The relaxing SUV
Mention the name Suzuki and most people will immediately answer with marine or motorbike stories, plus the odd tale about an SJ4 or Jimny adventure. The plucky Jimny was recently joined by the brilliant Swift and miniscule Alto, while the Vitara and Grand Vitara SUV’s also soldier on.
Vitaras never enjoyed the cult following of the automotive mountain goat Jimny, but did lure plenty of customers with vastly superior space and creature comforts. A recent facelift combined a fresher look with new power plants, like the 3.2 V6 model that popped up on my drive recently.
Size-wise, the Grand Vitara is aiming at medium SUV territory with its 4,5m length and relatively roomy interior. Its exterior is a more taught interpretation of previous models, the straightforward appearance giving more emphasis to the car’s ornaments and luxuries.
Most of these can be located inside the decidedly luxury cabin with its leather seats, climate control and 6-CD mp3 sound system. Further niceties are the keyless entry system, adjustable steering wheel with satellite audio buttons and cruise control, black wood grain trim, 60/40 split reclining rear seats and various storage binnacles.
The instrument cluster is easy to read with a comprehensive board/trip computer read-out, all switchgear behaves impeccably well and the central radio/ventilation controls are quickly learnt. Next to the automatic gear lever I also located a shift lock, “Power” and two seat heater buttons; most of which were usually in operation.
The keyless entry system also offers a keyless ignition with a dummy key that summons the V6 into action. This 3.2 litre DOHC V6 produces a very respectable 165kW (225hp) at 6200rpm and up to 285Nm at 3500rpm. It operates in a silky smooth, lovely linear and curiously quiet manner.
Although it develops torque figures of unspectacular numbers (and revs), the 1.7 ton weight and eager 5-speed automatic gearbox easily overcome any doubts you might have. The V6 Grand Vitara softly hums along with daily traffic and responds to sudden right foot inputs with vigour.
Up and down shifts are smooth and quite quick; and with the aforementioned “Power” button depressed the ‘box will clutch onto gears for longer. Stomp your foot into the carpet and the Vitara will speed off with a restrained rumble and reach 100km/h in 9.3 seconds, eventually capitulating to its wind resistance at 200km/h.
These figures impressed me, although the power delivery didn’t. Don’t get me wrong – the Grand Vitara V6 has plenty of oomph and (as already mentioned) puts its power down cleanly, it just doesn’t feel very exciting. I’d like to stress that this is a highly admirable trait for anyone looking for a smooth, powerful and efficient SUV.
Its ride is forgiving enough to conquer Suburbia’s speed bumps and varying road surfaces with ease, the seats are very comfortable and supportive, while the gem of a V6 is easily overpowered by Grand Vitara’s crisp sound system. It really is a luxury SUV; remarkably relaxing to drive and requires an average of 10.5L unleaded per 100km.
Highway manners follow suit with a subtle suspension setup and plenty of power reserves for overtaking, while cornering and body lean stay within acceptable margins. The same goes for the big Vitara’s behaviour around town, the predictable handling will alert your common sense way before the ABS (on four discs), EBD, ESP or airbags have to be deployed.
But wait… you guessed it, there’s more. In proximity of the climate control you shall stumble upon a knob for the all wheel drive system. This item gives you the options of chucking the transfer case into Neutral, 4 High, 4 High Lock (engaging the central differential) and 4 Low Lock for when your passenger mutters “we won’t make that!”
I didn’t trouble the Grand Vitara V6 with too much rough stuff, but no thanks to its short front overhang little Suzi got further than I (or my passenger of little faith) expected. The transfer case takes a while to engage lock and low-range functions, some of which require a full stop to select.
Combined with a lively V6 and automatic gears, the Grand Vitara with its big 225/60R18 tyres on shiny rims delivers good off-road competence with superb on-road manners and a luxurious interior. The only complaints I could come up with were the inverted Asian indicator / wiper arrangement and the, um, that’s all I can think of.
I loved the Xenon lights, the sunroof, the light steering and pedal feel, the old-school spare wheel on the rear door, the seats, pretty much the whole car. The Grand Vitara V6 Automatic costs a competitive N$377 900 and comes with a 3 year warranty and 6 year 90 000km service plan. And that’s even more relaxing.