With its independent suspension, the Grand Vitara should have a carlike ride, but it still leans toward economy. It rocked and rolled us driving along rough asphalt, making every fault in the road felt.
The steering is tight and responsive, but we almost wish it were dialed down. As the suspension reacted to rougher pavement we had to make constant corrections, not something we want to do for hours at a time driving down the freeway.
Although the Grand Vitara is not particularly tall, it does feel a little tippy when going around corners, so we wouldn't recommend if for lead-footed drivers. That said, it does have stability control standard, which should help keep it upright
Suzuki opted for a relatively small engine in the car, a 3.2-liter V-6 making 230 horsepower and 213 pound-feet of torque. Though it's no powerhouse, it proved perfectly adequate for the Grand Vitara, with reasonable fuel economy at an EPA-rated 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. During our testing on city and mountain roads, and freeways, we came in at 20.3 mpg, right in the middle of the EPA range.
That engine is mated to a five-speed automatic, a slightly primitive gearbox that occasionally hunted for the right gear. This transmission doesn't allow manual shifting, but it does have three low ranges.
The only place where the Grand Vitara gets interesting is in its four-wheel-drive system. With a dial on the dashboard, you can lock the center differential and choose between high and low modes. Descent control is also available at the push of a button.
We put the Grand Vitara through a small dirt course that incorporated mud puddles, deep ruts, descents, and ascents. With highway tires, we didn't expect it to climb walls, and the suspension isn't built for serious articulation, but the four-wheel drive did what it was supposed to.
Even with partial traction loss in a mud puddle, the loose wheel continued to dig in as the other wheels helped push the Grand Vitara through. Up a dry, rutted road, the car scrambled, maintaining traction reasonably well. Using the descent control, the Grand Vitara built up a little more speed than we would have liked, but it stopped without much slip when we put on the brakes.
We had the top trim 2010 Grand Vitara, a Limited model with 4WD and a V-6 engine. At the bottom of the lineup is a rear-wheel-drive model with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, starting at $18,999. As the fuel economy improvement is only minor with the smaller engine, we would recommend the V-6, and there is little point to the car unless you get it with 4WD.
As for cabin tech, the Grand Vitara would have scored very low if it wasn't for the borrowed tech of the Garmin 765T. However, that Garmin unit isn't the best we've tested. It is well integrated with the Grand Vitara, although we still favor true in-dash systems. The stereo was mediocre, and this SUV really could have used a backup camera.
The power train doesn't take advantage of any new technologies, but we do like that Suzuki went with a smallish V-6, to optimize fuel economy. A five-speed transmission is almost difficult to find in this era of six gears and beyond. We give the Grand Vitara credit for its four-wheel-drive system, which goes beyond merely shunting torque between front and rear axles, actually giving you control for rugged terrain.
|Model||2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara|
|Trim||Limited V6 4WD|
|Power train||3.2-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||17 mpg city/23 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||20.3 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||n/a|
|Other digital audio||Satellite radio, auxiliary input, SD card reader in navigation unit|
|Audio system||Four speaker|
|Price as tested||$27,523|