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2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara

by Martha Hindes

Suzuki Grand Vitara
Buick Lucerne Interior

A while back we overheard a complaint about Grand Vitara's need for an update. If it was wishful thinking, Suzuki has granted that wish. For 2006, Suzuki has launched a ground-up redo of its compact SUV for five, making it a tad longer and larger both inside and out, with a wide-stance, bold-faced styling update with rear-gate mounted spare tire, plus added safety features.

Suzuki now combines unit body and frame structural elements for the Grand Vitara's underpinnings, to achieve better road manners and interior quiet, while retaining plenty of off-road kick. Addressing road performance are some high-tech safety adds: An anti-lock brake system with electronic brake-force distribution and an ESP system that can correct oversteer or understeer conditions for the assurance of curve-hugging grip. Grand Vitara comes in rear-drive, or with two full-time four-wheel-drive systems, in single or shift-on-the-fly four-mode with low gearing for better off-road control.

Technology updates touch the interior as well, with front and rear side curtain airbags among standard safety equipment. A Micron filtering system keeps the air conditioned interior fresh, standard on all versions. XM Satellite capability on the MP3 sound system is standard, while a six-disk, in-dash CD is optional.

Grand Vitara won't always travel alone. Its 3,000-pound tow capacity can handle small boats or motorcycles, thanks to a standard 2.7-liter, 185-HP six cylinder engine mated to five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. And this SUV is pedestrian friendly in the manner now mandated for vehicles in Europe where it's sold, with an energy absorbing hood and front end to protect a person from serious head injuries if hit by the vehicle.

There's one trim level and three optional equipment packages for the Grand Vitara, with a starting price of $18,999. Premium and Luxury versions add comfort, style and driving amenities, with prices topping out at $24,399. (An XSport Package, out later this year, with keyless entry and ignition start, is $22,799 for the four-wheel drive version.) Call it a bargain hunter's paradise.

Click here to read RTM's full review of the Grand Vitara