Vehicle Overview
Introduced during the 2001 model year and badged as the Grand Vitara XL-7, Suzuki’s largest sport utility vehicle later adopted the XL-7 designation in order to draw a distinction between it and 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. The standard XL-7 seats five people, but higher trim models hold seven.

For 2004, the XL-7 gets a new five-speed-automatic transmission. New Drive-Select push-button-operated four-wheel drive can be shifted on the fly. Four models are offered for 2004: LX, LX III with seven-passenger seating, upscale EX and seven-passenger EX III. Heated seats are available in EX models equipped with four-wheel drive.

General Motors owns a stake in Suzuki. Unlike the Vitara V6 and Grand Vitara, which have a Chevrolet equivalent, the XL-7 is not shared with any GM division.

Exterior
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 19 inches greater at 183.6 inches. Both models are about the same height. Like other Suzuki SUVs, the XL-7 is built on a truck chassis. Its side-hinged tailgate opens to the right, and all models have 16-inch wheels.

Interior
Seven seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. The XL-7 has two front bucket seats, a three-place bench in the center and a split, folding rear seat that holds two. The middle and rear seats fold down but are not removable. Five-passenger models lack the third-row seat. Cargo capacity is 75 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded.

All XL-7 models have automatic-temperature air conditioning with micron air filtration, an in-dash CD player with seven speakers and a subwoofer, remote keyless entry with a panic button, heated mirrors, and power windows and locks. Options include leather seating surfaces, a power sunroof, cruise control and a six-CD changer.

Under the Hood
Offered with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, the XL-7 carries a 2.7-liter V-6 engine that produces 185 horsepower. A new five-speed-automatic transmission and a five-speed-manual gearbox are available. Equipped with a Low range, the four-wheel-drive system must be disengaged on dry pavement.

Safety
Antilock brakes are standard or optional, depending on the model. Side-impact airbags are not available.

Driving Impressions
The XL-7’s performance is eager but not startling, and Suzuki’s automatic transmission yields quick, crisp shifts. This SUV maneuvers easily through corners and curves. A bit of body roll is evident, but not to a troubling degree. The XL-7’s 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. Looking into the inside rearview mirror, the second- and third-row headrests can be more distracting than the protruding spare tire.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 8/27/03