2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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Photo gallery: 2007 Suzuki XL7

Second opinions by Paul Williams and Grant Yoxon

The new Suzuki XL7 feels like a rolling identity crisis. Before you interpret that as my condemning this SUV right off the bat, rest assured, we’re not. But it does seem that Suzuki had its work cut out for it when it began designing the second-generation version of its seven-seat people hauler.

The original XL-7 (with a hyphen) was a stretched version of the last-generation Grand Vitara, while this new truck is built on the same platform that underpins the solid-but-ordinary Chevrolet Equinox. We think Suzuki should have taken more time to distinguish its latest truck from the American model on which it’s based.

2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7. Click image to enlarge

From the outside, the new XL7 strikes us as looking decidedly Japanese. We can’t put a finger on exactly what it is about it that makes us feel that way, but there’s just something there. Maybe it’s the angular, off-kilter shape of the headlights, the rear-end styling or the black bumper caps that remind us of the new Honda CR-V.

However, when you get in, you might as well be in middle America behind the wheel of a patriotic, home-grown Equinox (the fact that the Equinox, Pontiac Torrent and XL7 are all built in Ingersoll, Ontario notwithstanding). Nothing wrong with that overall; the Equinox is a comfortable SUV, and as such, so is the XL7. The Suzuki looks bigger than the Equinox from the outside, and indeed, it is longer by 213 millimetres, or almost eight-and-a-half inches. That and a less steeply-raked rear hatch allowed Suzuki to cram in a third row of seats into the cargo area, where the Equinox hasn’t got space for those two extra chairs.

2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7. Click image to enlarge

Like many mid-size SUVs and crossovers with seven seats, the rearmost ones are best suited to small people. The XL7 gives up some second-row legroom to the Equinox, mostly because it sacrifices the Chevrolet’s sliding rear seat, again, to make room for the third row.

The XL7’s front seats – leather-covered in our range-topping JLX AWD Navi tester (JX models get cloth) – are very comfortable. The seat cushions are a little flat, however, and the combination of slippery leather and a lack of lateral support made for a bit of sliding around behind the wheel. At least there’s a well-placed left-foot dead pedal to brace against. Our tester had heated front seats; the heaters are offered only with the leather upholstery whereas the Equinox can be had with heated cloth seats.

The XL7 JLX gets a number of extras that the base JX model doesn’t starting with the aforementioned leather-covered seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The stereo gets a subwoofer, and there are steering-wheel mounted audio controls and an XM-ready sound system. There are also fog lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. All XL7s get a self-levelling rear suspension – a rarity in this class of SUV.

A JLX model with all-wheel drive starts at $35,995; our tester was the top-dog “Navi” model, which adds a navigation system for $37,995. Pile on $1,295 for freight and the $100 air conditioning excise tax and the total becomes $39,390. For the record, XL7 pricing starts at $30,995 for a front-wheel drive JX model; a JX AWD is worth $32,995 and a front-wheel drive JLX starts at $33,995. All XL7s are equipped with seven seats.

2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Chevrolet Equinox
2007 Suzuki XL7 (top) and 2007 Chevrolet Equinox; top photo by Jim Kerr, bottom photo by Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge

The XL7’s dashboard gauges and controls will be familiar to anyone who’s driven an Equinox (or its Pontiac Torrent twin), as they’re lifted almost untouched from the GM trucks. They work just fine, save for the radio’s tiny volume and tuning controls, which get shoved out of the way to make space for the navigation system. The XL7 also gets console-located power window switches which we griped about in a recent test drive of the 2007 Equinox. While the XL7’s interior fit and finish was generally good, we were disappointed by the uneven gaps between many of the pieces that make up the centre stack.

The XL7’s high roofline means the standard sunroof in our tester doesn’t cut into headroom noticeably. The switch for the sunroof, however, is conspicuous for its lack of any labelling. Figuring out tilt versus slide is a matter of fiddling with the switch (the owner’s manual would help, but our tester didn’t have one) until you get glass panel to do what you want. Likewise, the control for the instrument panel brightness is a lonely, unlabelled wheel left of the steering column. Neither control is hard to figure out, but a little guidance is always nice.

2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7. Click image to enlarge

It’s really easy to forget the XL7 bears the name of a Japanese automaker once you get on your way, because the XL7 also drives much like the Equinox and nothing at all like other SUVs and CUVs that hail from the land of the rising sun. Granted, the ride is noticeably firmer than it is in the Equinox, but everything else about how the Suzuki behaves on the road is very similar to its Chevrolet cousin.

The big difference is what’s under your right foot: the XL7 gets a General Motors DOHC 3.6-litre V6 in place of the Equinox’s underpowered, old-school pushrod 3.4-litre (another gripe we had with the Equinox). Despite the XL7 weighing in about 125 kilos heavier than the Equinox (at 1,837 kg), it’s much quicker on its feet, thanks to the 3.6-litre’s 252 horsepower; the Chevy’s 3.4 makes just 185 horses. The XL7 uses the same Aisin five-speed automatic transmission found in the Equinox and Torrent. If the XL7 feels adequately powered, then the Toyota RAV4, for example, must be over-powered: it can be had with seven seats as well, weighs just 1,667 kg so-equipped and has a 269-horsepower V6 that feels more like a V8 in straight-line acceleration. To boot, its rated fuel consumption is far better, and it’s cheaper (but has fewer niceties, like the Suzuki’s navigation system, for example).

