Suzuki has always been an auto manufacturer with a niche all its own. Unable to catch up with the dominance of other Japanese manufacturers who were battling for top spot in the car segment, Suzuki decided to focus on SUVs--particularly the smaller variants. The Grand Vitara is actually an enlarged version of the much-smaller Vitara. Looking at it today, it is hard to imagine that, in its original offering, the Grand Vitara looked so much like a jeep--for now it is an amazingly reliable platform paired with good looks.
1999-2005: The bigger Vitara
The original Vitara was sold as either a 2-door convertible or a hardtop, and bore much similarity to many of Suzuki's other offerings at the time. When the Grand Vitara came out in 1999, a full decade after the Vitara first debuted, it was a completely different machine altogether. For one thing, it was fully a four-door affair. For another thing, it was slightly larger and more powerful. While intended to be sold side-by-side with the original Vitara, the Grand Vitara eventually out-paced the original--which was withdrawn in 2004.
The 2001 version is a perfect exemplar with a 2.0-L, Inline-4, turbodiesel engine and full four-wheel drive.
2006-present: A breed of its own
The 2006 Grand Vitara was a new vehicle in as much as the original Grand Vitara was over the Vitara. It used a longitudinally mounted engine and was rear-wheel drive. Full four-wheel drive was an in-cabin selectable option. The most widely available version was the 5-door, although a 3-door model was also available. Until 2008, the standard engine was a 4-cylinder, 2.0-liter J20A capable of putting out over 139-horsepower--this engine was a sufficient balance of performance and efficiency.
In the latter half of 2008, the Grand Vitara got a major facelift and two new engines. The basic engine was a 2.4-liter, inline-4 capable of producing over 164-horsepower. For the so-called flagship prestige models, a V6 was made available. This could put out a whopping 221-horsepower and over 209 pounds per foot in torque. The addition of VVT to both engine choices improved fuel economy to a significant degree. Safety was also an important consideration for this latest offering--with additional airbags installed.
In the second quarter of this year, following 4 years of service, the Grand Vitara once more got an upgrade. Powered by a 2.4-liter, DOHC, inline-4, 16-valve, digital fuel injection engine--still with VVT--and with an improved set of wheels and suspension, this latest offering is looking to set the stage for the Grand Vitara to continue its legacy well into the future.