A V6 puts life in Chevy Tracker LT. Chevrolet’s Tracker is finally available with a V6.

Essentially a rebadged Suzuki Vitara, the Tracker has had to make do with the four-cylinder engine and less standard equipment than the Grand Vitara.

With the advent of the LT and ZR2 models, Tracker now is on par with the Grand Vitara. Its price begins at $21,230, which is pretty reasonable for a small SUV with this level of equipment. General Motors owns a sizable chunk of Suzuki, but Chevy had to wait quite a while to get the V6. Suzuki just released a long-wheelbase version of the Grand Vitara called the XL-7, but Chevy does not have a similar model.

The LT we tested had running boards, two-tone paint and standard items such as air conditioning, rear wiper, tilt wheel, power windows and locks, cruise control, automatic transmission and alloy wheels. The ZR2, on the other hand, has a more rugged, off-road appearance.

A 2.5-liter, V6 engine with 155 horsepower provides a significant transformation for the Tracker. Compared to the base 1.6-liter four-cylinder, the V6 has nearly 30 more horsepower and considerably increased mid-range throttle response. The V6 is quiet, smooth and willing, although it could use a bit more torque at low speeds.

The V6 accelerates and drives much like a small sedan, one of the key reasons the LT feels so much better than the base Tracker. Like the Grand Vitara, the V6 seems to give the LT confidence.

A shift-on-the-fly transfer case enables four-wheel drive to be selected at speeds up to 62 mph, which can be handy if you encounter the kind of snowy weather we have had lately. A transfer case has an extra-low range that provides the kind of gearing required for rugged and off-road driving. Ground clearance, however, is hampered by the low running boards.

The LT’s ride quality is better, too, because of larger wheels and tires and what feels like firmer suspension tuning. The front suspension uses MacPherson struts and coil springs, while a five-link, coil-spring design is used in back. The stiff body structure rides atop a steel, ladder-type frame that adds strength and ruggedness.

The Tracker’s 97.6-inch wheelbase is shorter than the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.

Inside, the test vehicle’s optional leather seats are a nice touch considering the price. The instrument panel has well-designed, simple gauges with a three-dimensional look. Slider controls for heating and cooling are not as easy to use as rotary ones. The radio is new this year and its buttons are larger and easy to hit even with gloves on.

The back seat is snug, but tolerable, for adults. There is not much cargo room with the seat up. Folding the rear seat requires removal of the headrests, which then have to be stowed somewhere else. There are 18 various storage compartments throughout the vehicle.

Nice touches include sections of dimpled texture on the steering wheel where the driver’s hands fal l, finger holds molded into the door pulls and a Micron-Air system with removable pollen filter to keep dust out of the cabin.

The Tracker LT stands toe-to-toe with Suzuki’s Grand Vitara in terms of power, handling and standard equipment.

The base price of the test vehicle was $21,230. Options included anti-lock brakes and leather seats. The sticker price was $22,845.

Three years or 36,000 miles.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman call (816) 234-4349 or e-mail:

Point: The 2.5-liter V6 of the Tracker LT brings refinement and power to a package that has moderate off-road capabilities. Bigger wheels and a tight suspension give a firm ride. The $22,845 price is quite competitive.

Counterpoint: This is a relatively small vehicle, with a tight back seat and not a lot of cargo space unless the seat is folded.

Engine: 2.5-liter V6
Transmission: automat
Four-wheel drive
Wheelb 97.6 inches
Curb weight: 2,987 lbs.
Base price: $21,230
As driven: $22,845
Mpg rating: 18 city, 20 hwy.

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