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2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara - First Look

2006 Grand Vitara 4wd With Luxury Package

Jun 1, 2006
Photo 2/2   |   2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara left Side View
Goldilocks would've liked this vehicle. Suzuki's flagship SUV, the 2006 Grand Vitara 4WD with Luxury Package neither raises anger nor inspires delight, but for some this luxury-packaged crossover may be just right.
I drove it solo to and from work and around town for errands and then handed the keys to one of the other fellows on staff so he could take some pictures of the vehicle. Of course, being the kind of guy he is, he decided that the best location for that photo shoot would be Las Vegas. Then we compared notes...on the Grand Vitara. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?) We both had the same impressions of the vehicle, which can be summed up as "budget deluxe."
From the outside, the Grand Vitara hardly radiates high-end appeal, in that it hasn't bought into the sleeker-is-better design language seen in pricier models. That said, the subtle azure-gray metallic paint color on our tester does lend the vehicle a little visual depth. The Grand Vitara exhibits some sporty body language, most notably from the blunted and mildly sculpted front end, narrow side vents, upper and lower grille inserts, and lamps in the lower valance.
Slipping into the Grand Vitara is not the aesthetically daunting prospect that you might expect from a lower-priced crossover. The interior of our tester was an overall charcoal gray with stainless trim and an incongruous touch of faux wood. Again, nothing smacked us in the face in terms of styling, but the virtues of the living space did stand out. Legroom felt good enough for a tall fellow, and the seats felt even better due to firm support and comfortable leather. Audio entertainment involved a six-disc AM/FM/CD/WMA/MP3/XM-ready head unit and a sub, which we liked. Other features in the Grand Vitara that you might expect to find in a pricier package include heated mirrors, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, sunroof, power windows and locks, traction and stability control, and heated front seats.
The Smartpass keyless entry and start allowed us to start the ignition without pulling the key fob from our pockets. It's a feature that is more "gee whiz" than "gotta have" since we still had to turn the ignition cylinder as if we were using a key. A push-button start would have been classier and more straightforward.
The Grand Vitara switched from body-on-frame to unibody for the 2006 model year. Its 2.7L V-6 performs pretty well. It has just enough juice to accelerate firmly to highway speeds (even emits a decent exhaust in the process), and is surprisingly fuel efficient (19.61 MPG during mostly city driving). Cranking 185 hp, the engine won't help you win many races nowadays, and we suggest that you don't try. That's because the narrower track, relatively short wheelbase, and independent suspension-while comfortable and nimble around town and highway speeds-does not inspire confidence on typically bumpy freeways at very high velocity. As a road-tripper, the Grand Vitara did well. My colleague packed his whole family into it, plus some luggage, for the seven-hour round-trip to Nevada and reported no real complaints, although the seats did start to feel a bit too firm after a while...as did that taco he ate in Baker.
No navigation might send chills of trepidation down the spine of those who are directionally challenged, but will send quivers of delight to the likely buyers of this vehicle who are willing to trade a bit of functionality for financial peace of mind. The same goes for another feature we have come to take for granted on luxuriously appointed vehicles: satellite radio. The head unit in the Grand Vitara is XM-ready, but requires the addition of a dealer-installed, $399.95 upgrade kit. I presume that the lack of power-adjustable seats must also trim the price a bit, too. It feels odd to lean forward on comfy leather that cradles your behind just right in order to reach down and yank up the seat's slider handle. About that price, try $24,599. Combined with a good mix of features, the Suzuki Grand Vitara appears competitive in a segment that includes the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sportage, Nissan Xterra, and Toyota RAV4.
2006 Grand Vitara 4WD With Luxury PackagePrice (as tested)
$24,599 without destination
Engine
2.7L V-6
Horsepower
185@6,000 rpm SAE
Torque (lb-ft)
184@4,500 rpm SAE
Transmission
5-speed automatic 4WD
Suspension
Independent MacPherson strut suspension with coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers, and anti-roll bar (f)
Independent multi-link suspension with coil springs, hydraulic shock absorbers, and anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes
Example: 4-wheel disc, 4-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control
Wheelbase
103.9 in
Approach Angle
29 deg
Departure Angle
27 deg
Ramp-Over Angle
19 deg
Curb Weight
3,682 lbs
Max Trailer Weight
3,000 lbs
Seating
2/3
MPG
19/24 (EPA)
19.61 (as test
Lomg Term Update
Driver: Brandan Gillogy
2006 Jeep Commander Limited 4x4
To test the Commander's highway performance, I packed the Jeep with six people and a puppy and pointed the Commander at the Arizona border for a one-day road trip. I was pretty skeptical of the third-row seats when I first saw the Commander back in October, and this trip didn't change my mind. It was asking too much to expect a normal-sized person to spend a lot of time in that back row (sorry, Jordan) but I got no complaints from the more petite passengers during the six-hour round-trip.
Having a truckload of passengers did reveal some ergonomic issues with the Commander. The second-row middle seat, which stows the only second-row cup holders, is too stiff to be comfortable for long hauls. Rear door locks are mounted too far rearward to allow easy unlocking, and the third-row seats and stadium seating seriously compromise rear visibility. The once-plentiful Hemi power was bogged down a bit by the full load of passengers, but it was still up to the task of cruising at 75.
On another trip, exploring the Cleveland National Forest, the Commander handled with ease some of the steeper trails that forced a full-size 2WD truck to back down and head for home. Ground clearance was a bit of an issue, even on some of the tame trails, but grip wasn't, as the Jeep climbed gravelly inclines without falter.
