EXPERT REVIEW

AZCentral.com's view


Suzuki performed major surgery on the 2007 XL7 sport utility, turning it from a quirky niche SUV into an attractive mainstream craft with plenty to offer.

XL7 is the largest consumer vehicle ever from the Japanese manufacturer, which has gradually transitioned from tiny cars and SUVs, such as the unfortunate Samurai, into more competitive vehicles. Well-regarded for its high-performance motorcycles, Suzuki is eager to carve out its place in the cutthroat auto industry.

The biggest change for XL7, formerly known as XL-7, is the switch from a trucklike body-on-frame construction to the popular crossover design, with a unibody structure strengthened by reinforcing frame rails. Crossovers are more like cars than trucks, though retaining the image and capacity of SUVs.

XL7 shares its architecture with Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, although it’s longer than either of them. The new model is also quite a bit bigger than the SUV it replaces, with a more than 2-inch longer wheelbase, nearly 10 inches greater body length about 2 inches more width. The extra size is evident inside, where XL7 proves to be fairly roomy and comfortable.

The top-end Limited model I drove was kind of a bargain at $28,000 because of the high level of standard luxury, convenience and safety gear. Everything’s included in one price, so the bottom line’s identical with the top line. Even shipping’s included.

XL7 proved to handle well and ride nicely on its long wheelbase, with decent power from the 253-horsepower engine, one of the strongest in the midsize segment.

The only real glitches were a wide turning radius that detracted from maneuvering in tight places and an automatic transmission that occasionally seemed confused.

PERFORMANCE: The standard 3.6-liter V-6 has plenty of pull for this nearly two-ton SUV, enough for decent acceleration and cruising. It packs more punch than the 185-horsepower, 2.7- liter V-6 it replaces yet actually gains a bit in gas mileage. I had some issues with the five-speed automatic, which would downshift unexpectedly and sometimes seemed to hunt for the right gear.

DRIVABILITY: Certainly not sporty, but the XL7 feels secure and composed in most driving situations. An all-wheel-drive version is available for occasional exposure to rough or slippery road conditions. Safety features include antilock brakes with force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control, tire-pressure monitoring, full side-curtain airbags and self-leveling rear suspension.

STYLING: The front aspect of XL7 is distinctive, with its angular headlight treatment and broad grille. Otherwise, styling is ho-hum standard crossover SUV.

INTERIOR: The interior is conservative and businesslike, except for the outstanding ugliness of the light-colored plastic wood grain slathered on the dash and doors. It is glaringly out of place in an otherwise good-looking environment. The leather seats are fairly roomy in front and in the second row, though the third row should be reserved for kids. The middle row has no fore-and-aft movement to gain legroom in the back row.

BOTTOM LINE: The price is right for this well-equipped wagon, and accentuates Suzuki’s continuing growth as an automaker.

Vehicle type: Seven-passenger, four-door SUV, front-wheel drive. Engine: 3.6-liter V-6, 252 horsepower at 6,400 rpm, 243 pounds-feet torque at 2,300 rpm. Transmission: Five-speed automatic. Wheelbase: 112.4 inches. Overall length: 197.2 inches. Curb weight: 3,886 pounds. Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds. EPA rating: 18 city, 24 highway.

HIGHS: Luxury features, good drivability, modest price. LOWS: Ugly “wood” interior trim, bland styling, wide turning radius.

Base price: $27,949. Price as tested: $27,949.

OPTIONS *The Suzuki XL7 Limited comes fully equipped with luxury, convenience and safety features, including leather seating, DVD entertainment system, seven-speaker audio, power drivers seat, full side-curtain airbags, alloy wheels, self-leveling rear suspension, separate rear climate control, keyless entry and engine start, and power locks, windows and mirrors. *Shipping, included.

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