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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review

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The junior member of Suzuki's appealing sport utility vehicle lineup, the compact Grand Vitara, provides a comfortable, versatile and very livable alternative to a conventional station wagon or crossover utility vehicle – and has the power and mechanical capability to complete its mission on or off the road. Available in base, XSport and Luxury trim, this slick Suzuki offers room for five, a generous assortment of standard features – including a V6 engine – plus the choice of rear- or full-time four-wheel drive, and wraps it in one of the longest and most owner-friendly warranties in the business. It needs all of that to compete in one of the toughest and most heavily populated markets, a segment where it must take on everything from the Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Outlander and Saturn Vue to the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4.

You'll Like This Car If...

Those seeking a combination of practicality and capability in a vehicle that's easy to drive, easy to live with and doesn't cost a fortune in gas should find the Grand Vitara well worth a look. The availability of the 4-Mode full-time four-wheel drive system adds even more all-season and on- and off-road appeal to the mix.

You May Not Like This Car If...

Buyers desiring four-cylinder frugality may be happier with a Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue or Saturn Vue instead and, if V6 quickness is your prime objective, you'll find lots more of it in a Toyota RAV4 V6. While Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and satellite radio are available through Suzuki dealers, a navigation system is not.

What's New for 2008

All 2008 Grand Vitaras gain a remote fuel-door release, a digital climate control system and enhanced sound-deadening materials around the passenger compartment. A power sunroof is now standard on the Xsport.

Driving the Grand Vitara
Driving Impressions

Rear-drive or four-wheel drive, the Grand Vitara has a solid feel, thanks to its integrated body-frame construction that combines the best of unitized design with supplemental full length and width...

... structural rails. Its compact size and fairly tight 36.0-foot turning circle makes maneuvering easy even in relatively tight confines. Tire drone and wind noise do get a bit more pronounced on rougher roads and at higher speeds, but overall isolation levels are livable if not best-in-class. Standard Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) give the Grand Vitara a confident character regardless of the number of wheels being driven. Hard cornering does elicit some body roll, but not an excessive amount; after all, it's not a sports car. The supplemental low-gear range gives four-wheel drive versions impressive off-road capability, although the additional weight does impact on-road performance and fuel economy.

Optional 4-Mode Full-time Four-wheel-drive
The Grand Vitara's versatile 4-Mode full-time four-wheel-drive system features a locking differential with 4HI, 4HI and 4LO lock modes and incorporates a locking center differential to help tame everything from slick pavement to rocky trails. It also has a convenient "neutral" setting that permits easy flat-towing, such as behind a motor home.

Available SmartPass Keyless Entry System
A feature normally found on more expensive vehicles, the optional SmartPass system lets you leave the key/transmitter in your pocket or purse and lock and unlock the Grand Vitara by pushing a button on the door handle and start or stop the engine by turning a switch on the steering column.

2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara Details
2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara photo Interior

The Grand Vitara's tastefully designed cabin complements hard-plastic trim elements with numerous soft-touch surfaces. Cloth upholstery and silver plastic accents on the base and XSport are replaced by leather and faux wood in the Luxury model. All boast legible instruments, logical control layouts and three 12-volt power points. The comfortable front seats (heated in the Luxury model) provide good lateral support while the seatbacks of the 60/40-split rear bench offer adjustable reclining and room for two six-foot adults or three kids. Flipping and tumbling both sides to their forward position increases cargo capacity from 24.4 cubic feet to 68.9 cubic feet (marginally less with the optional sunroof).

Exterior

The Grand Vitara applies traditional SUV styling cues to a scaled-down package with just the right rounding of contours to yield a clean and contemporary appearance. Up front, its black mesh grille and lower front air-intake inserts are punctuated by a prominent chrome Suzuki logo, while the large right-hinged rear tailgate mounts a full-size spare tire in a lockable hard-shell case (optional on the rear-drive base model). A large upright glass area ensures good driver sightlines, and well-sized doors, plus a big swing-away tailgate, simplify loading of people and cargo. Purposefully bulged fenders house 225/70 all-season tires fitted to 16-inch steel wheels on the base model and aluminum rims on the XSport, while the top-line Luxury model has 225/65 tires on larger 17-inch alloys.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

All Grand Vitaras include a generous set of standard features. Even the rear-drive base model with a five-speed manual transmission includes power windows, locks and mirrors, 16-inch wheels, automatic digital climate control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, multifunction steering wheel on a tilt column and cruise control. Step up to the XSport or the leather-trimmed Luxury model and you gain a five-speed automatic transmission, upgraded audio package with six-disc CD changer, power sunroof, roof rails, SmartPass keyless entry and starting, fog lamps, alloy wheels and more. On the safety front, Electronic Stability Program (ESP), anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard across the lineup.

Optional Equipment

Beyond the specific feature enhancements included in each of its three trim levels, Grand Vitara factory extras are relatively few. Base model buyers can opt for the automatic transmission, hard-shell spare-tire case and a cargo cover while the 4-Mode full-time four-wheel-drive system is available on all Grand Vitaras. Key dealer-installed options include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and an iPod integration kit.

Under the Hood

All Grand Vitara models are fitted a lightweight, all-aluminum 2.7-liter V6 engine that makes 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque whether it's matched with the standard five-speed manual transmission or the optional five-speed automatic. Acceleration is skewed more towards adequate than sprightly; even when lightly loaded, zero-to-60 mile-per-hour sprints in any Grand Vitara will require close to 10 seconds – or roughly three seconds more than the much quicker Toyota RAV4 with its 269-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. There's still plenty of power to make for low-stress freeway merges, but it pays to consider any seriously aggressive passing moves. Those with a heavy right foot also will find that sustained hard driving doesn't help the Grand Vitara's already below-class-average fuel economy. Both rear-drive and four-wheel drive models can tow up to a 3,000-pound trailer.

2.7-liter V6
185 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
184 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22(2WD, manual), 16/21(AWD, manual)
17/22 (2WD, automatic), 17/21 (AWD, automatic)

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