When we last reviewed our long-term Grand Vitara (Feb. '07), we'd just taken her into the dealer for her 7,500-mile service, which she passed with flying colors. In recent months, she's spent most of her time with us as a daily driver/commuter rig, and after 11,000 miles, we're checking back in with her latest status report.
What we've liked: Our tester's 2.7L V-6 engine and Aisin five-speed automatic transmission continue to impress with snappy acceleration and relatively smooth performance (the engine gets a bit buzzy above four grand, but not annoyingly so). The Suzuki's rack-and-pinion and four-wheel discs are still providing reliable steering and stopping, though we've recently noticed some squeaking sounds emanating from under the vehicle under steering input. One staffer thinks it's due to the tires, but it sounds like maybe a joint somewhere is in need of some lube (or a new bushing?). We'll keep our ears tuned and see if it gets any louder.
Speaking of tires, we're still singing the praises for our tester's Yokohama Geolandars, which provide awesome grip (maybe too awesome, as the treads love to pick up, then fling, rocks all over the trail and undercarriage at high speeds) and which have shown no obvious signs of wear after 11,000 miles. Our suspension seems to have softened up slightly, most likely due to a little OE shock fade over time. If it was our personal vehicle, we'd probably upgrade to some premium aftermarket boingers, but in all, the chassis tuning on the GV tends to be on the stiff side anyway, so on-road stability has not been noticeably affected.
We've also enjoyed our optional XM satellite stereo package ... or, at least we used to enjoy it. Apparently our comp subscription ran out a few weeks ago since all we get anymore are channels 1 and 174.
Most notably, our GV has been extremely reliable, with only $93 in routine maintenance (performed at 7,500 miles) required to date. Not long ago, a staff member noted a funky-strange odor emanating from the rear of the GV, and upon further inspection, found the right rear storage compartment filled with some sort of foul-smelling mystery fluid (stale Dr. Pepper? Fresh bong water?) that had also gummed up one of the rear floor mats. As we had a cooler filled with sodas in the back of the GV for a few weeks over last year's holiday season, we're guessing a spill or leak must have taken place that we hadn't noticed earlier. The long-suffering staffer cleaned up the mat and emptied the bin of the offending liquid. Otherwise, the vehicle is still like new inside and out, with no exterior squeaks or rattles, and our seats, mats, and other perishables still look and feel like they did the day we first received the vehicle.
What we haven't liked: A unanimous gripe-really, the only one-amongst our staff concerns the GV's small (17.4-gallon) fuel tank, which limits cruising range to the low-200-mile range and keeps us returning to the pump more frequently than we'd like.
In sum, our GV continues to impress us with its reliability and overall fun factor. We'll be back in a few months with our farewell report.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous report: Oct. '06, Feb. '07
Base price: $20,399
Price as tested: $23,654
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronic full-time two-speed transfer case
Miles to date: 11,211
Miles since last report: 2,704
Average mpg (this report): 17.54
Test best tank (mpg): 22.16
Test worst tank (mpg): 15.77
This period: None
Problem areas: Stinky mystery fluid in rear storage compartment. Repaired by staff at no cost.
What's Hot,What's Not
Hot: Snappy acceleration and handling, decent sightlines, comfortable seats, overall build and reliability.
Not: Limited cruising range, so-so mileage, they took our XM stereo away!
* "Too many trips to the gas station, not enough time on highway."
* "Steering input accompanied by "squeak squeak squeak": Tires?"
* "Seats surprisingly comfy for long hauls."