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The 5 Suzuki Vitara that made history

The Suzuki Vitara can boast of being the pioneer of today's SUV. Conceived and designed in 1987, this iconic model has had countless versions throughout its four generations. It has been almost 30 years of life in which we have seen from two-seater convertible variants of the Vitara, to a legendary competition version with more than 1.000 hp of power.

Suzuki engineers and designers were visionaries in the late 80s, creating a car that laid the foundation for the modern SUV concept. The Vitara was officially unveiled at the 1988 Tokyo Motor Show and was surprising from the outset with its daring philosophy that defied the segments, categories and conventions of its time.

Suzuki was not afraid to merge several types of cars into one car, which brought together the best of several worlds. On the one hand, it was a robust and capable car off the asphalt, but that was not a drag when it came to driving in the city and on the highway. In this environment, to his privileged elevated driving position, he added a healthy, agile and efficient behavior; great comfort and ride quality; and a smooth driving feel. The Vitara drove on the highway more like a car than a rough off-roader.

The Vitara was a bestseller from the start, with more than 100.000 units sold in its first two years of life. At just 3,57 meters in length, its owner had a compact, an SUV and a convertible; an agile, comfortable and versatile car, with an attractive, modern and cool image. To all of them he added a smooth engine with contained consumption, an efficient behavior on all terrains and a competitive price. How could he not succeed?

At the 1995 Frankfurt International Motor Show, Suzuki again innovated with a car concept not seen to date. And is that the Vitara X-90 is one of the most daring and original models in the history of Suzuki, a convertible, performance and two-seater SUV that today we could classify as a sports SUV.

The Vitara X-90 had a glass roof that was anchored to a fixed arch and disassembled into two pieces that could be stored in the trunk. It was designed to enjoy driving under the open sky. With sports seats, firm suspensions, a weight of only 1.100 kilos and a cheerful 1.6 engine with 95 hp; it offered pure feel and dynamism behind the wheel.

Available with rear or all-wheel drive, as well as a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, the Vitara X-90 was marketed until 1997. In total 7.000 units were marketed, most of them were destined for the United States market, where today today it is quite a collector's item.

The Suzuki Vitara has also made racing history, becoming a legend in one of the most legendary racing events on the planet: the climb to Pikes Peak. Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima made history behind the wheel of the most powerful Suzuki ever.

The first victory of the Vitara (called Shield in other markets) came in 1995. Yutaka Awazuhara won with this model in 2001; and “Monster” Tajima imposed its law in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 editions with a Vitara XL7 (he also won the next three, but with a Suzuki SX4, with which in 2011 he dropped below 10 minutes on this climb for the first time in the history).

The original 1995 Vitara Pikes Peak was a mechanical "beast" designed to reign in the "climb to the clouds" and the brutal appearance of its kevlar and carbon body was determined by aerodynamics that hit the ground in the corners of this rise.

This Vitara had two 16-liter Suzuki G1.6A engines - one on each axle - which, thanks to a powerful turbo, delivered 450 hp, adding up to 900 hp of total power. As the whole weight was 900 kilos, this Vitara offered a chilling weight / power ratio of one kilo per hp.

Over the years, this base evolved and with the arrival of the XL7 it began to mount a single V6 front engine that exceeded 1.000 hp and 1.000 Nm.

For the youngest, the Pikes Peak Vitara / Shield is a cult in video games like Gran Turismo, where you couldn't buy it with money and you only earned the right to pilot it when you had won many competitions.

The second generation of the Vitara, called the Grand Vitara, brought many new features. Based on the 5-door Vitara, the XL7 gained 320mm in wheelbase and was 485mm longer. Later came the Suzuki XL7 as a standalone model in the Vitara range.

The XL-7 was a huge commercial success in the United States, where for many years it was the most affordable seven-seater SUV on the market. This model won the prestigious Consumers Digest “Best Buy” award for two consecutive years, in 2003 and 2004. This publication recommended the Suzuki Vitara XL-7 for its value for money, low maintenance cost, extensive warranty, safety, reliability. , design, ergonomics, comfort, equipment, interior capacity, performance and behavior. With these arguments, it is not surprising that it became a best seller.

The Suzuki Vitara has also competed in the world of raids, proving to be a solid and reliable base to tackle the toughest terrain. Throughout its history, the Vitara has received preparations of all levels, from the simplest T1 and T2, to T3, which made it practically a prototype.

The Vitara has competed in off-road rallying since the early 90s, until today, where they participate in the Italian specialty championship within a Challenge Suzuki.

The Vitara T1 and T2 competed in the Dakar with good results in their categories, demonstrating robustness and reliability. These models, and the spectacular T3 Proto, have also participated in national competitions, achieving absolute victory in some edition of the Montes de Cuenca or the Transpaña.





Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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