This week we’re looking at the 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara 4WD sport utility vehicle with the XSPORT PACAKGE. The next model up is the Luxury 4-WD that adds a sunroof, leather seats and $1,900 to the MSRP. No thanks.
Well, I scheduled this sport UTE for a trip to the back country of the Sierra National forest mountains of California . I had visited this area often in the past and it is as rugged as it gets. I wondered if I had made a wise decision not to schedule a Hummer or more (supposedly) capable 4-wheel drive vehicle or surely one with more cargo area. I was a little concerned when I began loading gear and essentials only to find the two women joining me on the trek up to the back country had packed for two – each. Ahhh, but there was the roof rack for suit cases with god knows what all was packed inside. If you have to ask why there were two women I’m not going to tell you. Just kidding – one was with me and the other – the wife of the guy already there setting up the base camp.
The area is just south of Mammoth Lakes and west of Mt. Whitney that reaches 14,494 feet into the California sky. The whole area represents some of the worlds most beautiful and majestic vistas that take your breath away. The famous John Muir trail winds its way north and south of our base camp at Jackass Meadow next to Florence Lake and the San Juakeen River. Other lakes you may recognize are Edison and Huntington and Shaver Lakes below.
Handling & Performance:
I would be crossing rivers and traverse rocky country and it didn’t take long to feel how capable this Suzuki handled the terrain. I was impressed. I had just tested the new Toyota FJ and wondered if it would have been any better, but I’ll never know. In any case this Suzuki became my buddy and did itself proud.
As you must know, 4-wheel drive vehicles seldom get off road (only 5% of the time), but this Grand Vitara got waaaay off road. The last 20 miles into our camp at 7,500 foot elevation in a valley east of the 9,000 foot Kaiser Pass, is a one lane winding road with sheer drop offs down craggy granite walls. And you know I never once felt uncomfortable even considering the gasps and groans from the passengers. “Don’t look down and you won’t be scarred”, I suggested.
Fuel economy, although not terrible isn’t impressive either.
More cutesy than Grand but nice considering the price range. You tend to expect more from a pricier car.
Fit and Finish:
This Suzuki is put together so as to give the look and feel of a more expensive brand, and that considering I had just swapped out a Toyota Land Cruiser at about three times the money.
You just have to wonder why you would spend two or three times the money for a good off road vehicle. The couple we were camping with brought along a 1942 Army Jeep, and although you can pay 5 figures for those classic Jeeps you can also get them for $6-8,000 a copy. They are fun to look at and ride in for the historical value but the Suzuki was much more comfortable and handled the road equally as well with a bit more confidence.
Not only did I have more confidence in the chances of surviving the trek as compared to the Army Jeep, the Suzuki pampered me with comfortable seats, power windows as opposed to no windows, tilt steering wheel and air conditioning as opposed to “Open Air” with no top at all.
If you’re into punishing yourself buy the Jeep but I suggest you consider the comfort of a more modern off road experience.
Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-25,000, Mercury Mariner $21-27,000, Chevrolet Equinox $21-24,000, Subaru Forester $22-28,000, Mercury Mariner Hybrid $29,000, Mazda Tribute $20-25,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $18-26,000, Jeep Liberty $21-26,000, Hyundai Tucson $18-24,000, Honda CR-V $20-25,000, Nissan Xterra $20-28,000, Toyota RAV4 $20-26,000, 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid $26-27,000 and 2007 Ford Escape $19-26,000.
Nice ride, affordable 4-WD.
Accelerate button not very responsive with 185 hp and only fair fuel economy.
2.7 liter 185 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, independent strut front and multilink rear suspension, 4-mode 4WD, ESP Electronic Stability Program and traction control, ABS brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake Distribution), front air bags and front and rear curtain airbags, keyless entry with Smartpass starting (key not needed to start engine as long as key fob is in the vehicle), climate control air, CD,AM/FM and XM radio, tilt wheel, cruise control, power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, fog lights, full spare tire cover, privacy glass, roof rails and 16” Alloy Wheels.
19 City and 23 Highway MPG
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