Suzuki, metaphorically speaking, has hit a home run with the V6 Grand Vitara. A few days ago I attended the world’s most famous hill climb--The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. As part of the hill climb coverage my assignment included reviewing Suzuki’s entry into the Samll Sport-Utility Vehicle category. What better setting to put a four wheel drive vehicle through it’s paces.
Suzuki introduced the V6 Grand Vitara in September of 1998. A company long-known for listening to the marketplace, Suzuki built the V6 Grand Vitara for the consumer who wants roominess with utility, two or four wheel drive availability, good fuel economy, truck-style frame construction and last, but certainly not least, a wallet-friendly price. The test model had a suggested manufacturer’s price of $20,999.00. The Grand Vitara comes in two or four door availability.
The vehicle that I drove was the four door version with a four-speed automatic transmission. I would have preferred the five-speed manual transmission version but that test-vehicle was not available. The V6 Grand Vitara is equipped with a very quiet 2.5litre, 24 valve OHC V6 that produces about 155 horsepower. The Grand Vitara has ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System) as a standard feature. Stepping into the Grand Vitara, I noted that the instrument panel, interior cabin and electric window controls were laid out in a logical, easy to read and reach, straight-forward manner. The one downside that I immediately noted was the placement of the instructions of the on the fly 4WD operation. I guess the Suzuki engineers reasoned that a V6 Grand Vitara owner would eventually be able to perform this operation without constantly reading the instructions.
Setting off toward Pikes Peak I found the interior cabin to be roomier and more comfortable than I anticipated. Being six feet tall requires leg and head room. The Grand Vitara met both requirements. Visibility and blind-spot concerns in the Grand Vitara have also been addressed. These days, with the ever-decreasing civility of road manners, you need visibility to watch for the idiots. Suzuki obviously understands the U.S. driver. One criticism on the ergonomics. The lack of arm rests. I was informed by a Suzuki rep that the arm rest issue will be addressed in the 2000 models.
Heading up the mountain road, I did find some engine and transmission lag in severe incline areas. One thing I forgot to mention was that this Grand Vitara was a "California Emissions" equipped vehicle. None the less, by dropping from Drive into1st the delivery of horsepower was constant and available. The road to the summit of Pikes Peak (14,110 feet) has areas that reach as much as 12-15 degrees of angle. Colorado Springs elevation is around 6,000 feet and goes up (figuratively speaking) from their. Starting out where the hill climb competitors begin at the 9,390 foot level I put the Grand Vitara into four wheel drive. The156 left and right hand turns to the summit provide some switchbacks that are only suitable for donkeys. The steering input and feel was as smooth as any other four-wheel drive vehicles in the entire SUV market. The bumps and changing road surface of the hill climb road gave the McPherson Strut suspension a good work-out.
The drive to the summit was around 35 minutes in heavy traffic. Along the way the constant stream of traffic required stopping and starting several times on this narrow mountain road. The Grand Vitara never missed a beat delivering the horsepower and four-wheel drive footing that you would want on a road like this.
So your thinking about an SUV? I would strongly advise you to give the V6 Grand Vitara a test-drive before making your final decision. While you may not be competing in next year’s hill climb you can certainly find some mountains of your own to conquer.