off headlight, on all trim levels. Suzuki has done a great job packaging the Grand Vitara.
I can see why some people might not want to purchase the Grand Vitara. But I can certainly see many more reasons why you should make a Grand Vitara your own. The Suzuki is certainly no Lexus. But then again it doesn’t pretend to be. It is what it is. A great, practical, small SUV, in short the right tool for a specific job.