by James Siddall
To say that Meyer Benjamin has a bit of automotive experience is like saying that Usian Bolt is capable of jogging swiftly. Or that a Bugatti Veyron is quite nippy.
In other words it's a massive understatement.
In a car industry career that spans almost four decades Meyer, who currently owns and helms Suzuki Johannesburg South, has driven and owned more vehicles than some of us have had hot meals. Or cold ones, too, come to think of it.
“You know, being in the automotive game a lot of great machines pass through my hands but I generally change cars every 5 000km or so without getting overly attached to any of them,” he says.
Generally – because there are exceptions, or at least there is one exception in particular.
And that exception is the Suzuki Grand Vitara 3.2 that's Meyer's current steed, a steed in which he has already racked up mega-mileage, and which he has no plans to swap any time soon. Unless it's for another Grand Vitara – a vehicle that, in the esteemed Mr Benjamin's eyes, is arguably nothing less than a contender for the best car in the world, “best car in the world,” of course, being a subjective appellation.
“You know,” stresses the quietly charismatic Meyer, “this is just the most fantastic motor car. What the Grand Vitara has taught me is that if that soppy thing called love really does exist, it's superseded by something even bigger called trust. And that's what I feel towards my Grand Vitara: trust.”
Meyer adds that he has customers and friends who won't trade their Grand Vitaras for anything.
“This vehicle,” as he says, “has an almost cult following.”
This is not terribly surprising.
Over in the US – a market saturated with SUVs, most of them far more intimidating and muscular than the Grand Vitara – AutoGuide had this to say a little while back:
“The Grand Vitara is just such a unique vehicle. As the only vehicle in its segment that combines a 3,000 lb capacity, true rear-based four-wheel drive and independent suspension at all four corners, the Grand Vitara offers plenty of unique features that aren't available anywhere else.”
AutoGuide went on to add: “It also happens to be a very nice vehicle to drive...we definitely suggest that anybody looking at the segment check their nearest Suzuki dealer and take one for a test drive.”
Also a while back the highly discerning Car and Driver – a hard-hitting American publication – spoke thus about the Grand Vitara 3.2-litre:
“The new engine elevates this SUV to the upper echelon of its class in straight-line, the car has the only combination of a two-speed transfer case and a center-locking differential in its class, making it one of the most capable mini-utes off-road.”
A little closer to home I had this to say about the Grand Vitara in Autodealer KZN, speaking on the 2.4-litre versions, for the 3.2-litre has been discontinued.
“The two new machines showcased were the Grand Vitara Dune and the even more up-spec Summit. And guess what? They performed beautifully – just as I’d expect from any Suzuki product.”
In my piece, written in the wake of a Transkei trip for charitable fund-raising with Suzuki Auto South Africa, I added:
“Through pouring rain, along sub-standard roads where cows wondered with bovine amazement at being alive, and on open freeways, the Suzukis romped along, their 2.4-litre petrol plants putting out a happy 122kW and 225Nm of torque at 4 000rpm. Enough for the five-speed manual versions supplied to hit 100km/h from rest in 12 seconds, and top out at a claimed 180km/h. Fuel consumption is pegged at 8.9 litres per 100km.”
Meyer Benjamin, I think, would concur with all of the above.
So, too, would those Grand Vitara owners who, as Meyer says, wouldn't part with their Suzukis for anything on earth – except, perhaps another Grand Vitara.
iX Online Motoring