Suzuki has a little more work to do on its 2009 XL7, but the SUV does have its good points. The interior is sleek and shiny, with supportive leather-trimmed seats. The third row is no joke, with full-size seats, cupholders and plenty of legroom. When the third row is folded down, the cargo space is simply amazing. At one point, I had to climb into the far reaches of the cargo area to adjust some of my more precious grocery bags. The exterior is cute, too, with large headlights and taillights for a unique look.
Here's the "however": The XL7 is lacking when it comes to performance. Despite a new six-speed automatic transmission and a 252-horsepower V-6 engine, the gas pedal seemed to have two settings, slow and haul-booty, with no comfortable middle ground. The noise coming from under the hood was more clattery and hollow than full-bodied and powerful-sounding. Gas mileage was average at best, getting 16/23 mpg city/highway. On the safety front, the XL7 didn't score well in some crash tests, which is a deal-breaker as far as this mom is concerned.
Suzuki deserves ample credit for creating a signature look with the XL7; it stands out in the sea of all-too-similar-looking SUVs we're bombarded with today. Sharply angled headlights and a shiny chrome grille will grab your attention, even if the large, black-plastic front bumper leaves you wondering about that particular choice.
From the side, the Suzuki XL7 has the qualities we love in SUVs, like a good height and chunky tires. I enjoyed the privacy glass on the XL7 because nobody needs to peep in and see how much junk my family cruises with in the car. I did feel that the third-row windows got ripped off a little, though, because they end abruptly.
The rear of the XL7 was dull. Boxy and dull. The taillights are big, a feature I usually enjoy, but the hatch door is so large it makes them seem small and totally pushed off to the side. They looked like an afterthought.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
The interior in the XL7 was classy-looking. The driver's seat was ample, comfy and leather-trimmed; it had eight lovely buttons for seat adjustments. I have to explain what I mean by ample: Some cars have seats that are lightweight and rather skimpy; they just don't feel like they can support you. The XL7's seats, including the third row, are substantial and thick-feeling, which is always a good indicator of an automaker taking its customers' needs into consideration.
The XL7 Luxury trim level I tested didn't include the navigation system, which I missed. Even without it, though, the center stack was stylish. I loved the simulated-wood-grain accent in the gearshift and dash. The power-window buttons threw me for a loop because they were located just beneath the center stack. I kept looking for them on the door, which almost created an embarrassing drive-thru emergency!
Back in row numero dos, my muchachos enjoyed a stable-feeling ride in seats that suited their booster seats with easy-to-use Latch connectors. As always, there was a climb to get into this SUV, but once settled everyone was happy. I pointed out the second row's armrest with hidden cupholders, which my boys quickly pushed back up into place. I'll never understand why my kids aren't impressed with backseat armrests. Do your kids use the armrest? Our booster seats include cupholders, so they never really use the car's cupholders, but please don't tell anyone I let that slip! Shhhhh!
I was able to access the third row fairly easily by folding down the second row. As I mentioned, I was impressed that Suzuki was able to carry the same level of interior quality all the way through the SUV. Occasionally, pop-up third rows seem like something the car manufacturer tossed in after the fact. Not so with the XL7 - this third row was made to be used.
The cargo area in the XL7 gives you tons of space; you'll never have to think twice about picking up an oversized item from Home Depot or your favorite antique shop. I don't know about you, but I always appreciate it when a car gives me that do-it-yourself confidence.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
The Suzuki XL7 scored a five-star rating in crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, it received a Marginal score in rear crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The XL7 came with four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, front- and side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags for all three rows, stability control with anti-roll control, and traction control.
In Diapers: There's plenty of room for rear-facing child-safety seats.
In School: Most kids - just not mine - will like the backseat's armrest with convenient cupholders.
Teens: There's tons of legroom in the second and third rows.