- Tough off-road ability
- City-friendly maneuverability
- Good, upright driving position
- Engine lacks torque for heavy loads
- As thirsty as larger SUVs
- Bouncy ride on rough pavement
- Spare tire arrangement makes cargo access cumbersome
The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara is an old-style compact SUV that favors hauling and off-roading at the detriment of on-the-road performance.
The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara slots below the XL7 crossover utility vehicle in size but has a decidedly more rugged focus. A 2006 redesign made the five-passenger Grand Vitara compact SUV more civilized on-road, but it still has the goods to perform decently off-road as well—with features like a ladder frame and truck-style four-wheel-drive with low range gearing.
The redesigned unibody construction, along with a fully independent suspension, makes for kinder, gentler ride and handling characteristics in the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara than the previous truck-based generation could muster.
Power comes from a 2.7-liter V-6 engine that generates 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, with a choice of a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara doesn’t feel any faster than rival four-cylinder models, though, and the lack of torque leaves the engine in its noisy high-rev range on long grades or gentle passes; shifts on the automatic transmission can be rough. With a full load, the powertrain feels overtaxed, and fuel economy is disappointing for its size at only 16 mpg city with the manual gearbox.
The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara also doesn’t handle or brake as well as expected—partly due to its heavy 3700-pound curb weight—and the high seating position exaggerates the modest body lean in sharp corners. That high seating position, combined with good forward and side visibility and especially precise, direct steering, makes the Grand Vitara surprisingly convenient and maneuverable on tight city streets, with the footprint for parking that’s about the same as the smallest sedans. The ride quality is decent, but it can deteriorate and get bouncy over choppy pavement.
The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara has front seats that are a little short in proportion for taller occupants, but the back seat has enough legroom for adults—only two though, as the body is quite narrow. Cargo space is a letdown; the cargo floor is higher than expected, and the heavy, old-style side-opening tailgate can be difficult when parallel-parked, or when you’re trying to hold on to grocery bags with one hand.
Unlike most utility vehicles its size, the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara has the hardy underpinnings for serious off-roading. An available, dual-range, Four Mode four-wheel-drive system includes a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing for off-road use—or a fully automatic single-mode version.
The mid-range Xsport gets alloy wheels, roof rails, fog lamps, keyless entry and keyless start, and an upgraded sound system. The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara Luxury adds heated leather seats, a hard-shell tire cover, and wood-grain trim. New features for the 2008 model year on all models include automatic climate control and a remote fuel-door release.
The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara earned four-star ratings in frontal impact and five stars in side impact from the federal government, but it hasn’t been tested by the insurance-supported IIHS. Front-side and side-curtain airbags are standard on the Grand Vitara, along with anti-lock brakes and stability and traction control systems.