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1999 4x4 of the Year: Suzuki Grand Vitara

1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Suzuki Grand Vitara

•Good steering
•Handled well
•Surprising amount of cargo space

•Needs more power
•Too low to the ground
•Cheap-looking fit and finish

If ever there was a vehicle that ripped right down the center of our taste buds, it was the Grand Vitara. Half of the voters found it comfortable to drive, the others not. Half thought four-wheel-drive engagement was smooth as a baby's bum, a number got hung-up. Half found it to be a natural in some off-road situations, the rest felt it best left on the street.

What made a unanimous statement, though, was the standard five-speed transmission, which offered tight, sure shifting and helped squeeze a little extra out of the somewhat disappointing but quiet all-new 2.5L V-6 engine. While it fell just behind the Isuzu's 3.2L V-6 in acceleration, the perceived power just wasn't there; actual power negated any real kudos at urban driving and high-speed blasting. However, the Suzi did shine with its compression braking, a gain that helped sway voters once we hit the trails.

But it was in the Empirical section that the Suzuki proved its reliability. It had the best brakes by far, to the tune of nearly 23 feet (that's a lot of people still upright), and fell to the fifth-quickest acceleration slot. Not only was it second cheapest, but it came standard with cruise and A/C, among other perks, although you'd think a center console woulda been thrown in. Finally, being second to none with its hair-shy-of-19 mpg helped make it the overall winner of the category.

That brake award was sort of a shocker to some-the brakes felt a little touchy on pavement, and on fire roads the ABS went into full panic and couldn't halt the vehicle; however, we learned to rely on downshifting the well-working tranny. Braking was less of an issue while bucking over the whoop-de-doos-the consistent bottoming out of the suspension and wicked rebound became the priority, yet that did allow tall drivers a chance to marvel at the vast amount of headroom.

It was once again a toss-up as to the Grand Vitara's performance on sand, but all agreed that having better off-road rubber and mechanical traction would have improved its crawling and climbing abilities.

Bottom line
An affordable, fairly well-equipped, street-smart sport/utility.


Manufacturer Suzuki
Model Grand Vitara
Base Price $19,999
Price as Tested $20,429
Options as Tested NA

Type Four-cam V-6
Displacement (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/152.1
Bore & Stroke (inches) 3.31x2.95
Compression Ratio 9.5:1
Induction Type Multiport electronic fuel injection
Fuel Requirement/Capacity (gallons) 87 Octane
Unleaded regular/17.4
SAE Peak Horsepower 155 @ 6,500 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 160 @ 4,000 rpm

Type Synchronized five-speed
Model NA
Ratios First: 3.704:1; Second: 2.020:1; Third: 1.368:1;
Fourth: 1.000:1; Fifth: 0.802:1; Reverse: 4.472:1

Transfer Case
Type Two-speed Select Shift
Model NA
Low-Range Ratio 1.816:1

Front Type Independent
Rear Type Solid
Hubs NA
Ratio 4.30:1

Front MacPherson struts/coil springs
Rear Five-link coil springs

Type Power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns Lock-to-Lock/Ratio 3.8/20.5:1
Turning Radius (feet) 17.4

Size (inches) 16x7
Material Alloy

Size P235/60R16
Brand Bridgestone Dueler HT

Brake System
Front 12-inch ventilated discs
Rear 8-inch drums

Advertised GVWR (pounds) 4,123

As Tested (mpg) 18.84

Standing 1/4-mile (seconds @ mph) 17.87 @ 75.20

60-0 mph (feet) 110.66

Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase 97.5
Overall Length 164
Overall Width 77.25
Overall Height 67.75
Front/Rear Track 59/59
Front/Rear Overhang 16.5/27.25
Minimum Front Ground Clearance 7.25