2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 31, 2008

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 experienced automotive reviewers at TheCarConnection.com have looked to some of the best sources on the Web in compiling this; and to make the review especially insightful, TheCarConnection.com’s editors interwoven their own firsthand driving observations.

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.

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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.

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Styling

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara sports clean, if forgettable, lines.

According to all the reviews consulted at TheCarConnection.com, the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara scores slightly above average when it comes to looks.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the Suzuki Grand Vitara "applies traditional SUV styling cues to a scaled-down package with just the right rounding of contours to yield a clean and contemporary appearance." Motor Trend is substantially more impressed with this Suzuki 2008 exterior, calling it "arguably the best looking car in its class." According to MyRide.com, the Suzuki Grand Vitara possesses "clean, hard lines that appeal to those who want refined, mainstream styling in their SUVs."

Those "hard lines" in the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara are softened somewhat inside, according to Edmunds: "flowing lines abound, with gauges taking up residence in a multilayered cluster with simulated aluminum trim." They add "the Limited's leather is very nice to look at." According to Kelley Blue Book, "silver plastic accents on the base and XSport are replaced by leather and faux wood in the Luxury model," but to the tester at Mother Proof, "the rear of cabin proved to be very basic."

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Performance

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara may be good for off-road expeditions, but overall it’s only average.

Auto experts at TheCarConnection.com see mixed reviews on the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara performance credentials.

ConsumerGuide reports that this year's Suzuki Grand Vitara is powered by "a 185-hp 2.7-liter V-6," which, according to Edmunds, is “paltry compared to the [Toyota] RAV4's V-6." Although "not necessarily a top choice for major towing duty, the Grand Vitara can tug up to 3,000 pounds." If this Suzuki 2008 motor seems to lack power, Motor Trend suggests "torque may be the culprit, as the Grand Vitara's peak twist resides at 4,500 rpm."

This lackluster engine "teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission" like most Suzuki 2008 vehicles, according to Cars.com, which adds that "the four-wheel-drive system has a Low range and is intended for use only on slippery surfaces." ConsumerGuide reports that "highway passing can take patience with automatic transmission, which downshifts readily for more power," and "the manual transmission doesn't change gears smoothly when rushed."

Edmunds remarks "fuel economy estimates, at 17 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway for a 4WD model with the automatic transmission, are below average for a compact SUV."

Overall handling characteristics get moderate praise: ConsumerGuide reports "marked body lean but good grip in fast corners," adding that "steering is nicely weighted and the turning circle is commendably tight, but test AWD models exhibited some front driveline binding when turned fully to either side" and "firm, easy-to-modulate brakes provided good stopping control." Kelley Blue Book notes "hard cornering does elicit some body roll, but not an excessive amount." According to Car and Driver, however, once it leaves the pavement, the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara really shines: "off-road, the Grand Vitara was pure Viagra, nearly as solid and capable as the Jeep."

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara feels smaller but better finished than many rivals.

Reviewers around the Web fault the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara’s lack of refinement, along with its seating and space, though its fit and finish earn kudos.

ConsumerGuide reports that Suzuki 2008 "leather-upholstered seats have an overly firm cushion and insufficient lumbar support," adding that "cloth seats are softer but also need more lumbar support." Kelley Blue Book says "comfortable front seats provide good lateral support while the seatbacks of the 60/40-split rear bench offer adjustable reclining and room for two six-foot adults or three kids."

Cars.com observes that "modest cargo space behind the rear seat can be expanded from 23.4 to 50.2 cubic feet by folding down the split rear seat"; according to ConsumerGuide, "space is good behind the rear seat," but Edmunds contends that Suzuki Grand Vitara "interior storage compartments are lacking...luggage capacity is a meager 24.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up."

Inside the 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara, ConsumerGuide reports that "the cabin is a smart blend of hard plastic surfaces and padded panels; nothing looks or feels cheap." Motor Trend adds that the Suzuki Grand Vitara "fit and finish is solid, with no squeaks, rattles, or untoward panel gaps," but "the seats feel like airliner surplus in comfort and material quality."

Car and Driver comments that the Suzuki 2008 engine is "far louder at idle than any other engine here"; ConsumerGuide notes "moderate road, bump, and wind noise," which "increases markedly above 65 mph."

However, ride quality stands as a positive. Edmunds reports that "city driving feels smoother and more carlike compared to other body-on-frame truck-based SUVs.”

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Safety

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers respectable crash protection and a comprehensive list of safety features.

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara earns good—but not outstanding—scores on safety.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives Suzuki’s small SUV four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impact protection. It did better in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, where it received the highest rating of "good."

According to Edmunds, standard safety features "are plentiful and advanced for a low-cost compact vehicle, and include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, full-length side-curtain airbags and front seat side-impact airbags." The tester at Mother Proof "was also impressed with the [Suzuki] Grand Vitara's lineup of airbags, which includes dual-stage front airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags," adding that "it's good to know Suzuki doesn't skimp on safety to keep prices down." This review also reports that this Suzuki 2008 vehicle is "outfitted with an electronic stability system and a tire pressure monitoring system."

Visibility is a definite issue with this year's Suzuki Grand Vitara, according to ConsumerGuide: "rear visibility is hindered by thick rear roof pillars and tall front headrests; the rear headrests retract below the driver's sight line."

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2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara

Features

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers some newer tech gizmos as dealer-installed accessories; otherwise, it’s strictly typical stuff.

The 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara offers a reasonable, if not lavish, number of features for the price.

Kelley Blue Book reports that all Suzuki Grand Vitara models "include a generous set of standard features...even the rear-drive [Suzuki Grand Vitara] base model with a five-speed manual transmission includes power windows, locks and mirrors, 16-inch wheels, automatic digital climate control, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, multifunction steering wheel on a tilt column and cruise control." Cars.com states that standard equipment on this year's Suzuki Grand Vitara includes "includes air conditioning with micron air filtration, a tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, cruise control, an in-dash CD player, and power windows, locks and mirrors." Trims, according to ConsumerGuide, include "Base, Xsport, and Luxury models."

Kelley Blue Book adds that "beyond the specific feature enhancements included in each of its three trim levels, Grand Vitara factory extras are relatively few"; however, "step up to the XSport or the leather-trimmed Luxury model and you gain a five-speed automatic transmission, upgraded audio package with six-disc CD changer, power sunroof, roof rails, SmartPass keyless entry and starting, fog lamps, alloy wheels and more." The reviewer here notes "key dealer-installed options include Bluetooth wireless connectivity, XM Satellite Radio and an iPod integration kit."

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6.6
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Styling 6
Performance 6
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