This is a multipurpose vehicle, designed and built for performing both on pavement and off-road. It takes regular unleaded 87 octane gasoline at a minimum. The Environmental Protection Agency’s estimated mileage is 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. When we put the little beast through its paces, we got 19 mpg. Our high-end model with all the luxuries was priced at $24,399.
The Grand Vitara can be towed with all four wheels on the ground—there is no need for a dolly. For towing behind an RV, simply turn the transfer switch to neutral. The vehicle may roll even if the transmission is in gear or in park.
The four-wheel drive model offers a number of amenities, such as an elegant interior, heated leather seats, wrapped leather steering wheel, power tilt, cruise control, slide sunroof and a premium audio system with satellite radio, CD, MP3 and WMA features. Audio controls can be accessed on the steering wheel.
The keyless entry system lets you operate the car, both engine and locks, without using a key, but only if you have the remote controller handy (within 2.5 feet of a lock). Quite smartly, the controller also contains a key so you’ve got one if the controller goes out.
One little oddity —the driver’s right armrest, which is also the center console cover, slides forward a few inches by way of adjustment. It seems like a lot of design for minimal effect, but I must admit that it was comfortable.
The automatic climate control system has a micron air filtration feature. There are 13 separate storage areas, a 60/40 rear seat cargo area, 124.5 cubic feet of interior space and a flexible seating configuration. The driver’s seat is adjustable in six directions; the cargo cover retracts; there are three 12-volt power outlets, below deck storage bins, automatic lighting and a wireless control system. It also features roof rails, fog lamps and a spare tire cover. (The tire is full-sized.)
Safety features include six air bags, side-impact door beams, anti-lock brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution) and an ESP (electronic stability program) to maintain stability in slippery driving conditions. The Grand Vitara also offers a 24/7 roadside assistance program.
With a 2.7-liter, 24-valve DOHC (dual overhead cam) V6 engine, 185 horsepower @6,000 RPM and torque of 184 lbs-ft @4,500 RPM, this sweetheart can easily tow up to 3,000 pounds. So hitch up the trailer, the boat or get ready to move the relatives.
Steve Giordano and Lynn Rosen are travel writers who live in Bellingham, Washington.