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Suzuki XL-7 Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: ,000 - ,000 Small Sport Utility Vehicle
Who should buy this car: If you are looking for an inexpensive SUV with room for 7, this is the only game in town.
Comparable models in this class: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Liberty, Kia Sorento, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Xterra, Saturn Vue
Suzuki's XL-7 is more than just an extended version of the Grand Vitara. It's a near-mid-size SUV with all the trimmings of the bigger ones, yet the charm and practicality of a smaller SUV.  For example, the XL-7 has a 2.7-liter V6 engine that's rated at 185 horsepower. This isn't the biggest number you'll find in a V6, but it's enough power to propel the XL-7 to illegal speeds in almost every state of the nation.

That engine is attached to an all-new 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The new transmission is smoother than the 4-speed it replaces, yet still doesn't hold the XL-7 back. We drove it in an extended test in our area of the country, and in a shorter, but more rugged, test at the 2004 Suzuki introduction, and found it to be a delight. The best part about the new transmission is that it's "invisible." You don't know it's there, and that adds to the usefulness. There's nothing more annoying than a component that's always making itself known - like a noisy engine or exhaust, for example.  A five-speed manual is also available.

Among the "big car" features on the XL-7 is seating for seven in three rows. The front row contains two bucket seats, or captain's chairs. The middle row is a three-person bench, while the rear row is a two-person bench. Kudos to Suzuki for not claiming the third row as a three-person seat, because those people would have to be very small. Small children would have no problem back there, though.

Rear air conditioning is standard in the seven-passenger version, giving the people back there some creature comforts.

If you aren't carrying a lot of people, you can fold down the rear seatback and create additional luggage space. The cargo area is listed at 6.6 cubic feet with the third seat back up, 41.6 cubic feet with it down, and 72.0 cubic feet with the second row seats folded. That's a lot of space for a small vehicle. With two seats in operation, we put four golf bags in back, although the rear seat passengers were slightly cramped in regard to leg room. Still, there's a lot of carrying capacity for a small SUV.

Since this is a sport utility vehicle, it's designed for some off-road travel, even if it isn't rock climbing. The XL-7 has a 4WD system that can be shifted "on the fly" between two- and four-wheel-drive at speeds up to 60mph.We've driven the XL-7 off-road and found it to be capable in normal off-roading conditions.

One neat feature about the XL-7. A lot of buyers use them as support vehicles to motor homes. The XL-7, as well as all Suzuki 4WD SUVs, can be towed behind a recreational vehicle with all four wheels on the ground.  Nothing has to be disconnected and the vehicle does not accumulate odometer mileage while being towed.

Our top-of-the-line EX trim level had a six-disc in-dash CD changer, power tilt-and-slide sunroof, leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and transmission knob, four-wheel ABS, front fog lamps and heated front seats. There's also a side-step running board that makes access to the rear seats easier.

The XL-7 was Suzuki's first "up-scale" vehicle that has now expended with the introduction of the Verona, a mid-size sedan that is almost in its own class market-wise, and is in its own class among its competitors.

2003 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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Engine Type 2.7 liter double overhead cam (DOHC) 24 valve V-6 with variable valve timing
Horsepower 185 @ 6000 RPM
Torque 184 @ 4000 RPM
Fuel Recommended Regular Unleaded.
Transmission & Drive (Base model) 5-Speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive
Transmission & Drive
5-speed electronically controlled automatic
rear wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive
Tires - Standard P235/60R16 all season tires
Overall Length 187.4"
Wheelbase 110.2"
Width 70.1"
Turning Diameter 39.4 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 3,852 lbs.
Fuel Tank 16.9 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 17 , hwy 22. 
Towing Capacity 3,000 lbs.
Base Price ,499 plus 0 destination charge 
Price as tested ,399

2004 Suzuki XL-7

Standard Equipment

  • 5 person seating capacity
  • outside rear mounted spare tire with hard shell spare tire cover
  • privacy glass
  • roof rack
  • rear window wiper
  • skid plates
  • ventilated front disc / rear drum brakes
  • automatic headlamps
  • cruise control
  • tilt-adjustable steering wheel with audio controls on steering wheel
  • climate control with interior air filtration
  • simulated wood trim on dash, doors and center console
  • AM/FM in-dash single CD player stereo with 7 speakers

Major Available Options

  • Automatic transmission
  • All-wheel drive
  • Antilock brakes
  • Leather seats
  • 7 passenger seating
  • Sunroof

For more information on the Suzuki XL-7, visit

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