2005 Suzuki XL-7

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2002 Suzuki XL-7

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

A more potent V6 gives the roomy, affordable XL-7 greater appeal.
Pros:
  • More power
  • Roomy and comfortable
  • Rugged
Cons:
  • Stiff steering
  • Occasionally bouncy ride
  • Narrow rear-door openings

The cute, rugged Suzuki Samurai created the small sport-utility-vehicle market here about 16 years ago and helped put Suzuki on the map in America. However, the Samurai essentially was a third world vehicle that sort of resembled a World War II Jeep. The 2002 Suzuki XL-7 sport ute is quite another story.

Suzuki makes cars but is best known in the U.S. auto industry for its sport-utility vehicles. The XL-7 is among the most comfortable and affordable midsize sport utes. It's also rugged—and the largest vehicle Suzuki ever has made.

The XL-7 was introduced late in 2000 as a 2001 model, so the new version has few changes. However, horsepower of the 2.7-liter V6 has been increased from 170 to 183 and equipment has been revised.

Lively Acceleration
Acceleration is lively, but the V6 engine is noisy when pushed and revs at a high 3050 rpm at 70 mph with the responsive, available 4-speed automatic transmission. A 3.0-liter V6 would allow more relaxed operation.

The XL-7 is essentially a longer version of Suzuki's Grand Vitara sport ute and comes in various, nicely equipped trims. They are the Standard and higher-line Plus, Touring and Limited Edition, which has leather upholstery. Base prices range from $19,599 to $25,999.

Affordable
That makes the XL-7 among the most affordable midsize SUV with a third-row seat, which is no longer standard in the base model. That seat is hard to reach if you're not nimble and is mostly for children. Also there isn't much cargo room when it is in its normal position.

On the other hand, both second- and third-row seats flip forward to provide a huge cargo area with a flat floor. And both those seats are split 60/40 to accommodate irregular-shaped objects. The second-row seat has fore/aft adjustability if occupants of the third-row seat desire more legroom.

The cargo door opens toward the curb, which can make curbside loading difficult. On the flip side, the way the door opens makes it more convenient for those in shopping center parking lots to put stuff in the cargo area and then proceed directly to the driver's door.

Off-Road Ruggedness
The XL-7 comes with a rear-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive system for use on slippery surfaces. The system is engaged via a console-mounted lever, while some competitors offer a handier dashboard switch. However, the XL-7 has low-range gearing for rugged off-road travel, which it does quite well.

This Suzuki's body-on-frame construction makes it sturdier and far better suited for off-road travel than car-based sport utes from leading rivals such as Honda and Toyota.

New Features
New standard features for 2002 include an AM/FM audio system with an in-dash CD player for the base trim and heated front seats for the Limited Edition. Four-wheel-drive trims are now equipped with heated door mirrors, and all trims have the new LATCH child-seat system with upper and lower anchors and tethers.

After all, the XL-7 is a family vehicle that partly is meant to be an alternative for a minivan, which carries a "soccer mom" image some people dislike. It's also an alternative to bigger, less nimble and more fuel-thirsty sport utes.

A 5-speed manual gearbox is available, but seems out of place in such a family vehicle. Fuel economy is just average: in the mid- to high teens in the city and in the low 20s on highways with either manual or automatic transmissions.

Steering is precise, but has a stiff feel that takes a while to get used to. Handling is good if the XL-7 isn't pushed hard. The ride is generally smooth, but road imperfections such as large dips occasionally cause it to become bouncy. The brake pedal has a nice feel, but stopping distances are average.

Room for Seven
The XL-7 seats up to seven with the third seat, and five with the front buckets and second-row bench seat. Big outside door handles are easily gripped and a low floor makes it fairly easy to get in and out. However, the available running boards get in the way if you have a large shoe size.

Rear doors are very long, but have narrow openings that impede quick entry and exit for the less nimble.

The driver sits high but will notice that rear headrests and the outside-mounted spare tire partially block vision. Gauges can be quickly read and controls are nicely sized. Door map pockets are small but cupholders are okay, and rear windows lower all the way.

The XL-7 doesn't have a prestigious nameplate, but provides a nice blend of utility, comfort, performance and ruggedness.

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BB03 - 8/22/2014 3:25:22 PM