In 2007 Suzuki introduced two timely new vehicles, including the crossover XL7, and celebrated a marked increase in sales. The current fluctuation in fuel costs and slow down in big SUV sales actually bodes well for Suzuki, as many Americans are looking to move to smaller, more fuel-efficient versions of their big SUVs. Crossover utility vehicles (CUVs) like the 2009 XL7 are built on car-like unibodies and have some attributes of both minivans and SUVs. The sleek XL7 joins the crossover segment as a modern, style-conscious seven-passenger vehicle with optional all-wheel drive and excellent fuel economy. There are three trim levels: Premium, Luxury and Limited.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
You'll like the 2009 Suzuki XL7 if you enjoy a mobile lifestyle, want flexible seating, need plenty of horsepower and torque for towing light-to-moderate loads, such as jet skis, and don't want to break the family budget. For weekend off-roaders who find gravel roads exhilarating, the XL7 all-wheel-drive can deliver power to all four wheels full-time.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
You may not like the limited rear view through the tailgate window and, if you need to tow bigger loads, you'll have to look somewhere else.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
A new six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode helps improve both fuel economy and performance. The Base trim is dropped from the lineup.
The sedan-like quality of driving the 2009 Suzuki XL7 is evident from the start, and it's easy to forget there is space for six passengers. Steering is responsive, even on unpaved roads. Driving on a patch of severe washboard road there was, naturally, some shake and vibration but the XL7 Limited we tested ran straight and sure, thanks in part to the self-leveling rear shock absorbers. The handling is easy and precise, with minimal body lean, and braking is strong and responsive. The manumatic, which allows the driver to manually shift up or down by tapping the shifter, is an excellent, easily-operated assist system and welcome on steep hills. Despite its size and heft, the XL7 provides a fairly quiet ride with barely discernable wind noise but some noticeable engine roar inside the cabin. The all-wheel-drive system in its three modes – two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive Lock – operates effortlessly.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
Cool weather means cold seats, but from a distance of 200 yards they can be warmed up in advance using the XL7's remote start, which automatically starts the engine and warms up the heater when the outside temperature is below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Automatic transmissions are way ahead of manuals in popularity, but appropriate shifting with the manumatic can enhance control and, on downhill runs, save brake wear, as well.
As plush as its price allows, the interior is entry-level luxury. Spacious, comfortable second-row seats recline and flip down. The front passenger seat, and the third-row seat, both fold flat to provide extra cargo space. Tall passengers will appreciate the headroom, but riders in the third row may find the legroom restrictive. For road warriors, the four 12-volt power outlets provide power for electronic devices and the cockpit-style dash is compact and friendly. Door openings are wide, even for entering the third row. Fully equipped, with a functional cabin to suit most needs, the XL7 offers three trim levels, all of which offer seven-passenger seating.
With a styling combination of SUV and station wagon, the sleek 2009 Suzuki XL7 has a balanced exterior with triangular headlamps among its most noticeable features. Clean lines and muscular wheel arches identify the XL7 with the midsize crossover segment. Integrated roof racks, a high-rise tailgate and a dignified grille add up to an attractive vehicle.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
An emphasis on protective features defines the front-wheel-drive XL7 as a vehicle for individuals who are concerned about family safety. Front and side-curtain airbags for all rows lead the list, along with a rollover sensor, electronic stability control with traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution. Premium trims include front and rear air conditioning controls, automatic transmission with manumatic shift, remote entry, a self-leveling suspension, cruise control and four 12-volt outlets. The Luxury trim adds leather seating, heated front seats and a power sunroof, while the Limited receives DVD navigation, a Pioneer audio system with seven speakers, remote start and 17-inch chrome wheels.
Options include all-wheel drive, which adds heated side mirrors to any model. Limited models offer a DVD entertainment system in lieu of the power sunroof.
UNDER THE HOOD
The engine on all three models is a 3.6-liter V6 designed by General Motors and built by Suzuki in Japan, matched to a six-speed automatic/manumatic transmission that provides all the driving modes most drivers will ever need.
252 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
243 lb.-ft. torque @ 2300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 (FWD), 16/23 (AWD)
The XL7 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $26,500. All-wheel drive adds another $1,500 to the bottom line. Still, even a fully loaded Limited only tops out around $31,500. New Car Blue Book Values, showing what consumers are actually paying, can differ substantially, so be sure to take a look at them before heading to the dealership to compare. Also, be sure to check the Incentives tab to see what deals Suzuki may be offering. Closest competitors include the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot and the slightly cheaper Hyundai Santa Fe. As far as residuals go, the XL7 unfortunately trails the competition.