Suzuki Car & SUV – Page 8

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Suzuki Grand Vitara Ltd 2008 Review

January 1st, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

It was in the paper recently that Australians are being encouraged to eat camel meat. From an initial 6000 that originally trekked the north-south route through Australia in the late 19th Century, and helped build Australia’s great railway, the Ghan, the population has swelled to between 700,000 and a million those camels sure like getting it ‘on’ in the stinking hot weather more than us humans do.

And to a chorus of ‘speak for yourself’ I proffer my next astute observation: if each camel is holding an average of 100 litres of water in its body (they’re known to drink up to 70 litres at a time and that’s all stored in the blood, not the hump as some people believe), that’s 100,000,000 litres of water walking around in belching, flatulating quadrupeds. That sounds like a huge amount, and it is it’s 40 Olympic swimming pools’ worth a small lake!

Why am I telling you this? Suzuki flew a batch of us journalists out to Ayers Rock and the surrounds to sample the new Grand Vitara in something a bit more challenging than the traffic-calming chicanes of Grey Lynn. It was a choking haze of red dust kicked up by our convoy of Grand Vitaras that concealed frequent salvos of cunningly place ruts in the arid landscape.

Add into the mix a landscape that doesn’t vary significantly for several hundred kilometres, spattered with termite mounds and prickly Spinifex grass, it is anything but lush, the vegetation grasping for life and sipping through a very narrow straw.

Life’s tough in the outback, and therefore a good metaphor for the Grand Vitara. It is undoubtedly better than the previous model especially the longer wheelbase version that’s our current test car. I drove all the models on some moderately challenging terrain.

Only once did it fail to get up a slope, and that was on road tyres with an angle that made me think twice about attempting it.

But it’s not the ruggedness that will appeal to most Grand Vitara purchasers it’s the comfort levels, fuel economy and safety. Fortunately these have also been improved. The new Vitara drives more like a car not quite like a car, but not far off. This means it’s more stable through the corners, and the short wheelbase version doesn’t pitch so much on bumpy roads.

The five-door long wheelbase version (like our test car), is the one to go for, though, with the 2.4-litre VVT four-cylinder engine. It’s gruntier than the previous car, shovelling 122kW of power through all four wheels. This new engine is mated to the four-speed automatic gearbox from the previous model. The engine range is said by Suzuki to be quieter than before, with the V6 showing a 2dB reduction in volume.

Suzuki will tell you it’s significant, but 3dB is considered the threshold at which people notice a change in volume, so it’s probably only significant over very long journeys where noise fatigue would become an issue.

Electronic stability control is standard, as is six airbags, ventilated disk brakes all round, and cruise control. A useful function (which also makes the Grand Vitara a proper four-wheel drive) is the locking differential and low-range ratios so you can really get axle deep in the sand. The V6 Ltd top-of-the-range model also features a hill descent mode, which we put to good use on a steep off-road track in the outback.

Passengers are accommodated nicely. There’s enough room for five people without too much problem, and a substantial boot which also features a marsupial-like hidden pouch in the floor so that you can put items like a laptop out of view.

This 2.4-litre Ltd version gets leather trim, a sunroof, mirror-mounted side indicators and a seven-speaker (plus subwoofer) sound system. In the hot desert sun, you’ll welcome the climate control air conditioning. The information display has been moved from the centre console into the instrument cluster – making it easier to keep an eye on instantaneous fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, driving range, temperature, trip meters or average speed – and freeing up some room in the dash for a centre speaker

Where the long wheelbase model excels is over the rutted roads. At one point, on an unrestricted road, we were going one hundred. Miles per hour. The Grand Vitara felt almost like Luke Skywalker’s Land Speeder in the arid Tatooine gliding unflustered over the corrugations.

Fortunately there were no Womp Rats to worry about (Star Wars in-joke), and we just had to pay attention for kangaroos, and the aforementioned camels.

Except that in my whole time there, and despite taking a helicopter trip and keeping my eyes metaphorically peeled, I did not see one camel. I consoled myself with the fact that the Grand Vitara is an enjoyable drive, even on less-than-ideal roads, and that despite my disappointment, I wouldn’t get the hump.

Suzuki pretty much initiated the compact SUV segment, but it now has to contend with the likes of Honda’s CR-V and Toyota’s RAV4, both of which are excellent competitors. With a slightly better price and a good specification, Suzuki is proving it offers the value for money required in today’s market.

Click through to the next page to read the full specifications of the Suzuki Grand Vitara range.

Price . $40,400 (2.4-litre Ltd)

What we like

At this price, it’s great value

It’s better than the previous model

What we don’t like

Still a bit of body roll

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