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Car reviews - Suzuki - Grand Vitara - range

Launch Story

Suzuki logo5 Sep 2005

By MARTON PETTENDY

SUZUKI'S third-generation Grand Vitara four-wheel drive wagon has arrived Down Under, brandishing improved space, safety and quality, plus better on-road behaviour and new V6 firepower.

On sale from September 7, the all-new compact off-roader is priced from $23,990 in 1.6-litre three-door guise, while five-door manual variants will cost $28,990 (2.0-litre) and $30,990 (2.7-litre V6).

Featuring a monocoque body mated to a ladder chassis, the all-new Grand Vitara is substantially longer and wider than the current model and boasts 40mm-wider front and 60mm-wider rear wheel tracks, plus 29-degree approach and 27-degree departure angles.

Wheelbase is up 160mm on the five-door, while 2.0 and 2.7-litre variants of Grand Vitara III offer switchable "on the fly" 4WD with low-range gearing, a locking centre differential and a rear-biased all-wheel drive system.

Featuring a short front overhang, flared wheel arches, 16-inch wheels (with 225/70-section tyres), an aerodynamic roofline and a tailgate-mounted spare wheel, Grand Vitara is claimed to combine a sporty and aggressive look with real off-road capability.

Launched in Japan as the Escudo in May, the new Grand bears a striking resemblance to the Concept-X2 show-car that appeared at the New York motor show in April.

Meantime, the X2 borrowed Suzuki's clean new design theme from the Detroit auto show's Concept-X in January, which previewed Suzuki's next-generation XL-7 large 4WD.

In Australia, the new Grand Vitara replaces the model sold here since April 1998. It was developed at the joint GM/Suzuki centre in Canada.

Like the strong-selling Swift compact hatch launched earlier this year, the new Grand is expected to play a pivotal role in Suzuki Australia's ambitions to double local sales within the next three years.

All variants use independent front and rear suspension (comprising MacPherson struts up front and a new multi-link rear suspension), rack-and-pinion steering, ventilated front disc brakes, drum rear brakes and a limited-slip differential.

Exclusive to the three-door entry variant - and mated exclusively to a five-speed manual transmission - is a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that employs variable valve timing to produce 78kW of power at 6000rpm.

Weighing 1385kg and offering a 160km/h top speed, the Grand Vitara 1.6 - in a Suzuki first - drives through a permanent, single-mode high-ratio AWD system and returns a claimed 9.0L/100km combined average fuel consumption figure.

Suzuki also claims Grand Vitara offers a standard equipment list which is unrivalled in its class, including an AM/FM/CD audio system (with steering wheel controls), remote central locking, power windows/mirrors, a fuel consumption meter and climate-control air-conditioning.

A comprehensive safety package includes anti-lock brakes (with electronic brake-force distribution), twin front airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners and force-limiters, and five threepoint seatbelts.

Suzuki says the new Grand Vitara's "built-in ladder frame" chassis directs impact energy away from the cabin in the event of an accident.

The company also claims the new Grand Vitara's larger and wider interior offers more space than top-selling compact 4WDs like Toyota's RAV4 and Nissan's X-Trail.

It says the rear seats, while accommodating three adults in comfort, can also be folded quickly and easily to produce a flat load surface.

The entry-level five-door Grand Vitara is powered by a 107kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, while the 2.7-litre V6 flagship delivers 138kW at 6000rpm.

The 2.0 and 2.7-litre five-door variants are heavier than the single-mode AWD-equipped 1.6-litre three-door at 1520kg (1535kg auto) and 1595kg (1640kg auto) respectively.

The 2.0 manual claims a 175km/h top speed (170km/h auto), while both V6 variants claim a 180km/h top speed. The 2.0 returns a claimed 9.2L/100km (10.1 auto) on the combined average fuel consumption cycle, while the 2.7 returns 11.1L/100km (11.6 auto).

Both five-door models are available with a five-speed automatic transmission (adding $2000 to the five-speed manual price) and come standard with a four-mode 4x4 system operated via a dash-mounted switch.

Modes include four-wheel high-range (4H), four-wheel locked centre differential (4H Lock) and 4L Lock, which engages the lower ratio in the transfer case.

The Grand Vitara three-door 1.6 offers front and rear overhead lighting, sun visors with vanity mirrors, a day/night rear-view mirror, front and rear cup-holders, front bottle holders, fabric seat trim, a driver's footrest, a 50/50-split tumble-fold rear seat, interior grabrails, a passenger seatback map pocket, and three 12-volt power outlets.

The 2.0 variant adds a driver's side map pocket, driver's seat height adjustment, luggage compartment trim, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat and a centre rear armrest, while the 2.7 adds courtesy lights.

Similarly, standard exterior features on the 1.6 include body-coloured mirrors and bumpers, variable intermittent wipers, roof rails, black doorhandles and a spare tyre halfcover with Suzuki logo.

While the 2.0 adds halogen projector headlights, body-coloured doorhandles and a fullsize spare wheel cover, the 2.7 offers the option of alloy wheels.

In Japan, the Escudo is available with six airbags, heated seats and switchable ESP stability control, but there is no sign of such luxuries on Australian models.

Suzuki Australia may also look at including Europe's 1.9-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, though a soft-top version of the three-door is more likely to surface here first.

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