Snow buried it in the driveway, but the Suzuki Grand Vitara shook off the thick white blanket and securely pulled onto the road.

Whether snowy or clear, Grand Vitara was in command.

For 2009, Grand Vitara offers a 4-cylinder, a 2.4-liter, 166-h.p. version rated at 19/26 in the base model; a 3.2-liter, 230-h.p. V-6 rated at 17/22 with 2WD, 17/23 with 4WD has replaced the 2.7-liter, 185-h.p. V-6.

We tested the 4WD version with the noticeably more spirited V-6.

Above average energy and exceptional control in snow.

But on dry, uneven roads, the suspension tends to jiggle. And, if traveling in steerage, leave your knees at home.

Also prepare for the headrest torture - they dig into your back if left down - and wheel well encroachment into the narrow doorways.

The cargo hold will handle groceries or luggage for a week, but the pull shade to hide contents is flimsy. And the door with spare tire attached swings open rather than lifting up, which makes it hard to use if someone parks too close behind.

Base price: $26,799 with stability control standard.

Grand Vitara competes against the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Jeep Wrangler, Goliaths that are tough to slay.

Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Rides. Contact him at transportation@tribune. com.