|  First Published: February 2009

Upgraded in mid 2008 the Suzuki Grand Vitara is now slightly different in styling with redesigned grille and front bumper plus changes to the dash panel. A tad longer, more power under the bonnet, and now available in both 3 and 5 door models with engine choices ranging from 2.4L four cylinder or 3.2L quad cam V6 through to the diesel with it's 1.9L four cylinder power plant.

The top of the range model is the premium, five door, Grand Vitara Prestige. The reviewed model was powered by a 3.2L V6 automatic engine.

The 2.4L engine is also available in the Prestige. Interestingly, road tests have confirmed that these engine changes affording increased power and also have increased fuel economy due, which is a significant factor these days.

Luxury all round

The Prestige label ensures that drivers of the Grand Vitara are going to be seriously pampered. Despite being a compact 4WD the Grand Vitara five door offers plenty of interior room to both front and rear seat passengers with luggage space in the rear, which can be enhanced via a 60/40 split fold system.

There are a number of high standard features which start at the door and continue to the sun roof overhead. Suzuki have cleverly applied a lot of subtle but important touches to their latest Grand Vitara Prestige. Keyless entry is just one feature. At the touch of a door handle the chosen door unlocks, another touch will see all doors unlocked thanks to the transponder in the driver’s pocket. The car also has keyless start all the driver has to do is turn the switch.

Both driver and passengers are treated to leather seating and all major controls are electrically controlled via a push button system. Secondary safety is enhanced with no less than six airbags. The very efficient pollen filter climate control air conditioning system (standard across the entire Grand Vitara range) is regulated via a dial in the dash unit.

Also within the dash unit is an easily monitored multi function information centre which can relay information such as current fuel consumption and distance available as per remaining fuel. The test car returned between 10.8 and 11.6L per 100km in mixed city and highway driving.

There's also a top shelf audio system featuring an in-dash six CD stacker plus an FM radio which are played though a seven speaker sound system. MP3 capability is standard, as is steering wheel controls for the sound system.

Silent ride

The Grand Vitara is a very quiet car thanks to efficient sound deadening systems and a very tight body. On the road the Grand Vitara drove more like a luxury sedan than a 4WD with true low range capability. There were no major intrusive sounds other than some tyre noise on certain surfaces, minimal body roll thanks to the strong ladder frame chassis and certainly no bumps or thumps from the well engineered fully independent Suzuki suspension.

There's a high level of willingness from the 3.2L V6 engine with it's variable valve timing (which produces 165kW of power and up to 284Nm of torque). The vehicle cruised at just over 2000rpm at 110 km/h on the M1 and easily held it's own in city traffic thanks to effortless but almost imperceptible changes from the four speed automatic unit.

On the highway with cruise control engaged the driver can enjoy the high driving position and ambience of the leather interior. Once off the road and into places where low range might be needed the Suzuki's ample ground clearance and decent approach and departure angles will see it going places where soft roader pretenders cannot dare venture.

Options for off road work include standard all wheel drive, all wheel drive with central differential locked or low range with the diff locked. All functions are controlled via a central in-dash dial.

Safety features are plentiful in the Grand Vitara Prestige with standard ventilated rear discs on all models. The GV Prestige also includes Hill Descent Control and a Hill Hold function. HDC limits the downhill runaway of an auto to 9km/h in high range and 5km/h in low range.

Also standard are ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution, Brake Assist system, Vehicle Stability control (ESP) and traction control. I might add that the Suzuki Grand Vitara Prestige is equipped with some of the best headlights in the business in the form of brilliant High Intensity Discharge lights.

More fruit

At the rear within the cargo area there are hidden storage areas for important possessions with access gained after lifting a floor panel. A full sized spare is also standard - something that is not always seen today.

Secondary safety systems include six air bags and side turn indicators, which are mounted on the large side mirrors. Towing capacity is 750kg for an unbraked trailer, 2000 kg for a braked model.

In all the Grand Vitara Prestige does take the Grand Vitara range to another level and packs a lot of punch for it's size. It costs around the $40,000 mark.

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