2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

New for the 2001 model year, the Suzuki XL-7 is a longer wheelbase version of the Suzuki Grand Vitara with a larger 2.7 litre V6 engine, bigger rear doors, and a third row seat which brings seating capacity to seven passengers. The XL-7 offers standard part-time 4WD with a low range gear, and a high level of standard equipment such as air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo, split folding rear seats, and 16 inch tires. Prices range from $28,995 to $33,595.

Suzuki XL-7 seats seven, but small enough to be maneouverable

The Suzuki XL-7 is the only compact sport-utility vehicle available with seating for seven passengers – it has two front bucket seats, a three-person second row split bench seat, and a two-person third row split bench seat. The third row seat has limited legroom – it’s better suited to children than adults – but for parents who want to transport their kids and their friends to the soccer game, birthday party, fast food restaurant or video arcade, the seven-passenger XL-7 is the ideal taxi.

Introduced in December of 2000, the XL-7 is basically a stretched version of the Suzuki Grand Vitara. It was given a larger 2.7 litre V6 engine with 15 more horsepower, a split third row seat, larger rear side doors, more standard equipment, and a higher price-tag. While Grand Vitaras range from $24,495 to $31,495, XL-7’s range from $28,995 to $33,595.

Versatile interior

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

Not only does the XL-7 seat seven passengers, but it has very versatile passenger and cargo-carrying capabilities. The split folding rear seats make it possible to transport different combinations of passengers and cargo – for example, you could fold down the right-side 2nd row seat and the right-side 3rd row seat to carry a 6 foot ladder on that side of the vehicle while transporting two second row passengers and one third row passenger on the left side of the vehicle.

The second row seats have fore-aft adjustment – unusual in a compact SUV. This helps free up more legroom for third row passengers, or provide second row passengers with more legroom when there’s no one in the third row seats. The second row seats feature centre folding armrests and reclining seatbacks, two features that make long drives much more comfortable for rear passengers. The rear side windows roll all the way down to the window ledge.

Getting into the third row seat is a bit of a challenge, despite the extra long rear side doors. The second row seats will slide forwards to allow easier entry, but it’s a still a squeeze. Third row rear headroom is OK for adults, but rear legroom is limited if another adult is sitting in the second row seat.

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

Rear passengers in seven passenger vehicles often complain of poor ventilation, so the XL-7 is available with an optional rear air conditioning/heater system. This consists of a second row fan control, and ceiling-mounted air vents in the second and third rows.

By folding all the rear seats down, the XL-7 has a very roomy cargo area (73.0 cu. ft) with a flat, carpeted floor – compare that to the Ford Escape which has a maximum cargo capacity of 63.3 cubic feet. In addition, there is a hidden storage area underneath the cargo floor. The cargo area includes a 12 volt powerpoint and cargo light.

The XL-7’s rear door, which has the spare tire attached to it, opens sideways towards the curb – this restricts access to the sidewalk when loading or unloading – however the cargo opening is wide and easy to access.

The XL-7’s front seats have inboard folding armrests, and the driver sits up high with good visibility all around – even the rear head restraints have ‘doughnut’ holes to help with visibility. The rear window, however, is partly obstructed by the tailgate-mounted spare tire.

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

In terms of appearance, the XL-7’s dashboard is not quite up to the standards of some its competitors, but it is functional and controls are easy to reach. The seat cloth has a soft, durable texture, and the seats and doors have attractive patterned inserts. Higher trim models have additional wood trim on the lower console and around the floor-mounted transmission lever.

Storage areas include a bin under the front seat, an open storage container ahead of the gearshift lever, the glovebox, front door pockets, map pockets on the back of the front seats, and a third row storage box. However, there is no storage compartment in the centre folding armrests. There are a total of four cupholders in the centre console, and two at the rear.

The automatic transmission gearshift lever has an on/off overdrive button on the handle, and behind it is another lever to engage four-wheel-drive. The driver can shift from 2Hi (rear-wheel-drive) to 4Hi (part-time 4WD) at any speed up to 100 km/h. Unlike most small SUV’s which have full-time 4WD, the XL7’s part-time 4WD system should only be engaged on slippery surfaces such as gravel or snow. In normal driving, two-wheel-drive should be used.

The XL-7 also has a low range gear for slow hill climbing and descent which can only be engaged after the vehicle is stopped. Most compact SUV’s do not offer a low range gear.

Smooth V6 engine, part-time 4WD standard

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

Two aspects of the XL-7’s performance stand out – its smooth, refined V6 engine and it’s comfortable ride. Though the XL7 has a truck-like steel ladder box frame and a non-independent rear suspension, it has a wonderful ride and surprisingly good handling. The good ride is partly due to its long 110.2 inch wheelbase – this eliminates the choppy ride that is common to many SUV’s. Also, the XL-7’s driveline is very tight and vibration-free which adds to its feeling of solidity and quality.

