2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara
Solid Build, Good Options, Great Value
Editor: Eric Bewley Photo: E. Bewley, DW Gallery
CORVALLIS, OR – The 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara has received well deserved tweaks to it’s platform which is now going on it’s fifth model year. The third generation of the Vitara or ‘J’ series was a radical change from the previous two. From a separate chassis and body, solid rear live axle, and fully manual drive train to a unibody construction, fully independent front and rear suspension, and automated 4wd operation the new Grand Vitara was welcomed as a quality performer when it was released in 2006. Suzuki has now made some good improvements that adds even more value and use to what has become, due to the exit of the XL7 platform, the flagship for Suzuki in North America. The Grand Vitara is built solid and truly has good off-road performance, something that most in this segment can not claim. With the Grand Vitara, power has always been more than adequate but the new 3.2 liter engine with 230 horsepower provides even more of an exhilarating experience. This baby really scoots! But don’t fear if you are looking for a 4 cylinder option, it is available in a very capable and improved 2.4 liter with 160 lb. ft. of torque that delivers 19/26 city/hwy mpg in manual transmission trim.
One of the big changes that were made to this platform that off-road enthusiasts were deeply concerned about was the change to unibody construction vs. separate chassis and body. Probably due to a bad rap early unibody SUV’s gave the whole segment but legitimate nonetheless the question is raised, can we use this vehicle in harsh and challenging conditions and have it not only survive long term but be an enjoyable experience along the way? Due to extra thought Suzuki put into the Grand Vitara’s unique ladder frame equipped unibody chassis, we think the answer is yes. The rigid and rugged design translates into a smooth and controlled ride even during rough backcountry travel.
This good and capable design will also accept subtle suspension modifications which could increase it’s overland prowess even more.
A couple of the legitimate features that places the Grand Vitara in a league apart from other vehicles in this segment is the use of an actual transfer case with low range. This is essential to any off-road enthusiasts. The tall all-wheel-drive cars that most other makes create are simply worthless on the trail. The Grand Vitara is ready for this challenge.
Another great practical feature offered for the motor-home enthusiast is the ability of the Grand Vitara to access a neutral mode in the transfer case that allows easy flat-towing capability with the added bonus of not racking up miles while the GV is pushing the motor home down the highway.
We really liked all of the interior appointments with the exception of the on-board navigation system. The package is an afterthought, on-board navigation was just barely hitting mainstream when this design came out and the engineered solution to add this to the GV seems a bit short. The unit is an obviously re-badged Garmin unit and the flip-top hide-away bracket on our test model didn’t work well in cold temperatures making the operator have to push the unit up into it’s use position. Since the XL7 is gone and the GV is serving as the flagship Suzuki, it may be time to add a bit more ‘stuff’ to the top-line model.
The Grand Vitara is a fine example of good initial engineering coupled with admirable quality control and product development with good off-road performance thrown in. As off-road enthusiasts, we would like to see even more focus on the hitting the trail. However, the improvements and tweaks Suzuki has made since it’s initial release have only made it better. Whether your a young family looking for a good commuter that you can take surfing during the weekends, a retired motor home jockey with miles to go before you sleep, or someone looking for a new genuinely off-road capable sport utility vehicle, the 2010 Suzuki Grand Vitara is worth a look.