In a recent trip to Canada to testdrive the '06 Suzuki Grand Vitara, we realized that most of the OEMs are destroying what we know and love about 4x4s. Suzuki is a company that made a very capable off- road vehicle in the past, the Samurai, and in fact still offers a current version of it in other parts of the world (with the classic Jimney nameplate, airbags, and two coil-sprung solid axles), but all we get in the states is the fully independent-suspended, ground-clearance lacking, Grand Vitara (GV) and claim it to be an Off Road Athlete. Don't get us wrong, the Grand Vitara is a valuable contender in the Soft-Roaders class, which includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav4, and Jeep Liberty, but most of those vehicles are more destined to a life being towed behind motorhomes or driven by soccer moms than one in the dirt. The new, fully redesigned '06 Suzuki Grand Vitara has a unibody construction with a built-in ladder frame and 103-inch wheelbase. In addition, you can find antilock braking systems at all four wheels and six airbags for in-cabin safety. The interior is simple yet comfortable in both the front and rear seats.The new, fully redesigned '06 Suzuki Grand Vitara has a unibody construction with a built- The Grand Vitara has some very redeeming characteristics like an all-aluminum V-6, a low-range transfer case, and a manual transmission in a class of sissified dork-utes where the number of cup holders is more valuable than off-roadability. But simply adding a 1.97 low range to the most expensive optioned rig does not satisfy those of us looking for a serious off-road machine. Suzuki has the technology and know-how to make premier off-road vehicles. But like most of the OEMs, they seem more concerned with what most asphalt-driving Americans want rather than what will sell to niche markets that desperately want more than another company's soft top, solid axle, serious off-road machine. Would we let our mom drive one? Sure. Would we buy one to drag behind our motorhome? Not while we can still find a Samurai on eBay. First gear ratio for the five-speed automatic is 3.52:1 with 4.30 axles, while the First gear ratio for the five-speed manual is 4.55:1 with 3.58 axles. Low-range ratio is 1.97:1, but is only available with the auto and in the X-sport and Luxury Package-both being priced over $20,000. The entry-level five-speed version is available at $18,999 but without low range. How about offering a stripped-down five-speed manual with the low-range four-mode transfer-case option and some slightly aggressive tires on 15-inch rims for about $19,000?First gear ratio for the five-speed automatic is 3.52:1 with 4.30 axles, while the First g Under the hood resides the all-aluminum 2.7L V-6 engine rated at 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. This equates to a 3,000-pound towing capacity. With an approximate 3,500-pound curb weight, there's a power-to-weight ratio of roughly 18 pounds per horsepower. From the driver's seat it means plenty of power for two people, but make it four large adults and you'll have the accelerator buried for any long hills. Mileage numbers are in the 18- to 24-mpg range.Under the hood resides the all-aluminum 2.7L V-6 engine rated at 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of t When we had the Grand Vitara climbing a rocky hill (which we must admit was not on Suzuki's approved off-road course), the rear suspension liked to drag on the ground. We found the exhaust located below the rear differential of the rear independent suspension-not exactly rockproof. We spoke with some Suzuki reps about bringing back a solid-axle 4x4 to the states, but they told us we wouldn't care for the ride, and we must agree that the fully independent suspension didn't bottom out when pushed hard through the approved off-road course and gave a tight fun ride on the highway and gravel road. However, for the hillclimb and entry-level rock course they wanted us to drive, the driver needed to pay attention for fear of dragging the suspension components or lifting a tire.When we had the Grand Vitara climbing a rocky hill (which we must admit was not on Suzuki' SOURCES Suzuki Motor Corporation www.suzuki.com Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!