The standard 2.7 litre V6 engine lacks the truck-like noise and vibration common to many V6-powered SUV’s. In fact, I often forgot that I was driving a truck because the engine was so smooth and quiet. The 170 horsepower V6 engine features twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, and though it is not as powerful as some of its competitors, it offers plenty of power for everyday highway and freeway needs. According to Suzuki Canada, the XL-7 is capable of pulling a 1361 kg (3000 lb.) trailer.

The 2.7 litre engine incorporates a number of low-maintenance or no-maintenance features such as a steel timing chain instead of a rubber belt, direct ignition system, and automatically-adjusting valve tappets.

Fuel consumption is a little below average for a compact V6-powered SUV: 13.6 l/100 km (21 mpg) in the city and 10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg) on the highway.

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

My test truck had the optional four-speed automatic transmission which proved to be very smooth. A five-speed manual transmission is offered as standard equipment, but I didn’t have an opportunity to test it. The 4WD system engages with a solid push of the floor lever, and to disengage 4WD, it’s not necessary to get out and manually lock and unlock the front wheel hubs.

Suzuki designed the XL-7 so that it can be towed by a motorhome – it can be towed with all four wheels on the ground without disconnecting any driveline components, and it won’t accumulate odometer mileage while being towed.

The XL-7’s standard power-assisted rack and pinion steering is firm enough to ensure steering feel and responsiveness but light enough to allow easy operation in city and highway operation. Its turning diameter of 11.8 metres (38.7 ft.) is good for a 4X4 with such a long wheelbase.

The XL-7 is longer than other compact SUV’s – for instance, it’s 270 mm (10.6 in.) longer than a Ford Escape and 155 mm (6.1 in.) longer than a (2001) Honda CRV – but it’s about the same height and width as those two vehicles. Relative to other seven passenger vehicles such as minivans and mid-sized SUV’s, the XL-7 is smaller, easier to drive and more maneouverable in the confines of the city. Suzuki calls it the ‘right-sized’ SUV, and I’m sure many people who’ve driven larger SUV’s will understand what that means.

Long list of standard features

2001 Suzuki XL-7
Click image to enlarge

All XL-7’s come with a high level of standard equipment which explains its fairly high starting price of $28,995. Standard features include the V6 engine, five-speed manual transmission, body-coloured bumpers, part-time 4WD with Low Range, power steering, front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS, a block heater, 235/60R-16 inch tires, roof rails, and a soft cover for the spare tire.

Inside are a cloth interior, 60/40 folding second row seats and 50/50 folding third row seats, air conditioning with micron air filters, power windows and door locks with remote keyless entry, power mirrors, AM/FM/CD player with four speakers, tachometer, variable intermittent wipers, tilt steering wheel, rear tinted windows, rear wiper/washer and defroster.

Standard safety features are dual airbags, adjustable head restraints on all outboard seating positions, seatbelt pretensioners, rear child door locks and tether anchors.

A 4-speed automatic transmission brings the price of the base model up to $30,595.

XL-7’s with the Plus option package ($31,995) have a standard automatic transmission, rear air conditioning system, alloy wheels, cruise control, and a hard spare tire cover.

Top of the line Touring models ($33,595) add power glass sunroof, front fog lamps, and rear spoiler. Leather upholstery and side airbags are not offered, although this may change for 2002.

The XL-7 comes with a standard 3 year/80,000 km warranty, but unlike import SUV’s, the XL-7 doesn’t have standard 5 year powertrain warranty.

Technical Data:

2001 Suzuki XL-7 Touring
Base price $28,995
Price as tested $33,595
Type 4-door, 7-passenger compact SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine/part-time 4WD
Engine 2.7 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 170 @ 5500 rpm
Torque 178 @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic (5 speed manual)
Tires P235/60R-16
towing capacity 1361 kg (3000 lb.)
Curb weight 1680 kg (3703 lb.)
Wheelbase 2800 mm (110.2 in.)
Length 4665 mm (183.7 in.)
Width 1780 mm (70.1 in.)
Height 1727 mm (68.0 in.)
Ground clearance 190 mm (7.5 in.)
Cargo capacity 1050 litres (37.0 cu. ft.) behind 2nd seats
  2070 litres (73.0 cu. ft.) behind 1st seats
Fuel consumption City: 13.6 l/100 km (21 mpg)
  10.6 l/100 km (27 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km

Connect with Autos.ca