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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Nov 16, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By Contributing Editor KURT FUHRMANN

American Suzuki rolled out a platter full of new cars for a select group of journalists in the countryside of San Diego. It served as a perfect backdrop to this launch, however our focus was on Suzuki’s automobiles and how they stand up to some hardcore driving. Suzuki was prepared for that challenge.

Two road courses were set up. The first course began at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and stretched across San Diego’s backcountry near the Wild Animal Park. This course comprised of great scenery and miles of varying road conditions truly tested the cars’ on road abilities. The second course was approximately a 160-mile excursion, which revealed many of the Verona’s strengths. The course concluded with an E ticket ride along some of San Diego’s cliff hanging twists and turns back to the Rancho Bernardo Inn. The first car tested along course number one was the 2004 XL-7, Suzuki’s well-appointed SUV. The XL-7 is richness on a conservative budget. The interior is stylishly designed and loaded with subtle leather. On the road, the XL-7 was smooth, quiet and nicely comfortable. One of the model year 2004 upgrades is an optional five-speed automatic transmission, which helps to optimize proper gearing whether climbing steep hills, negotiating downgrades, or passing on highways. Although primarily designed for mom and the soccer team, the many options and exterior good looks will suit the high school grads to the corporate executive.

The next adventure was with the sporty 2004 Grand Vitara. This nimble SUV has plenty of pep, and holds winding roads better than one might expect. Suzuki enhanced the 2004 model to give it more of a ruggedly sporty SUV quality. The Grand Vitara should put a smile on most drivers and make them feel like an 18-year-old teenager with their first car. Those readers who have followed LA CAR’s stories will remember our articles on a Suzuki car named the Aerio. We have been following the Aerio since it was first released in the states. Each model year, Suzuki continues to make improvements, including Quadgrip all-wheel drive versions. So what did the 2004 Aerio have in store this time? I was pleasantly surprised with its new personality. The sedan, which I test drove, looked much healthier with its new “cool beige metallic” color and with its increased horsepower to 155 hp. Combining those horses with 152 lb-ft of torque made the Rancho Bernardo Inn road course pass by more quickly than a New York minute. The 2004 Aerio also comes standard with an AM/FM CD player, which is acoustically enhanced by a new seven-speaker system. Personality, good gas mileage (25-31 mpg per Suzuki’s specifications), and backed by a 100,000 mile/7-year limited powertrain warranty make the Aerio a first-rate deal.

The next morning, Suzuki’s flagship sedan was unveiled: The Verona. This four-door sedan is stylish, roomy, and packed with everything but the kitchen sink - including such niceties as full leather interior with heated front seats, automatic climate control, a sunroof, and an eight-way adjustable power driver’s seat (a few of the standard amenities in the EX model). Moments later the caravan was off on its 160-mile journey. At first we were all together, but somewhere along the first leg of the route, I lost the group and found myself following behind a silver Aerio SX. This actually turned out to be the best position of the caravan; it provided me with a unique opportunity to fully experience the fine balance of the Verona. The driver of the SX, one of Suzuki’s team members, was apparently in the mood to thoroughly test the potential of the new 155 ponies under the hood. His actions prodded me to push the Verona to follow his every move. The European design of the Verona along with the P205/55R16 claws, hugged the course with agility like a cheetah after its prey. The transverse mounted in-line six-cylinder engine with 155 horses and 177 lb-ft of torque accelerated smoothly around every hill and turn. The front anti-sway bar, speed sensing power steering and gas filled shock absorbers never let the Aerio leave its grasp. The Verona maintained confidently.

Chasing the Aerio SX through road conditions similar to the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland called for frequent uses of Verona’s 4-wheel disc brake system, which continued to grip flawlessly throughout the day’s course. The first stop was Lake Murray for a quick break and then we were off to the next destination at the Orfila Vineyards - a short 40-mile race like adventure. After lunch, Suzuki’s team members asked if any drivers would like to change automobiles. I chose the same. For me, the Verona was the best choice to conquer the rest of the course. The Verona was not only an excellent driving machine, it was also comfortable over the long haul, especially when surrounded by fine leather and a powerful six speaker sound system. At the end of the day, as I turned my sedan back over to Suzuki’s people, I asked if they wouldn’t mind if I took “my” Verona out for a short trip to Las Vegas. I got a laugh from them, but I was serious. Suzuki’s flagship model is a fine piece of work, and it’s as if they have been developing and distributing sedans such as this for a very long time. The Verona should make any driver feel comfortable and confident wherever the road may lead.

A final note about this Italian-designed Verona. The EX model, the premium package, includes all leather, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, a smoothly performing in-line six-cylinder engine, gas mileage from 20 to 28 mpg, and heated front seats that will keep you warm while the sunroof is open - all for under $20,000. The LX, which is the mid-line model, has a cloth interior instead of leather and does not have a sunroof, but fully loaded nonetheless, all for only $17,799. The entry level Verona S lists for a mere 16,499. And no, the prices are not typos!

More information can be found at


Price: EX – $19,499 LX – $17,799 S – $16,499 Engine Type: 2.5 liter, in-line 6 cylinder, 24-valve DOHC engine Horsepower: 155 Hp @ 5,800 RPM Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 4,000 Drive Configuration: Front mounted engine Transmission Type: 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with gated shifter and “hold” mode switch Suspension: Front - Independent Macpherson strut-type Rear - Independent multi-link Wheels and Tires: 15-inch steel wheels with P205/65R15 tires or 16-inch alloy wheels with P205/55R16 tires Brakes: 4 channel anti-lock brake system with electronically controlled brake force distribution Overall Length (in): 187.8 Overall Width (in): 71.5 Overall Height (in): 57.1 Curb Weight (lb): 3,380 EPA Mileage Estimates City/Highway: 20/28

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