The (possible) internal memo from Suzuki management to product team: “Make our sport utility Grand Vitara a bit grander.”
Under the mantra of “Travel light and live fully,” Suzuki positions the Grand Vitara (along with some of its other vehicles) as a “lifestage” vehicle, not a move up or a move over.
For the newest version of this sport ute, most of the big news is under the hood, with a four-cylinder engine added to the fleet and enhancements to the V-6. Other changes are mild cosmetics and such.
We got our first experience with the 2010 model in the Texas Hill Country last summer, at the Knibbe Ranch near San Antonio. Suzuki had a nice offroad trail cut through the undeveloped “back 40″ of the 22,000-acre property with some very technical portions designed to demonstrate the range of capability of a couple of new vehicles they were showing the media. I was impressed to see both models (the Grand Vitara and Suzuki’s new Equator pickup) allowed on the same difficult course that included plenty of rocks and a couple of water hazards involving the Guadalupe River (and a few surprised kayakers).
The Grand Vitara demonstrated it is not restricted to the boundaries of a paved society.
An equal amount of time on the offroad trail was devoted to listening as it was driving – listening to the vehicle to see if it was enjoying itself or screaming in pain. No screaming. No rattles, no creaks, no squeaks – nothing but the sound of the motor enjoying the great outdoors.
I remember back to the first time I drove a Grand Vitara. Suzuki was just introducing it at my first Texas Truck Rodeo with the Texas Auto Writers group and the little Suzuki was a surprise of its class as it stole the show for compact SUVs. It was a no-nonsense vehicle that was easy to drive, very comfortable and quite capable when leaving the paved parking areas.
Fast forward to my recent week behind the wheel and I find little has changed. Grand Vitara is quite the little competitor.
As for those powertrain enhancements I alluded to, first and foremost is the new 166hp 2.4-liter engine offering, which we found to be very capable at tackling rugged and rocky terrain in our time behind the wheel.
While we drove only four-wheel-drive models, GV is available in rear-wheel-drive as well. The new I-4 can be mated to either five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic. We enjoyed the latter in our time behind the wheel, in vehicles with the new Four-Mode fulltime 4WD system that offers 4H, 4H Lock and 4L Lock. The Lock modes lock the center differential, a feature not normally found in this segment of vehicle.
The new 3.2-liter V-6 offered on the Grand Vitara replaces the 2.7-liter unit and bumps horsepower to 230 with torque rising to 213 lb. ft., and despite the increase in power, fuel economy is raised and the new engine burns 20 percent cleaner than the model it replaces.
New fuel economy figures for the I-4 are 19/26 and 18/24 for the V-6 (dipping to 17 and 23 city/highway for 4WD models).
The 2010 Grand Vitara from Suzuki is offered in four trim lines with two engines and three driveline choices. We enjoyed the XSport with V-6 and 4WD that came equipped with a Nuvi navigation system atop the center dash. Pricing for this loaded tester came to a final tally of $26,153.