Northwest NEWS

November 23, 1998


Test Drive: 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara

1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara    Suzuki's new 1999 Grand Vitara JLX is a distinctive and interesting sport utility vehicle that the manufacturer believes exceeds the standards found in the small SUV market in the US.

   The power and versatility in the test model I drove was certainly a surprise for the price. And it's the engine that delivers. A 2.5-liter, 24-valve, 4-cam V6 engine comes standard on this model with approximately 155 horsepower at 6,500 revolutions per minute and a torque of 160 lb.-ft. at 4,000 rpm. Buyers can choose a 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive and a 5-speed or 4-speed transmission.

   The distinctive soft body styling gives it a different look from the other SUVs. The new, rigid, high-tensile strength steel ladder-box frame and 5-link rear suspension gives the vehicle a solid feel in the drive.
   I drove a 4-door "silky silver" Grand Vitara with 4-wheel drive and automatic 4-speed transmission. It handled well, and the more I drove it, the better I liked it. The Grand Vitara is fairly quiet and an easy to maneuver vehicle for in town driving. I didn't get a chance to take it for an off-road experience, but for those who will, the Vitara has a 97.6 wheelbase and 7.7 inches of ground clearance.

   The cabin space feels fairly roomy for a small SUV. It seats five. The large gauges are easy to read and there are enough side pockets and center storage spaces to hold odds and ends. The steering wheel can be moved to seven different positions. Power steering and air conditioning are standard.

   The rear cargo space is 38.6" x 42.5" and the split back seats collapse to provide more cargo space when needed. I particularly liked the rear door swinging as a unit and opening wide area for easy access to the rear cargo area. The halogen headlights were great for rainy, night driving. The keyless entry feature makes it easy to lock and unlock the vehicle.

   Two things I found distracting were the solid rear seat head rests (which I removed for better rear visibility) and the radio push button on-and-off switch. Every time I turned on the radio, there seemed to be a lapse in the sound coming through the speakers. Since the knob is also the volume switch, and I was turning it to see if the radio was on or off, there were some interesting moments.

   There is a 36-month warranty. In a 4-door or 2-door, the extra power, convenience, versatility, handling, and price makes the Grand Vitara a vehicle to go test drive yourself.

1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara