Suzuki Vitara Full Hybrid Allgrip

 

I don’t think I have ever witnessed a brand that speaks to its customers in clearer language than Suzuki. It’s an ‘honest brand’ that delivers without fuss. They’re often good value too, as you get a highly comprehensive package of extras for relatively ‘ordinary money’. Look carefully when you are shopping for your next new car and you will find, unlike Suzukis’, the standard price is often devoid of some pretty costly extras from competitor brands.

The Vitara has always been a popular seller; mainly because of its ‘Winner takes all’ package – its stylish, practical, sporty, user friendly, economical and yes…. reliable. To the average eye it hasn’t changed much certainly in terms of looks over the years, but in fact it has; substantially so; we’ve seen various styling and safety upgrades in early 2019, and 2020 saw the spec increased significantly, along with 48V hybrid technology fitted as standard across the model range. Now Suzuki are responding full on to the environmental challenge all manufacturers face by offering the new Vitara with full hybrid technology.

Full Hybrid

You could argue that they are relatively late to the calling, and surely, we should be looking to a Suzuki EV by now?? –  but on that I am not sure I agree; Suzuki’s whole product range (which is what counts the most) is largely ‘economical and environmentally friendly’, and its customers tend to be generally by nature conscious of such issues. The facts are, however, that despite financial incentives and central government directives, we are not all rushing out and buying electric cars until range and charging issues can match them; only 12% of all manufacturer sales in this segment are full electric. The realistic order of the day (for now) for the popular buyer, is hybrid.

That makes the Suzuki full hybrid Vitara a timely introduction. In addition to value and proven credibility it offers lower emissions and better fuel economy, yet costs not a penny more. The technical wizardry of it may not interest you, but it will to know that the new hybrid system has two switchable modes- Eco and Standard – operated via one single switch. In ‘Standard’, especially with Sport engaged on the Auto Gear Shift transmission (we’ll discuss the gearbox later) you can push on at a decent pace with a smile knowing that Eco will take care of less spirited driving and afford you travel via electricity only in slower, built up, and by default ‘smoggier’ areas, where I guess it counts for the most.

This latest Vitara is powered by a normally aspirated 1.5 litre engine, assisted by a 24-kw electric motor, specially engineered by Suzuki for full hybrid application, and is fitted to the two model grades this car is available in; namely the entry level SZ-T, and the all singing and dancing SZ5 driven here with the optional four-wheel drive. (Allgrip) The SZ – T comes with a comprehensive list of standard equipment, including rear parking camera, LED headlights, lane departure warning and prevention, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitor adaptive cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and satellite navigation.

The SZ5 adds 17” polished wheels, panoramic sunroof, suede seat fabric, front and rear parking sensors, and electric folding door mirrors with built in indicator to the equation, plus optional four-wheel drive. Prices range from £23,749- £30,134 for the dual-tone SZ5 Allgrip. 70/80% are likely to purchase on PCP which works out an average £279.0 per month.

In and Out

Inside the car there are no surprises. Entry and exit are easy all round as the car sits high, and a 6-footer is fine upfront with adequate headroom. At the back it’s touch and go comfort-wise if the same 6-footer sits behind someone of similar height, with the rear having just about enough headroom. All round vision from the driver’s side is good too.

The Vitara has been criticised by some for poor quality interior finish, but that has to be your personal call. It’s fair to say that some competitors in the segment offer plusher interiors. The switchgear and dials are clear and easy to operate; with a centrally mounted screen for Sat Nav, ICE, and Apple Car Play. Boot space to my mind is quite adequate, and it helps to have straight easy access of accessible height for luggage with the tail lifted, and the bonus of a removable floor pan for extra depth and /or oddments.

On the outside its familiar Vitara, its designers keen to retain whist update the original lines of the first generation Vitara of 1988. Aerodynamically we have a subtle combination of smooth surfaces, evolved with subtlety into contemporary aerodynamic design.

On the road

The Vitara is instantly ‘driver friendly’ once behind the wheel. This is particularly important for a car in this segment, often driven by multiple members of the family. Ride quality is good and grip levels are high but most importantly, ‘safe’. Yes, there’s traction control of course, but the car’s natural grip levels are high and reassuring. Cabin noise is ‘there’ but not overly intrusive, and steering feel is largely as you get with electronic steering i.e., a little vague, but is low geared enough to be comfortable to most.

The car is fitted with an automated manual gearshift; this has the advantage of being able to be driven like a manual car, but with no manually applied clutch. (known as AutoGear Shift) Suzuki chose this option for its improved CO2 performance (132g/km) and running cost savings, working out on average  £10 per month saving for an average 10,000 miles per year.

Personally, I much prefer this transmission arrangement over a standard automatic, but it’s important to know how to drive it to derive the benefit. If you just stamp on the throttle as you would an ordinary automatic you will find it noisy at high revs in lower gears, and less eager to change up. That’s not the way; regulate the throttle application as if you were working up to a clutch change and you will find natural harmony with the transmission. What I enjoyed most about it was a much more decisive relationship with the throttle (more direct gear control), working a treat when you opt to change manually via the paddle shift. Approach driving the car without understanding how this transmission is best driven and you will not gain the benefit. A heads up to Suzuki sales staff; ‘please explain to customers how this car should be driven, and if necessary ‘demonstrate’. It’s easy when you’re told how, but if you don’t’ know you can’t be blamed.

Verdict

Think about the Vitara as a highly credible small family SUV, tremendously well equipped for standard money, and on maybe its final internal combustion path to completeness.

The full hybrid benefits are obvious, and I recommend you to enjoy the unconventional transmission. Competitors might feel slightly higher quality on the inside, but you need to look at the whole equation. As I say, Suzukis tend to be rather honest cars in that the delivery tends to match the hype.

Kevin Haggarthy

 

The Aston Martin DBS

The Aston Martin DBS will surprise you. It will give you a driving experience you will never have in quite the same way behind the wheel of any other vehicle, including its competitors. For if there was ever an issue about how a brand defines its own DNA and sets itself apart from its contemporaries, simply driving the Aston Martin DBS gives you all the answers.

It is powered by a mighty 5.2 litre V12. This last swan-song of big combustion power produces 715 brake horsepower and 900NM of torque, rocketing this car to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds up to a top speed of 211 miles per hour if you choose.

behind the wheel

Behind the wheel the dash controls are surprisingly user friendly, whilst a little on the dull side to look at for a car costing circa a quarter of a million pounds. In this particular case the deep grey monotone leather dash contrasts well with the red leather inserts of the seats and surrounding walls of the cabin. It makes better sense to look at the interior design ‘as a whole’ rather than simply the dash in order to understand the aesthetic.  Yet in fairness, the dash itself is very well designed, and succeeds in overcoming the challenge all car designers have these days of seeking to incorporate ‘must have’ state of the art modern technology into an operative design that doesn’t require a degree in IT to operate.

Outside of that, there are a couple of occasional rear seats that we proved can hold an average sized adult in the back and a six-footer up front in reasonable comfort for short journeys. There’s enough boot-space for a well packed weekend away for two or three; the third being a small child for distance travelling.

What most of you will want to hear more than all of this is about how the DBS drives. This is our focus, and the experiential journey starts here……….

The DBS Experience

The deeper DBS story begins with the press of a button, nudging the big V 12 to grumble and growl into life. It sounds powerful; well-engineered. It is simply a matter of pressing ‘D’ on the dash to put the new rear mounted 8 speed ZF automatic transmission (aligned to a carbon fibre prop shaft) into ‘drive’, and then if you choose to control gear selection manually, there are steering mounted paddles. There are three driving modes beginning with GT as the default, or at the press of a button there is ‘Sport’ and ‘Sport Plus’

In line with the sporting character of the DBS it will thus stay in manual paddle shift mode once selected, unless you press the D button again to revert back to automatic. Good, clear, no-nonsense communication. What I particularly like is a control button for moving the centre console cover backwards and forwards; subtle, quite unique, and dare I say it, a bit ‘Bond’.

It is a good thing that only the week before I stepped out of a Ferrari 812 GTS (see Ed’s Life) a direct competitor and genuine alternative to this car, for it showed just what very different cars the 812 and DBS are. The DBS is the sophisticated, powerful, mile crunching GT, whereas the Ferrari is a full on, no messing, bring it on, ‘go for it’ Supercar. Aston prefer to refer to the DBS as a ‘Super GT’ and I reckon we’d agree with that.

delivering the action

 The first time your right foot demands performance the DBS responds, instantly. It’s hold you back in your seat stuff, the power kicking in strong and hard (stage 1) followed by the twin turbos lassoing you into oblivion (stage 2). It’s around that stage that a first-time passenger will laugh (or scream)

Power delivery remains on an unrelenting mission; ferocious, powerful, strong, and accompanied by the song of a deep rasping growl from the stainless-steel twin exhausts. The turbos don’t hang on however, but respond instantly to an inevitable easing of the throttle, allowing the next stage of whatever you choose to do with the progression of the car to take over, whether it be settling into a higher gear or indeed if needs be, changing down for progressive throttle application through slower bends. Then of course you can start the whole’ woosh’ power sensation again, as you progress up through the gears. The automatic gearbox takes care of all that for you if you want it to, but it’s much more fun when you use the paddles and take care of gear-shifting yourself.

