The Grand option
Suzuki’s Grand Vitara has seen some action over the years, and is one of the older 4×4 kids on this block. Still, in a tough 4×4 scrap, a GV is more than just handy…
Claim to fame: Clint Eastwood started his acting career as probably the world’s most recognizable cowboy. Later his ‘tough man’ image was further enhanced by the Dirty Harry franchise. More recently, the well-weathered Eastwood has been directing award-winning films such as American Sniper. He’s no longer a handsome young gunslinger but he’s still a true action legend.
Great quote: “You’ve got to ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
It was 1988 when Japanese automaker Suzuki first introduced its Vitara 4×4 model. Sold in countries all around the world, the Suzuki had no less than 10 different brand engineered names. These included Asuna Sunrunner, Chevrolet Tracker, Chevrolet Vitara, Geo Tracker, GMC Tracker, Mazda Proceed Levante, Pontiac Sunrunner and Santana 350.
Ten years later, the Grand Vitara nomenclature was introduced, and the model you see on these pages made its debut in 2005. The current Grand Vitara is no spring chicken anymore, and compared to some of its newer rivals, the GV’s age is definitely showing. But just like Clint Eastwood, the GV has aged reasonably well, and it’s more capable in the 4×4 department than 90% of other small SUVs.
The 2.4-litre Grand Vitara Summit AT features permanent 4WD and has a transfer case and traction control, so in a tough 4×4 environment it is surprisingly capable. The only limiting factor is really the ground clearance in stock standard form – for very serious obstacles you need a few more millimetres of clearance if you don’t want to damage your GV. That said, the Suzuki was quite at home on the rocky Riemvasmaak trail.
On the Kalahari sand, the little Suzuki was equally impressive. The four-cylinder petrol engine delivers 122kW and 225Nm of torque, the latter peaking at a high 4 000r/min. So the 16-valve, variable valve timing engine needs some revs to operate at its peak… but with a driver who is not scared of chasing the red line, the GV is more than capable on the sand. Mind you, the 1 670kg kerb weight also helps in this department.
The cabin is a bit like Clint, too: uncomplicated and straightforward. All the basic luxuries are there, but the vehicle is not dollied up in fancy thrills and spills. It’s all simplistic, yet very effective.
Lastly there’s the price. Selling for just under R450 000, the top dog Grand Vitara undercuts a lot of other compact SUVs that are far less capable off the beaten track. So if you’re after a compact SUV that can do 4×4, the Grand Vitara should, at the very least, be on your test drive list, too.
It’s tough and simplistic. And it’s also a pretty smart option in its segment.
Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4 Summit AT
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Four-speed auto
4WD System: Permanent 4WD (4H, 4H Lock, 4LOW)
Traction Aids: Traction control
Ground Clearance: 200mm
Price: R447 900