Pros: Great front buckets, excellent highway maneuverability, plenty of power
Peeves: Constant blinking light on rearview mirror, front seat door handles invade legroom, unreachable second row door locks
This is the second installment of our long-term coverage of the Jeep Commander. Miles to date are 10,964 and miles clocked during this update are 3,554. The best recorded MPG during the last six weeks was 15.75; the worst was 10.5.
Electronic Braking Systems
Many of the factory vehicles that we evaluate at Truckin' have the latest technologies designed to help the vehicle ride straight and true, even in the worst road or driving conditions. Antilock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control-each address a specific situation during which you might lose control of a vehicle. But did you know that they are part of the same overall system? And that what distinguishes one from another is the mix of sensors designed to detect a specific event? Bosch, Continental Teves, Delphi, and TRW each supply these electronic braking systems to the automakers. Bosch pioneered all of these technologies for the automobile (traction control in 1987, stability control in 1995, antilock brakes in 1978).
Each automaker might rename them to make them look like features unique to each automaker or brand. For example, DaimlerChrysler's Electronic Stability Program is similar to Ford's Advance Trac. GM breaks it down even more: Active Handling System for the Corvette and Stabilitrak for Chevrolet, Buick, and Pontiac. Here is an explanation of what electronic braking systems do.
Antilock Brake System: It's possible to spin out of control when you stand on the brakes. To prevent this, sensors monitor the speed of each wheel and a computer calculates the difference between the speed of the wheel and the speed of the vehicle. The computer relieves the brake pressure a bit at each wheel when the computer decides the wheel is about to lock.
Electronic Stability Control: During an understeer situation (when the front of the vehicle wants to slide away from the direction of a turn), this system applies the rear inside brakes to keep the vehicle under control. Oversteering (when the rear fishtails) is reined in by applying the outside front brakes. Rollover protection, a further development of stability control, monitors the rate of change in the vehicle's yaw (while you turn way too hard into a corner) and rapidly applies the brakes to the appropriate wheels in order to slow down the vehicle and keep all four wheels on the pavement.
Traction Control System: This helps the vehicle under slippery road conditions. Sensors tell the system when a wheel is spinning. If the vehicle is moving slowly, the spinning wheel is braked, but at higher speeds the engine output is throttled until all the wheels regain traction.
Ford Fights Back
Ford has been getting a lot of press since Bill Ford, Jr., announced in January the company's Way Forward plan for improving the company's footing. While Ford was profitable in 2005 worldwide, it is bleeding in its most important market: North America. Unlike GM, which is in worse shape right now but is still top dog, Ford is much smaller and can't afford to lose much more market share. Here are the bullet points of what the plan has to offer, based on a press release from the company:
* Ford Motor Company was solidly profitable in 2005 and growing around the world.
* The comprehensive North American "Way Forward" plan focuses every part of the business on the customer: to build stronger Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury brands; a strengthened product lineup and far greater quality; competitive costs and improved productivity.
* Product investments will result in new vehicles in new segments to reach more customers (including small cars and more crossovers) while maintaining Ford's truck leadership.
* Ford is committed to stabilizing its U.S. market share in the near term.
* Competitive cost structure includes net material cost reductions of at least $6 billion by 2010.
* Productivity improvements leverage the company's global product development scale and lean and flexible manufacturing system to introduce more products faster.
* Straightforward vehicle pricing will continue to be introduced with new models.
* North American capacity will shrink to meet demand-with 14 manufacturing facilities to be idled-resulting in significant cost savings and reduced employment of 25,000-30,000.
* Salary-related costs are being cut 10 percent in North America with the previously announced reduction of the equivalent of 4,000 salaried positions by the end of the first quarter. In addition, the company's officer ranks are being reduced 12 percent by the end of the first quarter.
* Ford is planning a new low-cost manufacturing site for the future.
* North American automotive profitability will be achieved no later than 2008.
* Beginning in 2006, Ford Motor Company will no longer provide earnings guidance in order to keep the company and investors focused on one goal: sustainable profitability over time in all regions.
Epa
Proposes New Fuel Economy Test MethodsTo provide consumers with more real-world fuel economy information when shopping for cars, SUVs, and pick-up trucks, the EPA is proposing new methods to determine the city and highway mpg estimates that appear on retail window stickers. The new methods will take effect for model year 2008 vehicles, which will generally be available for sale in fall of 2007.
The EPA's new fuel economy estimates will include vehicle-specific data from tests designed to replicate three factors that can greatly affect fuel economy: high speed/rapid acceleration, use of air conditioning, and cold temperature operation. The EPA is also proposing an across-the-board adjustment to better account for other conditions that can affect fuel economy but that aren't included in the tests, such as road grade, wind, tire pressure, load, and the effects of different fuel properties.
Under the new methods, the city mpg estimates for most vehicles would drop 10 percent to 20 percent from today's labels, depending on the vehicle. The highway mpg estimates would generally drop 5 percent to 15 percent. Even with improved estimates, actual fuel economy will vary, since no test can ever account for all individual driving styles, vehicle maintenance practices, and road conditions. Changes were last made in 1985. The EPA is providing a 60-day public comment period on the proposal. The proposal and information about how to submit comments are at www.epa.gov/fueleconomy
Spinal Tat
More to come next issue. This spine image is brought to you by the truck suspension and accessory folks at AIM Industries, Dept. TR, 260 S. Hibbert, Mesa, AZ 85210, (800) 289-9980, www.aimind.com.
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