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THE REAL SUV VALUE LEADER

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, Jun 6, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Suzuki Vitara V6 4WD LX

THE REAL SUV VALUE LEADER By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The 2004 Suzuki four-wheel drive sport utility vehicle is an interesting blend of power, luxury, capability and value - making it a great fit for almost any lifestyle.  If you're looking for an affordable, sporty, compact SUV that's refined enough for everyday city use, has true off-road capabilities, and a V6 powerplant, then smart consumers know they can find all of this in the 2004 Suzuki Vitara V6. 

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

With its new, standard V6 engine, the $16,299.00 Vitara V6 is the most affordable V6-powered SUV today.  The Vitara is also the only compact SUV that boosts a body-on-frame construction and offers the rugged dual-range four-wheel drive system required for serious off-roading.  In addition to its power upgrade, the new 2004 Vitara V6 receives several key design enhancements that match or exceed its car-based competitors in terms of standard luxury features, such as air conditioning with micro-air filtration, power windows/door locks/mirrors, in-dash CD player, cruise-control, remote keyless entry, automatic lighting system, halogen headlamps, tilt steering wheel, split folding rear seat, rear cargo security cover, roof rails, two-speed intermittent wipers, power steering, power brakes, a five-speed manual transmission that hooks up to the new 2.5-liter, DOHC V6 engine.  The only option is a four-speed automatic transmission, and the rugged four-wheel drive system.  Beside the more powerful V6 engine, also new this year are charcoal colored bumpers and fender flares with integrated mudguards, and a newly-designed soft spare tire cover. The Vitara V6's namesake 2.5-liter V6 engine is a real powerhouse. And with its dual-overhead cam, four-valves per cylinder heads, the engine combines strong low-rpm torque with high-rpm horsepower.  The Vitara pumps out 165 horsepower at 6,500 revolutions per minute and 162 pound feet of torque at 4,000 rpm - thats up 38 horses and 28 lb.ft. over last year's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

The Vitara's peak torque occurs at a low 4,000 rpm, which makes for responsive power in town and on the highway.  The V6 is carried in hydraulic mounts tuned to help cancel out engine noise and vibration to keep the passengers compartment quiet.  Another important maintenance reducing feature is the Vitara's chain-type cam drive system.  Unlike the rubber belts used in many competitive engines, the Vitara's self-adjusting valve timing chain run in a continuous oil bath and never needs maintenance or replacement. The optional, smooth shifting four-speed automatic features two power modes.  Vitara V6 drivers can switch from an efficient 'normal' mode (which maximizes fuel economy), to 'power' (which utilizes a more aggressive shift pattern, features quicker downshifts, and holds the transmission in lower gears longer).  The 'power' mode makes more torque available for sustained acceleration in demanding road conditions. The Vitara's V6 system is based on a truck-tough rear-drive configuration that features 'shift-on-the-fly,' so you can shift from two-wheel to four-wheel drive when driving off-road at speeds up to 60 miles per hour.  The low-range four-wheel drive system is the key to adventure in the Vitara V6.  It allows you to descend steep grades controllably and to make tough climbs at a safe and cautious pace.  Escaping deep snow, mud or sand is easy too.  All these activities pose a problem for the Vitara V6 competition - all of their drive systems are based on light-duty automotive front-wheel drive, and none have low-range four-wheel drive systems.  That means they don't have the torque multiplication needed to keep the wheels turning in the tough stuff, and they may simply bog to a stop.  If you want to do more than just look like you visit wild places, the Vitara is the only choice in the compact SUV segment.  Like all Suzukis, the Vitara V6 does not accumulate mileage on its odometer when towed with four-wheels on the ground.  This fact makes it a favorite of RV owners that want to tow the Vitara V6 to a campground on all four wheels behind their RV then use it to explore the local area.

