2009 Grand Vitara New Car Test Drive
The Suzuki Grand Vitara has been thoroughly overhauled for 2009, with more advanced drivetrains, better brakes, new cosmetics, and added features. A new V6 engine is available in addition to the four-cylinder engine. It has not turned soft in the process, nor has Suzuki tried to put seven seats where five belong. The Grand Vitara is quite capable in rugged terrain and offers superior durability than the car-based crossovers.
Four-wheel drive enthusiasts use the term soft-roader for vehicles that have all-wheel drive but aren't really built for anything rougher than a graded dirt road. Built on a front-wheel-drive platform, these car-based crossovers include the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Nissan Rogue.
Suzuki's Grand Vitara is a tougher little bugger. It's built on a rear-wheel-drive platform and is available with four-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive, the former distinguished from the latter by its added low-range gearing. This allows the Grand Vitara to climb or descend steeper inclines and walk over rocky obstacles without boiling its drivetrain. It has a proper underbody layout, with steel suspension arms rather than aluminum, and attention to the engine compartment means the muddy river at the door bottoms won't faze it. For two-wheel drive owners it means a nearly indestructible runabout.
However, just because the Grand Vitara can take some abuse doesn't mean the occupants have to. With fully independent suspension, able engines and a clean cabin, the Grand Vitara does not have the rough-and-tumble ride quality and cabin surroundings the term four-wheel drive often conjures up. It is quite happy on the pavement and doesn't ask any compromises.
The 2009 Grand Vitara is offered in 11 permutations, with nearly every imaginable combination available. All models are rated to tow a small trailer, and many can be flat-towed behind a motorhome.
The Grand Vitara ($18,499) comes standard with a 166-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive, with five-speed manual standard and four-speed automatic optional ($1100). Standard features include cloth upholstery, automatic air conditioning, power windows/mirrors/door locks, power steering, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, outside temperature display, map lights, vanity mirrors and visor extensions, 60/40 split-fold reclining rear seats, automatic headlamps, P225/70R16 tires on steel wheels. Options on the include Bluetooth connectivity, and auxiliary audio input jack.
Premium ($18,899) adds a cargo cover, privacy glass behind the front doors, hard spare tire cover, more paint choices. Premium 4WD ($20,349) also gets heated outside mirrors and offers optional alloy wheels.
XSport ($21,749) and XSport 4WD ($23,399) add SmartPass keyless entry/start, 6CD changer, leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lamps, sunroof, roof rails and 16-inch aluminum wheels including the uncovered spare.
XSport V6 ($22,999) and XSport V6 4WD ($24,749) feature a 230-hp 3.2-liter V6 with a five-speed automatic and come with Hill Hold and Hill Descent Control and 17-inch aluminum wheels. An optional appearance package adds side steps and textured fender flares. A rear-view camera display on the inside mirror is available ($699).
Luxury upgrade with leather upholstery and synthetic leather door trim, heated front seats, premium audio systems, dark-silver wood print trim, 18-inch aluminum wheels on V6, full hard spare tire cover. The rear view camera and auxiliary audio input jack are the only options. They come in four models: Luxury ($23,249), Luxury 4WD ($26,299), Luxury V6 ($24,549) and Luxury V6 4WD ($26,299).
Safety equipment that comes standard includes dual-stage frontal airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags front and rear. Active safety features to help you avoid accidents include electronic stability control (ESP) incorporating traction control, and antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist.