|  First Published: December 2010

I’ve test driven a few Suzuki Grand Vitara 4WD, but not one that was fitted with a tow bar. Therefore I jumped at the opportunity to hook up the TABS 4.2 Bullshark with its 25hp power trim and tilt Evinrude E-Tec on the transom to really see what this vehicle could handle.

The compact 4X4 Suzuki Grand Vitara is an extremely popular recreational vehicle as it has great driveability mated to a true 4WD/low range capability, which sees the GV getting along a beach or well off the beaten track without difficulty.

The tow bar equipped five door Grand Vitara has a 750kg unbraked trailer towing rating. The vehicle came with all bells and whistles in Prestige specifications – leather seating, power everything and a five speed auto shifter. Its 3.2L petrol V6 churns out 165kW of power and has 284Nm of torque, which is more than sufficient to tow the TABS 4.2 Bullshark combination 320kg hull and 80kg+ trailer.

Destination was selected as Borumba Dam, home of the mighty southern saratoga, for a two day camping trip. The first job was to lay the rear seats of the Grand Vitara forward and down and start packing in the gear: Tent and over fly, poles, chairs, table, ice box, fishing tackle, bedding and air mattress, food boxes.

With the rear of the Suzuki full, the boat was hitched up and we headed off into Friday afternoon peak hour traffic from our home on the south side of the city.

Right from the outset I was impressed with the power of the V6 engine and smooth effortless gear changes from the five speed auto shifter. Driving in that stop/start traffic on the M1 was such a breeze that I was only reminded that we were towing a boat when I glanced in the rear view mirror. And it seemed to have just as much get up and go as any previous occasion I had driven it, such was the easy power of the willing 3.2L petrol V6 with its variable valve timing.

There’s more to towing a boat than just powering along the highway of course and as alert drivers we need to be aware of our immediate circumstances. Accordingly, the wide external rear view mirrors and well placed interior rear view mirror of the Grand Vitara – even with a good load of camping gear in the rear – allowed me to monitor other vehicles with ease and in complete safety.

Naturally fuel consumption suffers when one hooks up a boat and I was keen to see how the load at the rear of the Grand Vitara would effect the fuel economy that I’d previously recorded of around 10.5-11.5L per 100km with a vehicle carrying only camping gear plus two passengers.

I expected the V6 would be making strong demands for fuel but the reality was 12.1-12.6L per 100km when cruising at posted speed limits on the M1 and to and from the back road into Borumba Dam via Imbil. I consider that very reasonable but not so surprising when the fuel usage monitor on the Grand Vitara’s dash showed a moderate usage of around 10L per 100km when driving gently on level surfaces.

One thing of note was the way the vehicle handled a rough section of road under repair between the Bruce Highway and Imbil. In standard 4WD mode (with power transmitted to all four wheels) the Grand Vitara slipped along very easily despite corrugations and the occasional pot hole thrown into the mix. I could feel the boat on the tow bar but the car did not go the slightest bit off line, such was the sure footedness of the Suzuki Stability Control System that was engaged at the time.

At the fairly steep Borumba Dam boat ramp the next morning two things were outstanding: Firstly, when reversing down the ramp the excellent seat height of the Suzuki allowed me very easy rearwards vision, something not always the case with today’s 4WDs; Secondly, I saw no need to move the dash mounted selector from normal 4H to 4 Lock when it was time to retrieve the boat after a fishing session. 4 Lock would have engaged all wheels into serious four wheel drive mode for extra traction but I found the automatic shifter simply allowed me to drive straight away from the ramp without the slightest bit of wheel spin or slippage.

In all, a great drive and a great towing vehicle for a mid-sized tinny. The Prestige Grand Vitara comes with climate control air conditioning with pollen filter, cruise control, all electric operation of windows and mirrors, steering wheel controls for the audio system, keyless entry and start up, dual front side and curtain air bags, Electronic Stability Program with traction control, and so many other features.

Cost of the Grand Vitara as reviewed is around $40,990.

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