2009 Suzuki XL7

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Review: 2007 Suzuki XL7

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2009.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 6
Pros:
  • Roomier than ever
  • Better power than its Equinox and Torrent siblings
  • Decently sized third-row seating
Cons:
  • Price can get up to more than $32,000
  • Feels heavy, especially for a Suzuki
  • Not distinctive with fuel economy

Japan's Suzuki used to be known for small vehicles. Today, it has its largest passenger vehicle ever in its U.S. showrooms.

The newly revamped Suzuki XL7 debuted for 2007 as a bigger, 5- and 7-passenger, crossover sport-utility vehicle that's longer, wider and heavier than its predecessor.

The XL7 is restyled, inside and out, has a more powerful V6 than before and drops the hyphen from its previous, XL-7 name.

I don't know about the styling. The test XL7, in white, didn't appeal much to me, and my eyes kept being drawn to gaps between body panels that seemed larger than on some other vehicles. These gaps didn't convey a sense of quality.

Be prepared for the price
Unfortunately, price is up. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price is some $23,000 for a base, 5-passenger XL7 with two-wheel drive. All XL7s come standard with V6 and automatic transmission.

The 2007 pricing also meant the new XL7 relinquished its ranking as the lowest-priced, 7-passenger SUV in America. Starting retail price for a 7-passenger XL7 now is more than $24,000 for a two-wheel-drive model.

A Hyundai Santa Fe with 7 seats, two-wheel drive, V6 and automatic transmission starts lower at less than $24,000 and now is the lowest-priced 7-seater in the U.S.

Meantime, an XL7 with all-wheel drive starts at more than $23,000 with seating for five.

And, if you can believe, the test XL7, with options and all-wheel drive, topped out at more than $32,000!

Much bigger XL7
There's a reason the XL7 is so sizable. It's not a Suzuki, exactly.

The XL7 actually is based on the same platform as Chevrolet's Equinox and the Pontiac Torrent crossover SUVs and is built at the same Ontario, Canada, assembly plant as the Equinox and Torrent.

You see, Suzuki Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp., which owns the Chevrolet and Pontiac brands, have worked together for years on vehicles and components.

This might be the biggest—pardon the pun—project yet.

In fact, the XL7 is 8.4 inches longer, a tad wider and nearly 2 inches taller, overall, than GM's Equinox and Torrent.

It's the only one of the three to offer three rows of seats and is heavier and has a noticeably more powerful engine.

Specifically, the powerplant in the XL7 has a 3.6-liter displacement, instead of 3.4 liters in the GM SUVs, and it's tuned to deliver 252 horses and 243 lb-ft of torque at 2300 rpm.

This compares with 185 horses and 210 lb-ft of torque at a higher, 3800 rpm in the Equinox and Torrent versions.

It also bests the Santa Fe's base, 185-horsepower 2.7-liter V6 with 183 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm and uplevel, 242-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 with 226 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.

As the numbers indicate, the new XL7 doesn't lack power. The tester cruised highways easily and passed other vehicles without fuss.

Power came on smoothly and impressively via the 5-speed automatic transmission.

Still, I noticed the heft of this vehicle, which, in the top-of-the-line tester with all-wheel drive and seven seats topped 4,040 pounds. Gosh, this is as much as Cadillac's largest car, the DTS, weighs, and I found myself wrestling with the idea that a Suzuki could be this large and heavy.

This, plus the ending price of the tester, seemed counter to Suzuki's reputation as a low-priced, small-vehicle manufacturer.

Odds and ends
Don't look for fuel savings in the XL7. Rated at just 17 miles per gallon in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway, the 2007 tester was midpack among all SUVs—big and small. For 2008, the best XL7 fuel economy rating, calculated by the feds with a more stringent formula, falls to 16/22 mpg for a two-wheel-drive model.

This SUV's considerable weight, plus a softly sprung suspension and some notable body motion in curves and turns encourages moderate, mainstream driving in the XL7. There's no real sporty feel here.

And watch when making U-turns. The XL7 has a sizable, 41.8-foot turning circle, which compares with 35.8 feet in the Santa Fe.

The quieter XL7 ride, though, is a definite improvement over its truck-based predecessor. Indeed, this is the first time Suzuki's 7-passenger SUV has monocoque body construction, like that of cars. It characterizes many crossover SUVs and contributes to a more car-like ride.

Still, with a healthy 7.9 inches of ground clearance underneath, the XL7 can travel over—and above—some obstacles.

All seats, including those in third row, are roomier than I expected. In fact, I found—at 5 feet 4—that the third row doesn't need to be relegated to kids-only status.

Second- and third-row seats split and fold down flat to allow for a maximum and surprisingly roomy 95.2 cubic feet of cargo space. The XL7 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

But at highway speeds, riders front and rear noticed wind noise in the test XL7, and the plastic dashboard seemed overly expansive.

There were a lot of amenities in the test XL7, including leather-trimmed, heated front seats, a 7-speaker audio system and chrome, 17-inch wheels.

Traction and stability control are standard, as is anti-lock brakes and curtain airbags.

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BB04 - 7/31/2014 6:37:49 AM