Not only does it offer 4×4, it comes with a full on low range option. Obviously if one is going to pay the extra for the ability it makes sense to use it.
In fact, if you are not up for some off roading it really is a waste to buy a 4×4, not only because the vehicle costs more up front, but even modern 4×4 systems add significant weight and drag across the transmission. This can be mitigated a bit in vehicles which offer a 4×2 mode, but in any configuration a 4×4 will burn more fuel even under normal road conditions than a conventional two-wheel-drive setup.
Our long-term Grand Vitara is the entry level Dune derivative and it was a dune I sought.
The closest I could find was a dried out dam, courtesy of the crippling drought in the North West Province.
The Grand Vitara 2.4 models feature a four-cylinder, 2 393 cc powerplant with twin overhead camshafts and VVT variable valve timing, they produce 122 kW of maximum power at 6 000 rpm. The torque peak of 225 Nm is achieved at 4 000 rpm and in our vehicle there is a five-speed manual transmission.
This meant that, in low range particularly, it was possible to rev a little high searching for torque and break traction on the tyres. But with a little practice a gentler foot meant that obstacles could be approached and negotiated fairly easily.
A 200 mm ground clearance is adequate as the Grand Vitara is a compact SUV riding on a modest wheelbase so the breakover angle is not bad. Although the front and rear overhangs are reasonably short, our vehicle is fitted with a towbar which eats into the departure angle significantly as it must clear the tailgate-mounted full size alloy spare wheel.
It can be removed quite easily and this would be adviseable when doing any serious rock climbing.
The Grand Vitara has a rugged integrated ladder frame monocoque chassis, and traverses uneven cross-axle inducing terrain without leaving the driver fearing for the car. Standard on the Dune are 17-inch alloy wheels, and these offered reasonably good grip on what was quite soft and slippery sand, especially considering they are heavily road biased.
The system employs a torque-sensing centre differential that can vary power between the front and rear axles depending on road conditions and driving style. For more challenging terrain, the centre differential can be locked to further boost traction and stability.
The suspension is by way of front MacPherson strut with coil springs and anti-roll bar, coupled to a multi-link rear system. It provided all the articulation for my excursion and made for an extremely comfortable ride.
This is a major consideration when buying a family 4×4. The wife and kids will not thank you for a bone-jarring afternoon of off roading just because you bought a 4×4 that was far harder than was necessary.
However, my afternoon of fun by no means exhausted the Grand Vitara’s capabilities. I am hoping for some much needed rain so that I can have a really dirty weekend.
Prices include a three-year/100 000 kilometre warranty and a six-year/90 000 kilometre service plan.