are plenty of signs that America’s love affair
with SUVs is waning. With hefty gas prices, it seems
people are rethinking the logic behind cruising in a
two-ton V8-powered behemoth with only two toddlers in
the back and a grande cappuccino riding shot gun.
with its new XL7, Suzuki is banking on the notion that
some families still need the space, seating capacity
and higher perspective that an SUV provides—albeit
on a crossover platform that benefits ride and fuel
economy. They are also hoping that families will appreciate
good value when they see it; as the XL7 undercuts similarly
sized and equipped competitors like the Honda Pilot
and Toyota Highlander by thousands. Suzuki has become America’s fastest-growing automaker
by relying on value pricing and its stellar warranty,
and if there are still buyers for seven-passenger SUVs
(and there definitely are), the XL7 should certainly
Like most of Suzuki's products (excluding the Grand
Vitara and new SX4),
the XL7 is based on a General Motors platform—in
this case the same one that underpins the Chevrolet
Equinox and Pontiac Torrent. All body panels are
unique, however, including the eye-catching wedge headlights.
With nine more inches of rear space than its GM cousins,
the XL7 lives up to its name by offering room for seven
passengers. The third row flips flush into the floor
like the Honda Pilot does, and it is actually reasonably
comfortable for average-sized adults on shorter journeys.
Like almost all three-row SUVs, though, ingress or egress
from its caboose seating is about as graceful an exercise
as a sumo wrestler filling in for Michael Flatley.
The XL7 is noticeably less tall and wide than other
seven-passenger SUVs (notably the Pilot) and subsequently
didn’t feel cumbersome driving through the mountain
roads near the La
Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Calif (pictured below).
The numb steering is a disappointing harbinger of its
Equinox heritage, but nevertheless, the XL7 delivers
the “car-like” driving experience that just
about every SUV driver is looking for nowadays.
Under the hood is a Suzuki-built version of GM’s
“high-feature” 3.6-liter V6 equipped with
variable valve timing. Delivering 252 horsepower, it
felt reasonably powerful, pulling our fully loaded tester
up and around mountains. For those in frostier climes,
all-wheel drive is optional, but the XL7’s front-drive
lay-out should provide plenty of rainy-day assurance
(and better fuel economy) for those living in California, Florida and other places where the sun does shine.
Inside you’ll find an environment easy to live
with, but nothing to gush about. The radio, navigation
system and steering wheel are clearly boosted from GM’s
radically improved parts bin, while the gear shift looks
Frankly, these aren’t exactly problems (only trivial
nitpicks), so it’s a safe bet that most people
will find the interior an otherwise comfortable place
to be with plenty of standard and optional features.
Our test car’s upgraded stereo featured a six-disc
CD changer, XM-radio capability and an auxiliary audio
port (a DVD entertainment system is optional). Heated
front seats and an automatic climate control system
with rear secondary controls will keep all three rows
of passengers comfortably cool and/or toasty.
that all these features come in at a price under 30
grand, and it becomes clear why the XL7 deserves a look.
It might not be exceptional in any particular area,
but it does everything well enough for an average family
looking for an affordable, well-equipped, spacious,
reasonably fuel-friendly, car-like SUV with enough visual
flair to get the neighbors’ attention. If America’s
love affair with big SUVs is over, Suzuki is looking
to provide its rebound guy.
Warranty/Service: 100,000-mile/7-year transferable Powertrain limited
warranty; 24/7/365 roadside assistance; courtesy vehicle