Suzuki XL7 Review

Suzuki XL7 Review

The original Suzuki XL-7 was designed to appeal to people who liked the idea of having seven-passenger seating in an SUV but didn't want the hassles and expense of owning a full-size sport utility. By taking an extended-wheelbase version of its Grand Vitara small SUV and installing a third-row seat, Suzuki pioneered a concept, and indeed many other manufacturers have been doing the same with their smaller SUVs. Unfortunately, the first XL-7 was neat in theory but flawed in execution. Its third-row seat was too small to be of any real use and its aging truck-based design, claustrophobic cabin and poor-quality interior pieces relegated it to bit-player status among a growing and increasingly refined field of midsize contenders.

Fortunately, Suzuki made amends with a completely redesigned second-generation midsize XL7. (Note the name XL7; it was changed from XL-7 starting in 2007.) The largest Suzuki ever, the new model was 10 inches longer and 2 inches wider than before. Designed for the North American market, the most recent Suzuki XL7 was based on partner GM's midsize crossover SUV platform, which meant it bore some mechanical resemblance to vehicles like the Chevy Equinox.

Compared to the old model, this XL7 certainly looked and worked much better overall, with improved ride and agility, a smoother, more powerful Suzuki-built V6 engine and roomier, more comfortable passenger accommodations. The third row, however, was still obviously meant for children only, like others in this class. All seemed for naught, however, as the XL7 was discontinued after the 2009 model year, resulting from a lack of demand.

Most Recent Suzuki XL7

The second-generation Suzuki XL7 debuted for 2007. Notably, the XL7 was sold with a five-speed automatic and optional third-row seat through the 2008 model year. The Suzuki XL7 was a well-equipped, seven-passenger midsize crossover SUV available in three trim levels: Premium, Luxury and Limited. All models were available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Motivation was provided by a Suzuki-built 3.6-liter V6 providing 252 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. Standard on all models was a six-speed automatic transmission.

The last Suzuki XL7 was the largest, most comfortable Suzuki SUV ever built, with a spacious, functional and refined interior. The second-row 60/40-split seats tumbled forward for easy access to the third row, or folded completely flat. The 50/50-split-folding third-row seat could also be folded flat as well for additional cargo-carrying room.

Included was a long list of standard features, including alloy wheels, security alarm, automatic climate control, privacy glass, rear air-conditioning and a six-speaker CD stereo. The loaded Luxury trim level added leather, wood accents and heated front seats. To this, the Limited piled on foglamps, a rear spoiler, a standard third-row seat and satellite-radio-ready audio with navigation and DVD entertainment. These electronic features and controls were sourced from Suzuki's then-partner General Motors.

In reviews, we found that the XL7's unibody chassis provided a carlike ride and good reflexes on the pavement. The engine was powerful, handling was secure and maneuverability was good enough to ply the crowded streets for weekend errands. The model's main weakness was that it didn't feel as refined in terms of ride quality, steering precision and engine smoothness as some other midsize crossover SUVs. If you're looking for a spacious family crossover for a bargain price, a used XL7 may be a good choice.

Past Suzuki XL-7 Models

Suzuki introduced the first-generation XL-7 in 2001. At the time, it was the first SUV in its class to offer a third-row seat for a price starting under $20,000. Based on the Grand Vitara, this XL-7 had a trucklike, body-on-frame construction and either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case. These rugged underpinnings made the XL-7 fairly competent for off-road use.

The model's optional third-row seat was of dubious value. There was plenty of luggage room with the rearmost seat folded down, but when the third row was in use, cargo capacity was very limited. Also, the mechanism to drop the third-row seating was fussy and awkward. The third row didn't fold completely flat and created "canyons" into which items could fall.

All models of the Suzuki XL-7 were equipped with a 170-hp, 2.7-liter engine matched to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. In reviews of the time, we noted that we liked the availability of a third-row seat and the vehicle's reasonable price. However, we felt that it didn't match up well to the competition in terms of refinement or maximum off-road ability.

Changes to the first-generation Suzuki XL-7 were minimal. In 2002, power was increased to 183 hp and antilock brakes became optional.