You’ll need good brakes of course; no problem there as these latest generation CCB carbon ceramic discs fitted to the DBS are truly outstanding. Not only do they readily tame this 1693 kg hunk at speed, but Aston have optimised the master cylinder and booster ensuring brake feel is beautifully moderated to allow you to integrate precision braking with the high-speed balance and feel of the car on a challenging B-road drive. Get all that right and I guarantee you, you’ll be hooked. This Aston has the B road pace and handling of a finely tuned powerful hot hatch, and that is some compliment taking account of its massive power and girth. The chassis is tuned to enable progressive rear end break away making controlled oversteer totally predictable, yet the magic of it is its dexterity. The car will spin its back wheels in fourth gear in a straight line in the dry if you’re brutal with the throttle when, yet at the same time you can just as easily keep the rear totally off traction and in control in a slalom on a handling circuit. With 713bhp under your belt, that’s quite something.

The Pirelli P Zero tyres on the car need a little bit of heat in them before traction really begins to take effect – particularly if it is wet- over gravelled surfaces; just a gentle standard GT mode is all you need when driving away from cold.

Take my word, if a well driven Aston DBS closes in on you in your rear-view mirror, it’s best to pull over and let it pass as there’s simply no point in messing with it; its prodigious capabilities are well beyond what most of us see as ‘very fast’. The car is just bonkers fast. Yet what makes it really special is that it is just as enjoyable being driven ‘slowly’ but you’ll savour the car in a different way; driven ‘normally’ so to speak, you are entertained by the car’s rock-solid composure, the various tones emitted by its V12 masterpiece and exhaust, and of course by its visual beauty and presence.

The DBS makes the kind of noise that you sit and fondly reflect on in your sitting room in the evening over a relaxing drink after a long drive. Drive the DBS down a crowded High Street at 20 mph and people will literally stop, stare, and admire. They’ll hear it first because the noise is just so intoxicating, then the visual hypnosis sets in and their eyes are tied to your DBS like glue. It’s pure entertainment.

I’m not new to supercars but I didn’t think for a minute that this Aston DBS would be ‘soo’ impressive. Nothing’s perfect of course. Arguably, the steering maybe could be a little bit more engaging, and maybe do with a bit more feel, but Aston are no doubt looking for the right compromise between the expectations of the hard-core keen driver and maybe the less demanding business and long-distance tourer.

There is no question that the Aston Martin DBS Superleggera is definitely top drawer.  The lucky owner will enjoy thousands of miles of Intercontinental driving in comfort, along with the aural entertainment of this powerful thoroughbred.  It is the kind of car that will win new loyalties to the Aston brand. I was excited to be telling you about the Aston DBS before writing this piece, now I love the car even more. I may be in front of a key board right now, but in my imagination, I am behind the wheel of the Aston DBS Superleggera somewhere in Monaco, the sun is shining, and I’m driving it hard, not a care in the World……. just driving.

Words: Kevin Haggarthy

2020 Honda Civic Type R Review

Kevin’s got one on test – his review coming soon – meanwhile, here’s one Shahzad did earlier!

When it came to Hondas, Type R used to mean screaming highly-strung motors, super tight shocks to keep the car flat (and chiropractors in business), and a raw lightness more redolent of a tin-top racer for the track than a sportscar for B-roads. Type R also meant the most exciting, capable and engaging versions of ordinary cars ever offered for sale.

Continue reading “2020 Honda Civic Type R Review”

New Land Rover Discovery Sport

 

Ice? Rain? Snow?

We have a new Discovery for you……..

by Kevin Haggarthy

 

It’s been very cold, and certainly one of the worst Winters for a while. Think of that awful day, the one you thought would never happen; stranded in your vehicle in the middle of nowhere in snow and ice. In the same way you thought you should have gone to Specsavers before you walked into that lamp post, it’s times like these when you wish you’d bought a Land Rover.

  Continue reading “New Land Rover Discovery Sport”

Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio…….Your naughty Valentine’s Day treat?

With Valentines Day just a few weeks away, the Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio could be your first sign of Infidelity……….

by Kevin Haggarthy

You can fall in love with a car. You can. It’s an emotional thing, one that you either understand or you don’t. If you don’t there’s a good chance the relationship with your loved one could be in jeopardy. If you do, you’d never dream of depriving your loved one of his/her indulgence. I proposed to my first love when she suggested we invest in a Ferrari. I knew at that moment she was ‘the one’……. Continue reading “Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio…….Your naughty Valentine’s Day treat?”

We test drive the new Bentley Continental GT

Have Bentley….will travel

By Kevin Haggarthy

Prices start £152,000                                    Price as tested £207,000

If you love cars and you love driving, then spending a weekend behind the wheel of one of the World’s greatest GTs’ on some of the UK’s finest roads is a pipe dream.  So here’s to living the dream….. Continue reading “We test drive the new Bentley Continental GT”