A Grand SUV - Plain and Simple
() - February 24, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With the introduction of newer, flashier and more stylish sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in the market, many buyers are swayed by their good looks that it’s easy to forget what these vehicles were originally intended for. Initially designed for sporty driving on less-than-ideal terrain and with enough space for utilitarian functions like carrying some cargo, SUVs are now being driven as glorified family wagons with higher ground clearances.

Suzuki has not forgotten the ideal traits of a true SUV whether for on-road or off-road use and their work is showcased in the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4L 4X2.

Macho Sport Utility Vehicle

Suzuki Philippines carved its automotive reputation in the country as the builder of compact “macho” vehicles – witness the Suzuki Samurai, Jimny and the first-generation Vitara – go-anywhere compact SUVs that are loved by Filipino off-road enthusiasts and adventurous city dwellers alike for its mule-like terrain capability, its rugged simplicity, truck-like hauling ability and its affordable pricing structure.

While the Samurai, Jimny and early Vitara were utilitarian 4x4 go-anywhere trekkers, the new Grand Vitara 4X2 is a more up-scale road version that is comfortable and modern yet as utilitarian and rugged as its older brethren. Power comes from a strong yet economical 2,393cc inline four-cylinder engine equipped with multi-point electronic fuel injected (MPI), 16-valves, double overhead camshafts (DOHC) and Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and pumps out 164bhp at 6,000 rpm and 225Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Mated to a 4-speed automatic, the power train equips the Grand Vitara with enough oomph to overtake traffic on any road surface while giving it more than adequate muscle to thread on rough roads at a comfortable clip.

Grand Scheme of Things

The monoque body of this Suzuki SUV is anchored on a built-in ladder frame for increased rigidity and durability to enhance on- and off-road performance. A stylish set of four five-spoke 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with meaty 225/65R17 tires transfer the driver’s intentions to the ground while anti-lock braking system (ABS)-equipped ventilated disc brakes on all four corners ensure that this Grand Vitara stays grand in any kind of emergency braking situation.

Inside, the Grand Vitara stays true to its grand scheme of things as it pampers its occupants with generous and ergonomic seating with 60/40 rear bench split, a fully automatic climate control system and a superb audio entertainment system. The driver faces an ergonomic cockpit highlighted by a thick-grip three-spoke steering wheel with built-in stereo controls, a trio of highly legible gauges (tachometer, speedometer/odometer/trip meter, and fuel/temperature gauges/transmission indicator) and a slick lever for the 4-speed manu-matic transmission.

Driving around the Metro

We spent a weekend driving the Suzuki Grand Vitara 2.4L 4X2 to various destinations in and around Metro Manila and we loved it. Despite the blistering 36-degree Celsius outside especially during the hot and sunny afternoons, we were chilling at around 24-degrees inside the Suzuki while enjoying our favorite music. Because the Sunday traffic was unusually crowded due to the twin celebrations of the Chinese Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day, we were not able to explore its top speed potential or its ABS prowess but we were able to sample its satisfying torque-filled acceleration during overtaking situations, especially while getting ahead of undecided love-struck couples driving in circles.

Likewise, the Suzuki’s 17-inch tires gave a supple ride and confidence-inspiring road handling especially during dodging maneuvers around those said star-struck lovers while the Grand Vitara’s utilitarian functions weren’t lost as we hauled some plants and niceties with its rear seats folded down.

Grand, Grand Drive

Of course, as a 4X2, our test Grand Vitara was designed more for the road than for the boondocks – Suzuki intentionally left that off-road exploratory function for the 4X4 version. We kept our P1.27M test vehicle’s Pearl White paint job spotlessly clean and elegant, drove it around exclusively on the tarmac, and treated it like – ouch, dare I say it – a glorified family wagon.

The inner off-road enthusiast in me knows better than to treat this tough and capable “macho” Suzuki like a glorified family wagon. But even if I drove it the way I did, the Grand Vitara 2.4L 4X2 proved that it was – plain and simple – a highly-capable and luxurious sport utility vehicle. And what a grand, grand ride it was.

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