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Suzuki X 90 JLX SE

Suzuki keep adding new variants to the hugely successful Vitara range of jeeps, the latest being the X 90, a genetically linked but very, very, different sub-species of jeep, perhaps the first of a new breed of futuristic looking fun offroaders, leisure vehicles for the 21st century for the X 90, in looks at least, is different to anything that has gone before.

But with Suzuki’s X 90 not all is new, certainly the visible bits are quite new and different, an unusual body style and lines - of which more shortly - but the technology is very well proven being the engine/ transmission and chassis underpinnings of the Vitara albeit rather differenlty clothed.

The body of the X 90 certainly is it’s most radical feature and the one single factor which will make those all important purchasing decisions, at first glance it’s more motor show project vehicle than road going car but in this case a designer’s dream has made production for the X 90 is a curved, fluted, spaceship of a sports utility with just 2 seats, a roof that lifts off in targa type panels leaving a roll cage and a good size boot, certainly an appearance to be remarked upon and remembered once seen and, if it had no wheels and hovered the X90 could easily come straight out of  Star Wars.  

The cabin interior is a little more conventional than the outside with a good level of comfort, trim and equipment with 2 tall, very comfortable and adjustable seats, huge amounts of head room  - even more with the detachable roof panels off - most everything power assisted including the steering, windows and mirrors and there’s central locking with an immobiliser and good stereo all as standard in a spacy craft that will go almost anywhere and give you as much sun as you want

The X90  comes in near the entry level of the Vitara range in 2 versions - JLX and the better equipped JLX SE which I drove both of them mechanically almost identical sharing an injected 1600 cc engine although that in the dearer SE is a 16 valver and multi- point injected with 95 bhp as against 80 bhp for the standard JLX. Both share the 5 speed manual transmision  and a hi/lo, 2/4 ratio box and vary little in trim terms except for central locking and power windows on the £12,695 SE compared to the base JLX at £11,985 but both offer a very convincing package at a very good price. 

The 95 bhp 1.6 litre, four, makes the Vitara a fairly rapid off roader, a superbly cost effective motorway cruiser, a traffic lights head turner or a beach cruising 4x4 with tons of torque, all with good fuel consumption figures  - nearly 30 mpg for around town use and nearly 40mpg for the constant 56 mph figure - it’s a good engine to find in an offroader with terrific torque and surprisingly quiet at motorway speeds.

Given it’s origins, stance and those wide wheels one might expect a bit of a stiff and unsophisticated ride yet with those balloon like tyres the Soft Top is just stiff enough with minimal roll and surprisingly agility on the road yet with excellent ride quality. It also stops well, the big front discs pulling it up smartly.

The greatest early successes of the Vitara range were in the youth market although the increasingly wide range has broadened the market appeal of these tough jeeps but now Suzuki have returned to that “yoof “ market with a slighty bizarre look into the future of leisure vehicles, the X 90 might just catch on and become quite a cult vehicle.

First Published 1996 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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