Suzuki Concept-X2

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Front Drivers Side View

The Concept-X2 previews a new smallish Suzuki SUV that will commence production later this year as a 2006 model. The concept more resembles an angry Ford Escape wearing athletic footwear than the Concept-X that Suzuki debuted ten weeks ago at the Detroit auto show. This X2 is more production reasonable than the larger Concept-X, trading away a shark-like face, suicide doors, unlikely interior, and Chinese throwing star wheels for cheaper-to-build, cleaner-looking materials. Its nose is a slick evolution of the Suzuki Grand Vitara's beak that we wouldn't mind seeing on the road.

In length and wheelbase measurements, the Concept-X2 slots in between the Grand Vitara and its stretched brother, the XL-7, though the X2 is four inches wider than those twins (it has a footprint very close to that of the Hyundai Santa Fe). Based on prices of that pair and the rest of the budget-friendly Suzuki lineup, we expect the car to start under $20,000.

Power for the five-passenger X2 comes from a 185-hp, DOHC, aluminum V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox. Off-road-ready underpinnings include ladder-frame construction, four-wheel independent suspension, and a full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case with a low range option and a locking center differential.

Inside, the concept gets fancy bits never before found on a typical Suzuki car: items such as keyless start, AM/FM/XM CD stereo, and automatic climate control. You can bet, however, that the finished product will not catapult Suzuki to a position among the leaders in automotive interior quality.

The array of safety features present on the concept, if they make production, will surely help it appeal to its very young target group--dual front and side airbags, front and rear curtain airbags, and head-impact protection. The concept 'zuki also has stability control, ABS, traction control, and electronic brake-force distribution.

Suzuki Motors is hot right now, having just announced its thirteenth straight month of rising sales in the States, after reporting a 47 percent increase in new-vehicle registrations in 2004 over 2003. The company has launched four new models in America in the last 24 months: Forenza, Forenza Wagon, Reno, and Verona. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Suzuki's entrance onto the American automotive scene, when the forgettable 1985 Samurai debuted. Suzuki has come a long way since then (though far from all the way), so we're curious to see how good the production version of the X2 will turn out. It should further cloud the buying decisions of cost-conscious Kia Sorento customers, not to mention Escape and Jeep Liberty candidates and others.

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