Don’t let their size fool you – these SUVs know how to roar.
The 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara is the little engine that could propelling Suzuki’s sales to an all-time record in 2005. Along with “America’s #1 Warranty,” the Grand Vitara features more than a “little engine;” it packs a walloping 2.7-L, 24-valve DOHC V6 under the hood, propelling the 185 horses to 6,000 rpm. Consistent with American Suzuki Motor Company’s “Way of Life” brand strategy, the Grand Vitara’s sleek styling also offers safety and rugged off-road performance – and it’s super stable on the regular roads of life too. The Electronic Stability Program includes traction control, and the full-time, four-mode, four-wheel-drive assists in any weather conditions. The ride is exceptionally smooth with the four-wheel independent suspension, and the power-tilt-and-slide sunroof, automatic climate control A/C with micron air filtration, and power windows/ door locks/mirrors add to the exceptional comfort level of this vehicle. And your pocketbook won’t take a beating, with a starting MSRP of $19,199.
The all-new FJ Cruiser is the latest addition to Toyota’s line of off-road vehicles. At a budget-comfortable starting MSRP of $21,710, the FJ Cruiser kicks Mother Nature in the teeth with its 4.0-L, 24-valve, DOHC V6 engine providing 239-hp at 5200 rpm. It can pull a respectable 278 lb-ft at 3700 rpm. Other standard goodies include an electronic ignition with the Toyota Direct Ignition System, and a 5-speed, electronically controlled, automatic overdrive with either rear wheel 2WD or part-time 4WD, or a 6-speed manual, full-time 4WD transmission. With its high-mounted, double-wishbone front suspension and stabilizer bar, along with its 4-link rear suspension with lateral rod with coil springs and stabilizer bar, the FJ Cruiser offers a surprisingly soft ride for an SUV. The power-assisted, variable-gear, rack and pinion steering makes this little off-road monster easier to wrangle, and stomping on the power-assisted, 4-piston front/2-piston rear, ventilated disc brakes with anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake-assist vehicle stability control, and standard traction control reins in the FJ Cruiser to a soft and safe stop.
The four-door, boxy, retro-styled Honda Element comes in three trim levels – the LX, EX, and EX-P – all of which can hold your friends and their surfboards. All styles are priced to leave spendin’ money in your wallet – the MSRP ranges from $17,750 for the base LX to $22,235 for the top-of-the-line EX-P. The base LX offers substantial power and panache with its 2.4-L, 16-valve, DOHC, i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine with 156-hp @ 5500 rpm and respectable 160 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm. Pick either the standard 5-speed manual transmission or pay a bit extra for the 4-speed automatic. Standard are 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and EBD. Safety features include an immobilizer theft-deterrent system, 2-speed/intermittent windshield wipers, power side mirrors, rear window wiper/washer, and dual-stage, dual-threshold front airbags. Convenience comes in the form of cruise control, power windows, power door and tailgate locks, waterproof seats, and removable and folding rear seats. The easy-to-clean urethane utility floor enables you to literally hose out all the sand you picked up from a day at the beach.