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Quick Spin: 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara Ultimate Adventure Edition

Jeff Glucker September 25, 2012 Featured, Quick Spin, Reviews, Suzuki Reviews 15 Comments

I miss old school sport utility vehicles. You know the ones I’m talking about. They were designed using only straight edges, they drive like 10-year-old pick up trucks, and you can beat the crap out of them just the same. Well, I happened to find a machine that does its best to remind me of such vehicles, and you might be surprised to know it wears a Suzuki badge. I’m talking about the 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara, and I felt like I was on an expedition every time I hopped behind the wheel.

The Grand Vitara is not a body-on-frame machine. It has unibody construction, but it still feels very much like I’m behind the wheel of my 1998 Ford Ranger… and I mean that in a good way. The seating position is high, visibility is great, and I know that I’m driving a vehicle that doesn’t mind getting a bit dirty or being used as a work tool. In fact, I decided to really work out the 2.4-liter inline-four mounted under the hood of this Ultimate Adventure Edition Vitara.

The four banger is only good for 166 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put all of it to the test. How’d I do that? By undertaking my own adventure when my wife and I decided to rip up the carpet in our apartment and lay down wood floors. Just as the Grand Vitara is relatively inexpensive with its $24,659 as-tested price, we too went cheap. The local Ikea offers snap-in wood flooring and we “splurged” by going with the $0.99 per-square-foot stuff.

I filled the back of the little Suzuki with 28 boxes of wood, five rolls of foam, five sheets of plastic, and five lengths of trim. There was just enough room left for myself, my friend Tom and my camera bag. With the door shut, we hauled all of it back to Casa de Hooniverse and set to work. Three days and 345 curse words later, my wife and I had new floors. Our suburban adventure was complete, and the Grand Vitara served its shuttle duty quite nicely.

When unladen with all of that Swedish wonder junk, the Grand Vitara drives exactly as you’d expect. The engine is a bit sluggish and sounds unrefined and the suspension is stiff in order to tackle stuff other than tarmac. The interior is also suited for the job of getting dirty. This example is fitted with two-tone water resistant seats that are also heated. Additionally, the Suzuki is outfitted with all-weather floor mats, a first aid kit, and a rear cargo mat. It’s built to handle a lifestyle that requires multiple showers in a day, or a lack of showers over the course of a few.

Once my Ikea adventure was over, I continued to enjoy driving the Grand Vitara because every time I got in it I felt like I was preparing to head out to a Costa Rican beach or Mexican surf spot. Driving this thing puts you in the mindset of being somewhere else. It’s a shame Suzuki isn’t working harder to round out the rest of its lineup so that the Grand Vitara could get a bit more attention as a result. The automaker already produces the best car that no one is driving in the Kizashi, while also leaving enthusiasts in the cold by not bringing over the Swift. It seems pretty clear that the real passion portion of the brand lies with crotch rockets and outboard marine movers.

  • BobWellington

    I didn't even know they still made this thing. I like the wheels – nice and classy. I was hoping you would take it off road, not that it's much of an offroader, but still…

    • Buickboy92

      They're pretty excellent off road. Check it out.

      [youtube UGxXARlwr2U&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGxXARlwr2U&feature=related youtube]

      • BobWellington

        That's a cool video, but it's pretty easy to make it through those puddles with anything that has 4WD, a little bit of ground clearance, and plenty of momentum, as we see in the video. When I say it's not much of an offroader, I mean that it's limited at the start because it has IFS and IRS, and the limited articulation makes it a poor offroader when it comes to tough situations with rocks and what not where it needs all the grip possible.

  • SVT2888

    When I first saw the pic I thought you were doing a used car review -_-

  • Carter

    Up next, Suzuki Equator?

  • Maymar

    For what it's worth, aren't these technically uniframe? Either way, I do hold a soft spot for these little trucklets. Even swung by Auto Trader – there's a couple out there with the stick shift for a very reasonable price.

    Although, for what it's worth, just as the Vitara's charming, the Kizashi and SX4 are also decent products that never really caught on.

    • BobWellington

      Didn't you read the article?

      • Maymar

        Which part? I saw the mention of the unibody, but thought these were uniframe, and then expressed my affection for the Grand Vitara, and it's siblings.

        • BobWellington

          I misread your comment, but I can't find anything on the internet about something being uniframe that isn't unibody.

          • Maymar

            I don't think you're wrong, I'm just getting a little pedantic, just that the subframes (and proper transfer case) help separate this from mediocre crossovers.

            • BobWellington

              Oh, it's all good. I appreciate that this thing has a transfer case. It is a shame that SUVs with any real off road potential are few and far between.

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    I had a first-gen one of these, purchased new in 1999.

    What. A. Heap.

    It had five rear diff failures over the course of about 20K miles, between 55K and 75K. It was never abused, nothing was bent, unless it came that way from the factory, and I sold it before I needed to travel to another state to pumpkin shop.

    Slow, mediocre MPG, decent off-roadability w/a 1.5" lift and taller, 245/70/16 BFG A/Ts, but if you looked at the interior wrong, you inflicted damage.

    Sure, this may be a better one, but to me, that's like saying a redesigned Yugo is better. Pass.

  • Fenian

    I had no idea these were RWD. I thought they were just another rebadged Theta like an Equinox, but they apparently only use some components of that platform.

  • MattC

    I have always liked the body style of the Grand Vitara, however the reliability issues (either real or perceived) plus the lack of dealership support ( there are literally a handful of dealerships in the Baltimore/DC corridor. This is completely unacceptable for 2 large cities and surrounding communities). There were also issues that the 6cylinder engine that requires valve lash readjustments every 30 thousand miles. No thanks

  • Buickboy92

    Love these things, just wish hey had left that V6 in them.