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First drive: Suzuki improves its Grand Vitara breed

Grander Vitara: Suzuki's compact SUV scores new 2.4 and 3.2-litre engines.

Suzuki's honest little off-roader scors more power, safety and refinement

28 Aug 2008

THE Suzuki Grand Vitara has just been given its first significant makeover since it arrived here in third-generation guise in 2005.

Biggest upgrades include a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine – which replaces both 1.6 and 2.0-litre units – and a new 3.2-litre V6 (that replaces the 2.7-litre V6), as well as the standard inclusion of electronic stability and traction control, plus front and rear side airbags across the range.

According to Suzuki general manager Tony Devers, the Grand Vitara continues to be one of few compact SUVs to offer low-range off-road ability.

“No matter how refined the styling or the modifications, the off-road performance cannot be allowed to suffer and that is the essence of the Grand Vitara,” Mr Devers said at the vehicle’s launch in Alice Springs this week.

The market for such vehicles has waned since the 1995 introduction of the Toyota RAV4 five-door. The lead Suzuki held with Vitara and Grand Vitara was eroded by more car-like compact SUVs, such as the RAV4, Subaru Forester, Nissan X-Trail and Honda CR-V, which between them now account for 55.2 per cent of the compact market in year-to-date figures.

The Grand Vitara accounted for just over four per cent for the same period.

That does not mean the dual-range Grand Vitara should not succeed – this vehicle offers arguably the best off-road ability in its class with no small degree of on-road civility and with the new traction control to quell wheelspin off-road, the Grand Vitara could be an off-road force to be reckoned with.

30 center imageNow the entry-level engine for both three-door and five-door variants, the new 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder develops 122kW of power at 6000rpm and 225Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The new engine features variable valve timing (VVT) and has an average fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km (manual), 9.6L/100km (auto) or 9.9L/100km (Prestige five-door auto).

CO2 output ranges from 209g/km for the three-door manual to 234g/km for the five-door auto. The 2.4’s VVT system is helped by variable-length intake runners. Changing the intake runner length in accordance with engine speed improves engine torque.

The 2.4 has a balancer shaft to add to the quiet, smooth ride, while propeller shaft joints have been changed to sliding constant velocity joints for reduced vibration and noise. The 2.4-litre is teamed with a five-speed manual or optional four-speed auto and, like all Grand Vitaras, is equipped with a dual-range full-time 4WD system.

Available in the five-door Prestige model only and paired with a five-speed automatic transmission, the new 3.2-litre V6 also features variable valve timing and produces 165kW at 6200rpm and 284Nm at 3500rpm.

Fuel consumption is quoted at 10.5L/100km and CO2 emissions are 249g/km. The V6’s camshaft has a 50-degree variation – 25 degrees advance and 25 degrees retard – to maximise engine torque and fuel economy.

The V6 also has roller rockers for reduced friction, a new inverted-tooth drive silent timing chain for reduced noise, and a camshaft cover incorporating layer damping for improved refinement.

Connecting rods are manufactured from sinter-forged steel, which Suzuki claims ensures better performance and durability. Upgrades from the old five-speed automatic transmission on the V6 include new shift points, while the coupling ratio has been improved to take advantage of the extra torque for improved efficiency and launch feel.

The 1.9-litre turbo-diesel DDiS engine continues with minor revisions. It has been tuned for better fuel economy – up eight per cent – which is reflected in the ADR economy figure of 7.0L/100km.

The rear drum brakes of the previous model have been replaced with ventilated discs. The five-door models have a claimed two-decibel interior noise level reduction over the outgoing model thanks to improved lower door trim sealing and upgrading the glass in the front doors from 3.5mm thickness to 4mm.

As well as the safety equipment, all models feature climate-control air-conditioning, power windows and remote central locking.

The five-door Grand Vitara adds cruise control, while the new Prestige variant has the following equipment as standard: leather interior, sunroof, mirror-mounted side indicators, a premium seven-speaker (plus subwoofer) sound system and 17-inch alloy wheels. New 18-inch alloy wheels are optional.

The top-of-the-range Prestige V6 adds HID projector headlights (with auto level adjustment, dusk sensor and washers), hill-descent control and hill-hold control, and a six-CD facility.

The front bumper is new, with 30mm extra length to allow for the new, larger V6 engine. There have also been minor cosmetic changes across the range. The front foglights have been repositioned with wider spacing and the grille has a new four-bar design.

Inside, the trip computer display has been moved from the centre dash area to the instrument cluster. The previous readout was frustrating in that it gave instant fuel consumption but not an average figure the new dash-mounted display has the fuel consumption average, driving range, average speed and the instant fuel consumption in front of the driver.

In place of the trip computer on the centre dash, Suzuki has fitted a centre speaker (as part of the Prestige model’s sound system). Every model also comes standard with a revised air-conditioning system, featuring an LCD display and more intuitive controls in the centre stack.

2008 Grand Vitara pricing:
Grand Vitara three-door $24,990
Grand Vitara three-door (a) $26,990
Grand Vitara five-door $29,990
Grand Vitara five-door (a) $31,990
Grand Vitara five-door DDiS $34,990
Grand Vitara five-door Prestige (a) $36,990
Grand Vitara five-door Prestige V6 (a) $39,990

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