An All-New 'UTE And A Familiar Ol' Pickup Combine Form, Function, And Fun In The Dirt
We just returned from a couple of days in the West Texas hill country near San Antonio, where we wheeled Suzuki's newest incarnation of the Grand Vitara, as well as its new Equator pickup. Long story short: one behaved on the trail exactly as we expected, while the other was a pleasant surprise.
First, the pleasant surprise: The 2009 Grand Vitara. The GV returns for 2009 with an all-new V-6, a 230hp 3.2L 24-valve aluminum block, which is both more fuel-efficient and emissions-friendly than the previous-gen 2.7L six it replaces. A 2.4L four-cylinder is also available, as are either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Suspension is independent at both ends, and four-wheel drive comes in the form of an electronic single-mode or "Four Mode" system that offers full-time four-wheel drive with dedicated 4-Hi, 4-Lo, and 4-Lo Lock settings. (No, there's no rear locker, but "lock" engages the center diff-lock to provide equal torque splits, front to rear, in low-range.) We wheeled the new GV over some rocky trails in the hardscrabble Texas hill country, including some fairly technical stretches of grille-deep water crossings, rocky wash-outs, and steep hillclimbs of loose dirt, and it handled pretty much everything we could throw at it. The only limiting factors, as in the past, were ground clearance (8 inches claimed), and the Vitara's unprotected underbelly (no skidplating package-yet) is a tempting target for hungry rocks. On the plus side, the GV now comes with Hill Hold and Descent Control, which provides added compression on downhills, and the rig's Yokohama Geolandar tires have always been a staff favorite for their combination of good road feel and grabby, square-shouldered trail prowess.
Peppy 3.2L V-6; 5.13:1 gears with the four-speed; hill hold electronics; you can flat-tow it!
Bump, bonk, bash on trails (low ground clearance, no skidplates); cluttered and confusing HVAC controls.
Surprisingly capable in the dirt, the new GV is still a strong Best Buy candidate in the compact SUV class.
Vehicle/model: 2009 Suzuki Grand Vitara
Base price: TBA
Engine (tested): 3.2L DOHC V-6
Max hp & torque (lb-ft): 230/213
Transmission(s): Five-speed auto (V-6 only)
Transfer case(s): Full-time two-speed
Low-range ratio: 1.97:1
Frame type: Unitbody
Suspension, f/r: IFS, MacPherson strut/IRS, multilink
Ring and pinion: 3.73:1 (five-speed manual)
Max crawl ratio: 33.4:1
Steering: Power rack-and-pinion
Brakes, f/r: Vented disc/vented disc
Wheels (tested): 18x7
Tires (tested): P225/60R18 Yokohama Geolandar
Wheelbase (in): 103.9
Length (in): 177.1
Height (in): 71.3
Base curb weight (lb): 3,876
Max approach/departure angles (deg): 29/27
Minimum ground clearance (in): 7.9 (4x4)
GVWR (lb): 4,784
Max cargo volume (cu ft): 68.9 (seats down)
Max towing capacity (lb): 3,000
EPA mileage figures, city/hwy (mpg): 17/23
Fuel capacity (gal): 17.4