2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7
2007 Suzuki XL7. Click image to enlarge

The XL7’s heft is evident on the road. The firmer suspension helps make it feel better planted over uneven surfaces, but you’re reminded that you’re piloting a rather large SUV every time you take a highway on-ramp a little too quickly. That said, handling feels safe, if not nimble, and GM’s Stabilitrak stability control system is there to bail you out if something goes wrong. While we never called on the stability control system to save us from certain doom, it did display some overzealousness here and there. Occasionally, when exiting a parking lot, for example, the judicious stab of the throttle needed to zip into a gap in traffic caused the Stabilitrak system to cut power drastically at the slightest hint of wheelspin. We don’t need to tell you how nerve-wracking that can be when you’re trying to squirt (in as much as a two-ton SUV can squirt) into moving traffic.

If our butts sensed the XL7’s heft on the road, our wallets felt it at the gas pumps. Over almost a month of driving, our fuel consumption averaged about 16 L/100 km in city driving, and the best we did on the highway was about 10.5 L/100 km. Natural Resources Canada’s ratings for the XL7 AWD are 13.5 L/100 (city) and 9.5 L/100 km (highway). Couple the numbers we got with the XL7’s 70-litre gas tank, and you get a range of about 400 kilometres in the city and not quite 700 clicks on the highway. Fuel consumption might be where the Equinox’s lower-tech engine has the advantage: its Natural Resources Canada consumption ratings are 12.6 L/100 km (city) and 8.6 L/100 km (highway) in the all-wheel drive model.

While the XL7 brings a dash of Japanese character to an otherwise middling domestic mid-size SUV, we think Suzuki would have done well to make more of its own mark on the way the XL7 drives. However, if, like us, your biggest gripe against the Equinox is its underpowered engine, the new XL7 might be the SUV for you.

Second Opinion: Paul Williams

The 2007 Suzuki XL7 was a category finalist (SUV/CUV $35,000-$60,000) in this year’s AJAC Canadian Car of the Year program. This was a hotly contested category and the Suzuki was somewhat of a surprise to make the top three. The result may be explained by the XL7’s huge cargo capacity, and its powerful 3.6 litre, Cadillac-derived V6 engine. It’s also fully loaded with navigation, leather interior and comprehensive safety technology, offering a lot of truck at the low end of the category price range.

These factors doubtless contributed to its strong showing, but it’s very much the ‘beast of burden’ in our group of long-term test vehicles. Driven on its own, you might not notice the somewhat mechanical presence of the engine, the soft suspension, and the tendency to pitch when encountering uneven road surfaces. But in direct comparison to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4 Sport, these less than desirable characteristics become apparent. However, when you want to move a lot of cargo, or transport seven people, the Suzuki will be your pick of the three. Despite its comprehensive appointments, the Suzuki XL7 puts the emphasis on ‘utility’ in the term, ‘sport utility vehicle’.

Second Opinion: Grant Yoxon

For a family of five, space has got to be at the top of the list when buying a new vehicle. But price, fuel consumption and safety are also concerns. Naturally, people on a budget want to get the most vehicle for the least money – up front and in day-to-day operation. With its large storage compartment and standard third row seat, the Suzuki XL-7 has a lot of room for a relatively small SUV. Yes, it is bigger than either of our other long-term testers, the Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe, but it is smaller and cheaper (base price $32,995 with all-wheel-drive; $30,995 with front-wheel-drive) than any other SUV that could match its interior room.

Its Cadillac-derived 3.6-litre engine is not as smooth as that of the Hyundai or as powerful as the RAV4’s, but load it up with people and luggage and you’ll hardly notice the extra weight on board. Add in to the equation standard safety features like side impact airbags, ABS brakes, tire pressure monitoring system and electronic stability program, all-wheel-drive, standard climate control and that third row seat, and the XL-7 looks like a very good deal for a family on a budget.



Type Four-door, seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle
Layout Front engine/all-wheel drive
Engine 3.6-litre V6, DOHC
Horsepower 252 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque 243 lb. ft. @ 2,300 rpm
Transmission Five-speed automatic with manual shift function
Tires 235/65R17
Curb weight 1,837 kg (4,041 lbs)
Wheelbase 2,857 mm (112.4 in.)
Length 5,008 mm (197.2 in.)
Width 1,836 mm (72.3 in.)
Height 1,726 mm (68 in.)
Cargo capacity 2,696 litres (95.2 cu. ft.), second and third-row seats folded; 1,399 litres (49.4 cu. ft.), third-row seats folded; 396 litres ( 14 cu. ft.) behind third-row seat
Fuel consumption, CVT Fuel consumption: 13.5 L/100 km city; 9.5 L/100 km highway (21 mpg city; 30 mpg highway)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty Basic – 3 yrs/60,000 km; Powertrain – 5 yrs/100,000 km
Side airbags Standard
Curtain airbags Standard
Anti-lock brakes Standard
Traction control Standard
Stability control Standard

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