2007 Suzuki XL7 Limited 2WD Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Suzuki XL-7
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

SEE ALSO:Suzuki Buyers Guide

2007 Suzuki XL7 Limited 2WD

Don't confuse the 2007 Suzuki XL7 with the 2006 or earlier SUV of the same name. Because that name is about all they share. And, technically, they don't even share that, as the old one was XL-7 with a dash between the L and 7.

Compared to the previous vehicle, the 2007 XL7 is larger in every dimension, mostly by an inch or two with the exception of a 9.8-inch greater length. It's still mid-sized, but with more room for passengers and/or cargo, and still with the ability to hold up to seven people in three rows, split 2/3/2. In looks, it is considerably more modern.

But looks and size pale in comparison to what's underneath. The old XL-7 was a body-on-frame truck based on the Grand Vitara, with rear- or dual-range four-wheel drive and a solid rear axle; the new XL7 is a unibody crossover vehicle with fully-independent suspension, in front- or part-time all-wheel drive form. The old XL-7 had a 2.7-liter, 185-horsepower V6; the new one gets a more-efficient 3.6-liter V6 engine with 252 horsepower that gets similar fuel economy.

When my front-wheel drive XL7 was delivered, I immediately recognized the key fob - pure General Motors. Suzuki and GM have had joint ventures going back to the Suzuki-sourced Geo Metro subcompacts and Tracker SUVs of years past, and now that partnership works in the other direction. The GM "Theta" small crossover platform provides the underpinnings; the 3.6-liter engine is a GM design, but built by Suzuki under license in Japan. Final assembly for the internationally-sourced vehicle is at Suzuki's facility in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada. It's a 21st Century vehicle.

Offered in base, Luxury, and Limited models, in five- or seven-passenger configurations, the new XL7 is the most upscale four-wheeled Suzuki ever offered, and was designed with the American market in mind. Even the base model is well-equipped, and my Limited test vehicle was close to entry-luxury in its specification. In all size classes, truck-based body-on-frame SUVs like the old XL-7 have largely given way to crossovers like the new XL7, and for good reasons for the vast majority of buyers.

Comparing the old with the new here, comfort and refinement levels have increased significantly, and space is improved, as is space utilization. Performance is far better, with little negative effect on fuel economy. If the new XL7's ultimate off-road abilities may be less because of the lack of 4-low in the AWD version, that's unlikely to bother the crossover buyer, who is more likely to think of "off road" as meaning a dusty parking lot than a 4WD trail. For those who tow, the new XL7's ability, at 3500 pounds, is actually better than the 3000 pounds of the old model. The midsize crossover field is crowded, but the 2007 Suzuki XL7 is a worthwhile addition.

APPEARANCE: If Suzuki is searching for a distinctive look, the XL7 is a good beginning. It's neither too conservative nor too trendy, but still unique. Like other crossovers, it has a medium-height two-box shape, taller than a wagon but shorter than an SUV or minivan. Four doors and a tailgate make interior access easy, and the liftover height is not much greater than into a sedan's trunk. If its rounded contours break no new ground, the bright diamond-shaped headlights are distinctive, and attention to detail is good. The silvery "skid plates" front and rear won't fool any large offroad rocks, but they do add some sporty character, as do moderate fender flares. Utility is hinted at by the standard roof rack with crossbars.

COMFORT: There is no shortage of space inside, and the expected configurability and versatility. Particularly in Limited trim, the XL7 is very well-equipped, with leather seating, heated front seats, a power driver's seat and power windows, mirrors, and locks, and a leather-rimmed tilt steering wheel with cruise and auxiliary audio controls. The design is clean and bright, with easy-to-read instrumentation. The climate control system is first-rate - during my time with the vehicle, it sat for a day in 100+ degree heat. Within a very short time of starting, ice-cold air was pouring out of the vents. Ahhhh... much cooler than inside my house. A good standard audio system, with AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3CD and auxiliary jack modes, adds to the interior's attractiveness. Front seat comfort is very good. The second row is wide enough for three, with good head and leg room and a flat floor. There are separate AC controls and a power point at the rear of the console. Each side folds flat, with the standard 60/40 split, and each side can flip and tumble forward for third-row access. The third row holds two medium-sized adults in much better comfort than expected. When cargo duty beckons, the rear two rows fold flat into the floor - and the front passenger seatback can be folded forward, flat, to help accommodate long items. The spare tire is outside, underneath the rear as in a pickup, to improve interior space further.

SAFETY: A strong unibody structure designed for controlled deformation in a crash protects the XL7's passengers. A safety cage surrounds occupants. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and traction, along with the ESP electronic stability control system (sourced, interestingly, from Daimler Benz) offer further protection, as do front and side airbags and a rollover protection system.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The change from rear-wheel drive, body-on-frame truck and front-wheel drive crossover will win new friends for the XL7. With no truck in its ancestry, it feels very much like a large modern front-wheel drive car, in particular today's equivalent to the station wagon of the past. Its fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension is tuned moderately, for a smooth, comfortable ride. Steering effort is never too light for good control, nor too heavy. Self-leveling Nivomat shocks are standard in seven-passenger models, to better deal with varied loads.

PERFORMANCE: When I read that the XL7's engine had a capacity of 3.6 liters, with aluminum alloy construction, dual overhead cams, and variable cam phasing, I suspected that it was the new GM V6 of that capacity. Further reading said "Suzuki-built in Japan". Hmmm. Designing, building, and (especially) making an engine compliant with emissions specifications is a very expensive process these days. So, while the XL7's engine is built and tuned by Suzuki, the basic design is the GM dohc 3.6-liter V6. Nothing wrong with that, it's a fine engine. With 252 horsepower (at 6500 rpm) and 243 lb-ft of torque (at a low 2300 rpm) and matched to a manually-shiftable five-speed automatic, it's strong, civilized, and gives the XL7 urge that the old XL-7 could only dream about. Despite the new XL7's greater size, fuel economy is on a par with the old model at an EPA 18/24 mpg. During my week of mostly short-haul, city driving, I got 17 mpg. With a 3500-pound towing capacity, it should be useful for trailering dirt bikes (Suzuki, of course!) and other toys.

CONCLUSIONS: The 2007 XL7 is the biggest, most powerful, and most refined four-wheeled Suzuki yet.

SPECIFICATIONS

2007 Suzuki XL7 Limited 2WD

Base Price			$ 27,949
Price As Tested			$ 30,149
Engine Type			dual overhead cam, 24-valve
				 aluminum alloy V6
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			252 @ 6500 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			243 @ 2300 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic with manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		112.4 in. / 197.2 in.
Curb Weight			3886 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		15.4
Fuel Capacity			18.6 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/60 SR17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS,
				 traction control and ESP stability
				 control standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 24 / 17
0 to 60 mph				7.7  sec
Towing capacity				3500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Platinum Touring Package - includes:
  Touchscreen navigation system, power tilt
  & slide sunroof, 17-inch chrome wheels	$ 2,200
XM radio receiver and antenna			$   300
Suzuki Value - XM Radio credit		       ($   300)-
Destination charge				included

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