The Vitara V6's high-tensile-strength-steel ladder-type frame and strong body-on-frame construction give it the toughness to handle off-road pounding or behave with quiet refinement on the street and highway.  To further isolate the passengers, special body mounts help keep road and powertrain noise and vibration from entering into the passenger cabin. To allow generous suspension travel and a tight turning circle, the Vitara V6's front suspension is a modified version of the proven MacPherson strut layout.  The Vitara's springs and struts are mounted separately (not concentrically).  The net benefit is a tight turning diameter of 34.8 feet, curb-to-curb, and a long stroke front suspension that's particularly welcome off-road.  To add structural stiffness, a brace between front suspension strut towers increases the torsional rigidity of the chassis and reduces body flex and roll.  The rear suspension is a robust live-axle design located with five separate links.  The configuration is more than tough enough for off-road driving, yet delivers a smooth on-pavement ride.  The Vitara V6's responsive power-assisted rack & pinion steering has a precise and accurate feel, whether your dodging Rubicon boulders or supermarket shopping carts.  The Vitara V6 rides on P215/65R16 all-season tires and wrap around 16X6 inch steel wheels (alloy wheels are optional). 

The new, more powerful Vitara V6 stops quickly and safely with power-assisted, 10.3-inch vented discs up front and 9.6-inch drums in the rear.  ABS and electronic brake force distribution helps keep you in control during severe braking.

The combination of short front and rear overhangs give the four-wheel drive Vitara V6 approach and departure angles a generous 31.7 and 27.9 degress, respectively.  These allow the Vitara V6 to climb over large obstacles without snagging its front or rear bumper.  To clear off-road rocks, the Vitara offers an ample 7.4-inch minimum running ground clearance.  As you're headed to the mountains, lake, shore, or just around town, the Vitara V6 will provide a comfortable and secure ride, with plenty of space for people and gear.  Inside is comfortable seating for four-adults and one child, with room for 23.4 cubic feet of cargo in back.  If there is just you or a friend, flip the split-folding seatbacks down and the Vitara holds 50.2cu.ft. of cargo.  The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive.  The instrument cluster is straight-ahead and easy to understand with a big 110 mph speedometer, 8,000 rpm tachometer and smaller gauges for fuel and engine coolant temperature.  All buttons, dials and switches are within easy reach.  The standard AM-FM CD audio system comes with four speakers that provide the ideal accompaniment for both on and off-road exploring.  The big 16.9-gallon fuel tank makes sure that you'll have plenty of gasoline to get you where you want to go and back.

Standard safety features found in the Vitara V6 include driver and front passenger airbags, three-point driver and front passengers safety belts with should height adjustment, three-point rear outboard safety belts with center lap belt, front/rear crush zones, front and rear side impact door beams, energy absorbing steering column, daylight running lamps, rear child seat LATCH system, rear child set tether anchors, and rear-door child safety locks.

The new Suzuki Vitara V6 is a 'real diamond-in the-rough.'  It is a great, economical sport utility for everyday chores and needs - plus an excellent off-road warrior ready to take on the toughest trails that you can find in comfort and safety.  If you're looking for a compact, entry-level sport utility, then you owe yourself a test drive in the new Suzuki Vitara V6. © All text and photos by Harvey Schwartz

For more information on Suzuki products, go to www.suzukiauto.com.  More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of Vehicle: Suzuki Vitara   Price: $18,499.00 as tested with a four-speed automatic and 4X4 transmission   Engine type: 2.4-liter DOHC 24-valve, V6 engine with cast iron block and aluminum head   Horsepower: 165 at 6,500 rpm   Torque: 162 lb.ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm   Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel drive with 4X4 optional   Transmission type: Standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic with 'power' button   Front suspension: Independent MacPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar   Rear suspension: Five-links, coil springs and gas-charged shocks   Wheels/tires: 16X6-inch standard steel or optional 16X6-inch aluminum alloy wheels, P215/65R16 all-season radial tires   Brakes: Front 10.3-inch vented steel discs, 9.6-inch rear drum brakes; power-assisted with ABS and electronic brake force distribution   Overall length: 163.0 inches   Overall width: 67.3 inches   Overall height: 65.8 inches   Curb weight: 3,020 pounds (manual), 3,053 lbs. (automatic)   EPA mileage figures: 19 mpg in the city 22 mpg on the highway

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