Should You Take the Suzuki X-90 Off Road?

The Suzuki X-90 was available with four-wheel drive, but its low 6.3-inch ground clearance wasn’t made for serious trails.
Written by Sarah Gray
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The
Suzuki
X-90 is a two-seater, open-roof SUV that was manufactured for the 1996 to 1998 model years. While four-wheel drive was standard on two trims, the overall 6.3-inch ride height and sluggish engine made it less than ideal for serious four-wheeling.
Sure, the Suzuki X-90 offers four-wheel drive (4WD) on two of its three trims, but hitting the trails is about a lot more than that. To make sure you know what makes your X-90 a better on- than off-road option,
Jerry
, the
super app
that combines off-road knowledge with
car insurance
expertise, is here to break down the Suzuki X-90's off-road rating.
We’ve gathered specs on key off-road factors, like ground clearance and torque, and we’ve even compiled some great alternatives if the X-90 turns out not to be for you.

Can the Suzuki X-90 go off-road?

Yes and no. The Suzuki X-90 can handle some pretty gnarly surfaces—from steep grades to rocky paths and loose shale—but it doesn’t have the power or geometry to tackle major obstacles, like downed trees, large rocks, or sudden inclines.
When it first entered the market at $16,288, the Suzuki X-90 was pretty pricey for a two-seater sport ute. Now, as even the “newest” X-90s are near 25 years of age, you can easily find used models for less than $2,000—often under $1,000.
A test drive when the mini-ute first appeared in 1996 revealed some pretty surprising off-road capabilities thanks to the available 4WD, but let’s take a look at some other factors that may make the X-90 a better on-road than off-road choice.
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Ground clearance

One of the most important specs to consider when it comes to off-road capability is ground clearance. Even more than tires or drivetrain, your vehicle’s ground clearance, or ride height, will determine the difference between mastering a trail and getting mired in the muck. 
The higher your vehicle rides, the more freedom you have to tackle rough and uneven terrain without worrying about damage to your undercarriage. Ideally, a vehicle that’s built to hit the trails will offer no less than 8.5 inches of ground clearance.
The Suzuki X-90 offers only 6.3 inches. Compare this with the
1998 Jeep Wrangler’s
8.5 inches of clearance, and you can see why the X-90 isn’t the best off-road option.

Torque

While the Suzuki X-90 does offer 4WD to grip rough terrain, it doesn’t have the power one would truly hope for in a solid off-roader. When you find yourself in mud or needing to get over an obstacle, you need low-end torque. This is what produces the grunt needed for towing or pushing power.
The Suzuki X-90’s tiny 95-horsepower, 1.6-liter inline-four engine achieves only 98 lb-feet of torque at a super high 4,000 rpm. This means you’ll need to get a pretty good run at anything more than an above-average grade if you hope to make it up and over.

Tires

The last Suzuki X-90s rolled off the line in 1996, so any model you pick up today had better have new tires. X-90s were initially outfitted with all-season tires, indicating the X-90 was more for the road than the rough. 
That said, upgrading to
all-terrain tires
is a pretty simple way to increase the off-road capabilities of any car, truck, or SUV. 

Drivetrain

If you’re going off-road, you need either all-wheel-drive (AWD) or 4WD. There’s really no alternative. The Suzuki X-90 offers rear-wheel-drive (RWD) standard on all models, but the two upper trims come equipped with 4WD, which drivers can engage if they need to get dirty. 
That means, as long as you have the two-door SUV 4WD or the SE two-door SUV 4WD, you’re set where your drivetrain is concerned. 

Angles

You may never have heard of approach and departure angles, but when it comes to taking things off-road, they’re two of the most important measurements on your car:
  • Approach angle is the maximum angle at which a vehicle can climb without interference 
  • Departure angle is the maximum angle at which a vehicle can descend without interference
In short, they’re what make it possible for you to go from a flat surface to a steep grade without just slamming your bumper into a wall. 
The Suzuki X-90’s approach and departure angles are both 31 degrees, which is very respectable considering its size and ground clearance. This is what allows the X-90 to get up and over some inclines that other SUVs may have issues with.

Off-road rating: In a Pinch

We’ve determined the Suzuki X-90’s off-road rating using
Jerry’s
super-technical DIRT rating system, broken down in the table below:
Rating
Meaning
Description
D
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
I
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
R
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
T
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
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We give the Suzuki X-90 an I rating—In a Pinch. With solid geometry and 4WD, it’s an excellent option for basic trails, mild to steep inclines, or rocky or slippery surfaces. But if you’re planning to do any serious off-roading, you should look for another option.

The best off-road alternatives to the Suzuki X-90

The Suzuki X-90 can do some basic off-roading, but here are the best alternatives to the X-90 for everything from daily driving to serious four-wheeling.
Alternative
Model
Price
Description
Best daily-driving alternative
$1,300–$2,500
The 1998 Kia Sportage offers more ground clearance and a much smoother on-road ride than the Suzuki X-90.
Best comparable alternative
1995 Suzuki Samurai
$600–$1,200
While Samurais were and are considered some of the toughest 4X4s available, they lacked the power and clearance of ideal off-roaders. Plus, safety tests revealed these mini-SUVs are easier to flip than a toilet seat, so be careful if you choose this option.
Best alternative for serious off-roading
$3,000–$4,500
Simply unmatched off-road capability makes this the best alternative to the X-90 if you’re ready to blaze your own trails.
MORE: Cheap off-road trucks
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How to find affordable car insurance for off-road vehicles

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