We've been having so much fun with our Grand Vitara runabout the last few months, whether drifting through desert dry lake beds or transporting the family to the snowy slopes at Mammoth, we almost forgot that it was time for another update. All told, our Grand Vitara has performed yeoman's work for us over 10,000 miles of long highway jaunts, interurban commutes, and the occasional weekend dirt run. We really appreciated the Suzuki's full-time four-wheel drive (in lieu of snow chains) on a recent slushy-road foray into the Sierra Nevada during ski season, and while our Dunlop AT20 tires are showing some signs of tread wear, they've otherwise delivered predictably firm grip throughout the test period on a variety of road surfaces and tractive conditions. Our tester's Hill Descent Control was given a low-range workout in the Sierra, more than once, on some slippery, loose downhill two-tracks in the mountains-and passed with flying colors. Going uphill on those same loose surfaces, though, we wished for a little more "torque-enhancement" than what the ABS traction control offers.
Sacre bleu! We simply wanted to reset the trip meter, but when we tried to, our IP monitor screen suddenly decided to keep us apprised of our vehicle status in Euro-ese. We think we've figured out a fix for this, but we're brushing up on our Berlitz Francais anyway.
A few minor gripes have been voiced, too. The GV seems to have evinced a few additional squeaks and rattles over the last few months, but it's only really noticeable over the roughest road surfaces and could simply be a function of some slightly worn OE shocks. The orange-LED HVAC/stereo screen on the center stack is still a bit confusing and almost impossible to read in direct sunlight. The scrollable, white-on-black digital monitor screen on the instrument panel is easy to read, but it seems to have a mind of its own; toggling through the menu with the trip-meter switch isn't terribly intuitive, and figuring out how to correct an erroneous re-set left us scratching our heads. (As a result, the GV's now logging our mileage in kilometers, and in French.) And while mileage has improved (see below), the vehicle's smallish fuel tank has us looking for fill-ups every 200 miles or so.
We've devoted a greater portion of time in the Suzuki to long-distance commuting and parts-fetching lately, and our 2.7L V-6's mileage has ticked upward appreciably during the last test period. We even logged an all-highway best 25 mpg on a recent drive up to the Central Coast region, which actually surpasses the Suzuki's 18/24 EPA rating (and we're pretty sure this is the first time we've ever done that!). Our only additional costs to date have been a $37.34 dealer service for new fluids and filters at 7,500 miles. Overall, our tester's ride and performance over 10,000 miles have confirmed our belief that the current GV is the most refined and sophisticated 4x4 that Suzuki has offered for sale in the U.S. to date. Oh, and we're diggin' the mileage now, too.
Report: 2 Of 4
Previous reports: Dec. '09
Base price: $23,699
Price as tested: $25,199
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronic full-time, two-speed transfer case
Miles to date: 10,375
Miles since last report: 4,005
Average mpg (this report): 19.67
Test best tank (mpg): 25.22
Test worst tank (mpg): 16.56
This period: 7,500-mile service; recommended fluid/filter changes, $37.34
Problem areas: Nothing significant
What's Hot, What's Not
HOT: Nimble ride and handling, decent mileage, really good tires, Hill Descent Control
NOT: Assorted rattles and squeaks, low ground clearance, limited cruising range, could use a rear LSD
"Hill Descent Control works well-confidently navigated a steep, rocky downhill"
"Tires deliver great traction in the rain"
"A few more rattles than I recall the last time I drove it"
"Full-time four-wheel drive a plus in sloppy weather"
"Can't read the darn LED stereo/HVAC indicators in direct sunlight"
"Still seems to ride and handle on dry pavement like a front-drive car"