2000 Vitara New Car Test Drive
Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a standout among small sport-utility vehicles. Totally new last model year, the Grand Vitara is one of the few SUVs in this class built on truck principles -- live axles and two-speed transfer cases. It's also the only mini-utility to offer a V6 engine -- and it's a slick powerplant at that.
With 155 horsepower from its V6, the Grand Vitara JLX+ has power that the 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V cannot match. Mate that V6 to a five-speed transmission, and the Grand Vitara turns as racy as a tall wagon can get. On-demand four-wheel drive and a five-link rear suspension with coil springs make it better prepared to rumble over rocks and rutted trails than the its car-based competition from Toyota and Honda.
Few mini-utilities offer the off-road capability of this new Suzuki. On the road or off the beaten trail, the Grand Vitara makes a convincing argument for being the best mini-utility.
Suzuki now offers a full line of mini sport-utilities, from the two-door Vitara JS with two-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine to the loaded Grand Vitara Limited with four doors, four-wheel drive, V6 and automatic transmission. In between is a line of four-door Vitaras with four- and six-cylinder engines.
Note that Suzuki's nomenclature uses an X to denote four-wheel drive, so JX and JLX models come with four-wheel drive. Generally, four-wheel drive adds $1,000 to the bottom line.
An automatic transmission is a $1,000 option for most models.
The least-expensive model is the $13,499 two-door Vitara JS. It comes with a convertible soft canvas top with a plastic rear window. It's powered by a 1.6-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that produces 97 horsepower to drive the rear wheels. Two-door JLS and JLX trim levels come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 127 horsepower. They also come standard with air conditioning.
Four-door Vitara models start with the $15,499 JS. All Vitara 4 Door models come standard with the larger 2.0-liter engine.
Most people will opt for the $18,299 Grand Vitara - mainly because all Grand Vitaras come with a 155-horsepower V6, Suzuki's first six-cylinder.
The new top of the line for Suzuki is the $22,699 Grand Vitara Limited, which arrives at your dealer with a hard cover for the external spare tire, privacy glass, fog lamps, leather upholstery, and a choice of either stark white or black exterior colors, plus gold badging.
Maybe the best perk of buying any Vitara, though, is the new Warranty Repair Courtesy Vehicle Program. If your Suzuki has to stay at the dealership's service facility overnight for a warranty repair, they'll provide you with their own car or an Enterprise rental for between three and five days, with 150 miles per day. At this end of the price spectrum, such largesse is unusual.