Saturday, February 28, 2004

The Grand Vitara has more to it than looks
H. Kishie Singh

The performance of Grand Vitara promises to match its looks
The performance of Grand Vitara promises to match its looks 

THE New Year has certainly lifted the curtain on SUVs for the off-roader fan in the country. Maruti has brought in the Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7. "You can go a lot of places on good looks alone," claims Suzuki. And, the Grand Vitara does have looks. The front end has been completely redone. The three gaping longitudinal vents that are the radiator grill support a bold ĎSí badge. The front end of the bonnet shapes smoothly to the lower end of the windscreen, which does not have much of a rake. The effect, is that the XL-7 has a presence on the road. The head -on look is further enhanced by the fact that the number plate blends into the bumper. It does not mar the looks or jar the eye as in some cars. The aggressive look of the bumper adds to the head-on view.

Nestled next to the radiator grill, on either side are clear headlights. There is a small light set in a corner. Fog lamps are not standard.

Under the bonnet lurks a beast: a 24 valve, V-6 D.O.H.C petrol engine, of 2.7 litre capacity. It pumps out a wallop of 166 b.h. p at 6000 r.p.m. With this power, Suzuki can well claim where looks wonít work, weíve got four-wheel drive!

The engine also features a direct drive valvetrain (DDV), a zero-maintenance timing chain thatís more durable than belts. It consists of dual overhead cams (DOHC), driven by self-adjusting chains. They run in a continuous oil bath and never need maintenance. The engine rests on specially tuned hydraulic mounts that help reduce vibration and noise. The interior is very silent.

With a ground clearance of 183 mm this would be the go-anywhere machine. Interior comfort in the Grand Vitara comes by the tonnes. It has power steering with tilt facility, power windows, central locking and the height of the driverís seat is adjustable. It has enough storage space for a whole familyís needs. Cubby holes, drawer pockets in the floor, in arm rests and in the roof. It has coat hooks, seven-cup holders for itís a seven-seater. Besides a child-restraint system and a music system, it has a micron air filtration system which keeps out dust and pollen. This could be a boon to people with allergies.

The instrument panel has electro-luminescent dials. They give the driver a very clear reading. The seats fold down to provide enormous space. The middle row is split. The third seat is for children.

The thing that really matters is the drive select 4X4 system. Up front the vehicle has independent MacPherson struts and a solid axle at the rear which is healed by a five-link rigid suspension with coil springs. Huge 235X60 R 16 tyres on ten spoke mag wheels give the S.U.V a solid and meaty look. It comes with ventilated discs on the front wheels drums at the rear. A very important safety feature with the XL-7 is the 4-wheel ABS-anti lock system for the brakes. Simply put, your brakes wonít lock up in a panic braking situation. Locked brakes will send a car into a skid. This is a big help on wet roads or off-road.

Safety has been increased by advanced occupant protection. The ladder frame chassis is fully boxed with built-in crumple zones at the front and rear. They act like buffers. They deform in a progressive manner to absorb and dissipate impact energy and reduce the crash force. The doors have built-in side impact beams. The A, B, C pillars are made from high-tensile-strength steel to form a strong cage for the occupants.

The price in Chandigarh would be about Rs 17.5 lakh.

Happy motoring.

This feature was published on February 21, 2004