Introduced during the 2001 model year and named Grand Vitara XL-7, Suzuki's largest sport utility vehicle later adopted only the XL-7 designation to differentiate it from the automaker's smaller Grand Vitara. The XL-7 name denotes the vehicle's ability to hold seven people; in contrast, the Grand Vitara seats only five occupants. Seven-passenger seating is optional; standard seating is for five.
For 2004, the XL-7 got a new five-speed-automatic transmission, and new Drive-Select push-button-operated four-wheel drive could be shifted on the fly. Little has changed for 2005.
General Motors owns a stake in Suzuki, but the XL-7 platform isn't shared with any GM division.
It's easy to see the family resemblance between the XL-7 and Grand Vitara. At 110.2 inches, the XL-7's wheelbase is more than a foot longer than the Grand Vitara's, and the XL-7's overall length is 23 inches greater at 187.4 inches.
Like other Suzuki SUVs, the XL-7 is built with body-on-frame construction on a truck chassis. Its side-hinged tailgate opens to the right, and all models have 16-inch wheels.
In seven-passenger models, the XL-7 has two front bucket seats, a three-place bench in the center and a split-folding rear seat that holds two. Five-passenger models lack the third-row seat. The middle and rear seats fold down but are not removable. Cargo capacity is 75 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded, though two-wheel-drive models have a bit less space.
All XL-7 models have automatic-temperature air conditioning with micron air filtration, remote keyless entry, cruise control, heated power mirrors, and power windows and locks. Uplevel EX editions have an in-dash CD player with seven speakers and a subwoofer. Options for the EX include leather seating surfaces and a power sunroof.
Under the Hood
Offered with either rear- or four-wheel drive, the XL-7 carries a 2.7-liter V-6 that produces 185 horsepower. A five-speed-automatic transmission and a five-speed-manual gearbox are available. The four-wheel-drive system has a Low range.
The model selection determines whether antilock brakes are standard or optional, and a tire-pressure monitor is included. Side-impact airbags are not available.
The XL-7's performance is eager but not astonishing, and Suzuki's automatic transmission yields quick, crisp shifts. This SUV maneuvers easily through corners and curves, though a bit of body roll is evident. Ride quality scores just above the SUV norm, but you do notice nearly all pavement imperfections.
Front-seat occupants get plenty of space, but the second row is short on legroom and would be a squeeze for three occupants. There's only a narrow rear cargo shelf when the third-row seat is in place. When looking into the inside rearview mirror, the second- and third-row headrests can be more distracting than the protruding spare tire.