The burly Grand Vitara combines off-road ability -- long a Suzuki hallmark -- with surprising refinement. A ladder-frame-reinforced unibody and optional four-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case ensure mudding credibility (although the full-size spare tire will be restricted to the Limited trim level in early 2012), and the independent suspension makes on-road handling more carlike. The Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 still have smoother engines and ride quality, but the Grand Vitara beats them off-road, where it is overshadowed perhaps only by some Jeep products. This generation of the Grand Vitara began life with a 2.7-liter V-6, which was later swapped for a General Motors-sourced 3.2-liter V-6. That engine was dropped for 2011, though, because of a "heightened interest in on-road efficiency," according to Suzuki. For 2012, a more rugged trim level -- the Ultimate Adventure Edition -- will wear sharp smoked-chrome wheels, sideview mirrors with integrated turn signals, and foglamps as well as water-resistant seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Grand Vitara is a legitimate choice in the popular cute-ute category, and its high content (including a standard navigation system with Bluetooth), numerous standard safety features, low price, and strong warranty make it a bargain, too.
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