As a performance company, Suzuki is no slouch. Their GSX-R sport bike series has caused numerous religious experiences, the Pikes Peak-entered Escudo and Grand Vitara racecars are grand examples of race engineering, and the overseas-only Swift Sport is the daily driver that Americans don't know they really want. So why doesn't Suzuki have a massive die-hard following in the US performance automotive scene? It's simple really; their cars have largely been built upon the premises of reliability and price, not exactly what sets the average tuner on fire. But Suzuki is looking to change that image.
Before your eyes is the Suzuki SX4t, a fully functional one-off rolling design concept that could usher in a new era for Suzuki. It is, in essence, a modified version of the Suzuki SX4 Crossover, which is currently the lowest priced all-wheel drive sold in the US ($15,339 MSRP for a base model with manual transmission). Commissioned by Suzuki and built by Road Race Motorsports of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., the SX4t is Suzuki's bid to bridge the gap between their street cars and their WRC effort SX4 (see sidebar). The SX4t isn't going to be sold at dealerships, it's mostly scheduled to attend auto shows and end up in the eager hands of throttle-hungry journalists, but Road Race does have plans to sell the turbo kit to the public.
The key to the SX4t lies with its extra alphabet appendage. A 16G turbocharger has been bolted on to the stock J20 2.0-liter engine, taking the engine from 143 bhp up to a claimed 221 bhp using 6-7 lbs of boost. In our track testing, we saw a huge 2-second reduction in E.T. through the quarter-mile, with the SX4t also picking up 11mph in trap speed. These are huge gains, and the SX4t builds boost smoothly and quickly. The ECU tuning for the car is also spot-on, with no hiccups, dips or stumbling, although cold starts are harder than stock if you don't let the fuel pressure build correctly first. Around the city, the SX4t's added acceleration over the stock car is noticeable and appreciated, although the small turbo does run out of steam up top. The system was built for mid-range torque and response, and makes for a better street setup versus a massive drag turbo. The SX4t is no GT-R but, then again, it costs less than a quarter of the price.
The SX4t's suspension setup is modified with a set of lowering springs and the car is matched with 17-inch wheels (produced by Rota) and 225-width Yokohama Advan Neova rubber. The SX4's tall roofline and relatively high center of gravity cause large amounts of body roll, but Senior Editor Andy Hope managed to hustle both the stock car and the SX4t through our Figure-8 course. Once the numbers came back, the SX4t had shown an impressive 2.2-second reduction in lap time and displayed noticeably reduced amounts of body roll and greater control. Even better was the SX4t's braking performance with a set of higher-friction brake pads installed. The SX4t stopped a full 6-feet shorter than the standard SX4, no doubt helped by the added stick of the Neova tires.
In the end, we had few qualms with the SX4t. The car ran significantly faster than stock, didn't have any tuning issues, and the air conditioning worked perfectly. We had a few instances on the drag strip where one of the cold side intercooler pipes (with the MAF attached) would slip out of its coupler hose, due to the engine movement and shock from launches, and the car would sputter and die. On the street, we never ran into the problem. If you're an interested, drag racing SX4 owner who is going to try and purchase this turbo kit, we would highly suggest stiffening the engine mounts and switching to a stronger hose clamp.