Every year, our job requires us to cover a series of regional, national and international auto shows. That’s where we learn about new developments in the field, get the latest industry news and pick up all kinds of information, which ranges from handy to downright funny. This year, I travelled from show to show in a Grand Vitara that we’ve been testing since last fall.
After making a number of fairly major changes this year to its popular SUV, Suzuki lent us a 2009 Grand Vitara for several months so that we could use it in our daily lives and thus evaluate it properly.
Making your way from auto show to auto show means a lot of time spent on the road, and it falls during the least driving-friendly season. In just three months, we put 10,000 kilometres on the Grand Vitara as we zig-zagged between Detroit, Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and Quebec City.
8-10 hours behind the wheel without a hitch
I’ll cut to the chase: this little SUV surprised us. Even though it’s not the most refined vehicle in the world, it offers excellent comfort – ideal for covering long distances. Thanks to the firm seats that hug your body and the excellent driving position, it’s possible to drive it for hours without getting tired. Several mechanical elements also help make long drives that much better.
On the highway, the Grand Vitara proved agile, demonstrating good stability and excellent handling. In fact, out of all the compact SUVs out there, it’s probably one of the easiest to manoeuvre considering that it was able to weave through the city like a pro. Plus, whenever we were hit with snow storms (pretty much everywhere we went), the Grand Vitara didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, making its winter aptitudes abundantly clear. With fairly high ground clearance and highly effective 4WD, it was up to the task in even the worst conditions. It even came to the rescue of a Pontiac Torrent that simply couldn’t face the fierce wind and snow on its own.
Kudos to the tires
There’s no denying it, the vehicle’s Pirelli Scorpion tires did a lot to enhance its performance. While a little noisier that the Michelin X-Ice2 tires (which we also tried on this vehicle), the Pirelli Scorpions proved their skills on both icy and snowy surfaces.
Equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission and a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine, the Grand Vitara was the subject of a lot of questions from our readers. The truth is that Suzuki decided to offer this version to reduce its fuel consumption, which was high in the past due to an ageing V6.
One thirsty machine
Developing 166 hp, this engine handles the vehicle’s weight marvellously, which means it can go from 0-100 km/h in less than 10 seconds. The automatic transmission is equally efficient, though it sometimes hesitates in city driving. One thing I have to mention, however, is that Suzuki was not quite successful in lowering the Grand Vitara’s fuel consumption. A reasonable average should have fallen between 10-11 L/100 km, but we recorded much higher figures.
Our Grand Vitara averaged at 12.66 L/100 km, despite the fact that we drove it primarily on the highway. Once this vehicle goes beyond the 110 km/h mark, it starts guzzling astounding quantities of gas, mostly due to the final gear ratio in fifth. While I’ll admit this may be a good reason to stay within the speed limit, this vehicle is simply not an economical choice for everyday driving. It’s really a pity, since that’s precisely why Suzuki lent it to us.
Spring around the corner
As March draws to a close, we’re counting the days till spring is officially here. Once it is, we’ll be able to assess how the Grand Vitara performs in milder weather, giving us a more complete appreciation for the vehicle. After all, even though we concluded it handled superbly in the cold and snow, who doesn’t look forward to seeing it all melt away and hearing the birds come out?