Suzuki's Grand Vitara offers a blend of great road handling with excellent off-road capability. And make no mistake, this is no cross over or SUV style vehicle, the Grand Vitara has that extra set of low range gears that separates the men from the boys in the motorcar world.
While the Grand Vitara features 4WD at all times, a dash mounted switch linked to a centre differential enables the driver to remain in 4WD High for most driving situations. From here you can select 4WD High Lock for serious off-road driving or Low Range for the ultimate in traction.
In size the Grand Vitara remains a compact vehicle at a time when most other models are doubling in size. The Grand Vitara is unashamedly compact yet offers ample interior room for up to five occupants to be seated in quite luxurious surroundings in the Prestige model. Three large adults might find things a bit tight in the rear seat.
Inside the Grand Vitara there is soft leather trim, discreet wood grain sections on doors and dash, front side and curtain air bags, plus a 6-stack, in-dash CD/MP3 linked to seven speakers. The controls are all on the wheel. Those who suffer from hay fever will appreciate the pollen filters within the climate control air conditioning system.
All major functions are electrically controlled which includes the optional sunroof in the Prestige model.
The exterior of the sleek Grand Vitara Prestige features eye catching styling that is modern without being too flamboyant.
The Prestige marque benefits from fog lamps within the bumper as well as the very handy one touch entry system that allows you to approach the car with a big load of groceries in the arms and just by touching the button on the door handle the vehicle totally unlocks for loading. And once inside the vehicle there's still no need to dig around for the key, so long as the Suzuki's transponder is in your pocket a dash switch will kick the engine into life.
Entry is easy thanks to generous sized doors and most folk will find the Grand Vitara's boot is large enough to hold a fair amount of camping or fishing gear. With the rear split fold seat tumbled forward the size increases two fold. Within the boot there's a carpeted underfloor storage compartment, a mid-shelf plus pull down blinds for keeping important items away from prying eyes.
Driving the Grand Vitara is to appreciate refinement, performance, handling and quality in the one package. Doors shut discreetly, the engine is virtually noiseless unless pushed very hard, ergonomics are spot on within the cabin and the handling and general feel are typical Suzuki: a mix of balance and good manners in the one package. It was a pleasure to look down onto the road, instead of down onto the bonnet as one does with some of today's 4WDs.
The Prestige is equipped with a 5-speed auto linked to a very smooth 2.7L V6 engine that develops 135kW of power and 250Nm of torque. The 24-valve fuel injected engine is an ideal match for the 5-speed auto unit of the Prestige and seamless gear changes are the norm. I found the 2.7L petrol engine to be unobtrusive yet capable of delivering plenty of power if required. I'd see the Suzuki towing a tinny or smaller fibreglass boat with ease as it is rated for 750kg un-braked and 1850 braked trailers.
Overall, the Prestige's ride was quite car-like thanks to McPherson struts up front and a multi-link set-up in the rear, both combining to iron out bumps and thumps.
I was naturally curious to see what sort of fuel consumption the 2.7L V6 would return given its performance. A mix of city and country driving returned figures of 11.8L per 100km which is not far above Suzuki's claimed 11.6L per 100km. Based on that consumption the 66L fuel tank should offer a touring range of around 500km, depending on just how much fun your having driving. Cruise control is standard, of course.
The Grand Vitara comes with Electronic Stability Program, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and SRS front dual air bags as well as side and curtain air bags.
Off the beaten track the Grand Vitara performs well. There's adequate wheel travel, a 29-degree approach angle, 27-departure angle and 200mm ground clearance. The low range is there for back up traction giving the vehicle a good degree of off-road capability, which it great for beach runs, or hauling the boat up steep boat ramps.
Best of all is the price. You can drive the Prestige out of the showroom for around $40,387.Reads: 3684