The first sentence I read in the Suzuki Grand Vitara’s brochure was this: When your spirit is given free rein [sic] over performance, the results can be sometimes exhilarating, or sometimes even astonishing.
I’m glad I didn’t write that because I can’t actually make sense of it. It sounds like the useless waffle I used to write when I owned a design agency. What they should have said was this: It’s a damn comfortable ride, and even if you want to get more adventurous than raised manhole covers, it’ll cope admirably.
Less waffle, more direct information, that’s what we need. And while we’re on the path of concise and pithy statements that are inspire thought (or even controversy), here’s another: The Suzuki Grand Vitara is, in spirit, as close to a Porsche as you’ll get. “What!” I hear you exclaim. This is a value-priced 4×4 SUV with suspension that would appease a haemorrhoids sufferer, whereas a Porsche is a manly, testosterone laden supercar specifically designed to burn out your adrenal glands. Porsche makes the enormously expensive Cayenne off-roader, and it made the enormously scary GT1 — a car designed to scare the pants off your pants (which had already been scared off just getting in and firing up the engine). At the other end of the scale, Suzuki makes the highly capable Grand Vitara off-roader, and also made a nutcase roadbike called the Hayabusa (designed, as you probably guessed), to burn out your adrenals.
Both companies created the same two items but at opposite ends of the market: a comfortable off-roader, and an extreme speed machine with a jubilant power-to-weight ratio.
Tenuous links (and waffle) aside, the Suzuki’s engine choice is generous in the Ltd model, for the price. With a 2.7-litre 24-valve V6, it puts 135kW and 250Nm of torque to the ground via four-wheel-drive. All four wheels are driven and there are three modes: 4H with a 47/53 torque split front/rear for general driving; 4H Lock with 50/50 distribution for more serious off-roading; and 4L Lock to get out of really tricky situations. A rigid ladder chassis supports fully independent suspension — MacPherson struts at the front and rear multi-links — which works well on-road as well as off-road.
Soaking up the bumps in competent style, the Grand Vitara Ltd also cossets the passengers with leather seats that recline even in the rear, and plenty of legroom and headroom. A nice attention to detail is the adjustable boot blind which means that despite the seats reclining, whatever’s in the boot can remain hidden.
There is a five-speed auto in the Grand Vitara Ltd, and with the tall top gear mated to cruise control, it’s pleasant on the motorway. It is not a car you can throw into the corners, though. The ESP and ABS cut in frequently under heavy braking, especially if one wheel is unloaded (inside rear, for example), mainly due to the compliant suspension giving rise to body roll.
Styling-wise, it has smooth, unencumbered lines. The Ltd comes with the optional front fog lamps in the front bumper, and the 17-inch mags sport 225/65 tyres.
The V6 Ltd also gets the upgraded seven-speaker (six plus subwoofer) stereo with six-CD stacker, and the keyless entry/security system (rubber buttons on the door handle can be used to unlock/lock the doors if the key is in close proximity to the car. There is no ‘key’ as such — like the SX4, you can leave it in your pocket and turn the key ‘substitute’, located where the key would usually be.
Loading space is comfortable for a family — there would be no problem going on a camping trip, and there’s plenty of storage and cupholders. The seats also fold flat to form an area large enough to lug sizeable objects.
As a practical car for both around town or extended trips, the Suzuki Grand Vitara performs well. It’s capable of consuming large amounts of luggage with its practical loading bay, but is also flexible and manoeuvrable enough to function as a round-town or commuter vehicle. At just $39,990 it embarrasses SUVs $5,000-15,000 more expensive.
Price: from $39,990 (V6 Ltd). Petrol 5-door 4-cylinder and diesel models from $29,990
What we like
- Comfortable and quiet when cruising
- Reclining rear seats
- Good value for money
What we don’t like
- Tyre pressures may have been wrong as it squealed its tyres easily around corners
- Keyless start is more of an annoyance than convenience
- All SUVs should have reversing sensors
Words and photos Darren Cottingham