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By offering a third-row seat in a compact SUV, Suzuki answers a question not many people are asking.
Base MSRP of under $20,000, functional third-row seating, spacious interior, quiet on-road demeanor, competent off-road performer.
Second- and third-row seats are not removable, side-impact airbags are not available, V6 needs more power, interior materials don't match otherwise premium package.
Available XL-7 Models
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The Suzuki XL-7 is an all-new midsize SUV based on a stretched Grand Vitara. It is the first in this class to offer third-row seating and a starting price of under $20,000.
Suzuki's advertising campaign for the brand-new Grand Vitara XL-7 will feature a colossal Ford Excursion as a supporting cast member. The message to the target audience? You shouldn't have to drive a 7,000-pound truck just to enjoy the comforts of a versatile interior or the convenience of third-row seating.
Nor should you have to spend well over $20,000 to get dimensions greater than those of a Ford Escape, Isuzu Rodeo, Mitsubishi Montero Sport or Toyota 4Runner. And actually, the exterior of the XL-7 measures just smaller than a Jeep Grand Cherokee's.
We are particularly fond of the XL-7's interior quarters. Not only is its third-row seat standard on all trim levels and usable for adults, but it's also relatively easy to access because of the SUV's wide rear doors and the second-row seats' 3.5 inches of fore and aft travel. A low floor and a stepped roof design that rises above the second and third rows ensure adequate space for heads and feet. The XL-7's only shortcoming as a people-hauler is its narrow cabin. At 70.1 inches, it's the same width as an Escape or a Nissan Xterra, which makes shoulder room a bit tight.
A punched out, 2.7-liter version of the Grand Vitara's 2.5-liter V6 powers each XL-7. This engine makes 170 horsepower and 170 ft-lbs. of torque and can tow up to 3,000 pounds. The XL-7 is available in four trim levels, in either two- or four-wheel drive, with a manual or an automatic transmission.
The Standard model is equipped with power door locks, mirrors and windows; remote keyless entry; cruise control; air conditioning (with micron air filter); daytime running lights; adjustable armrests for both front seats; a first aid kit; and tinted privacy glass. The XL-7 Plus adds rear air conditioning vents and a fan speed dial, a stereo with an in-dash CD player and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Touring models come standard with four-wheel ABS, an automatic transmission, a CD/cassette player combination, a sunroof and a rear spoiler. And if you do splurge on a Limited model, you'll get all of the above, plus leather seating.
All models offer a full array of today's latest safety items, including second-generation front airbags, integrated front and rear crumple zones, rear-door child safety locks and child seat-tether anchors. Still, for the market Suzuki is trying to capture and upscale image they've attached to the XL-7, side-impact airbags, at least as an option, need to find their way into this SUV.
The XL-7 isn't intended for performance driving, and we expect that its 170 horses will tire rather quickly when carrying a full load of passengers and a trailer. Surprisingly though, little wind, engine, or road noise permeates the cabin at highway speeds. We have observed that this SUV leans more than we would like in sweeping turns. Further, the steering is numb, and the brake pedal feels overly stiff (though actual braking performance seems solid). Of course, many SUVs have these faults, and most drivers won't care. Four-wheel-drive XL-7s, equipped with a low-range transfer case, climb rugged terrain as deftly as any competitor.
If you need functional third-row seating and don't want to part with $30,000 (or more) for a vehicle that guzzles fuel, then consider spending around $20,000 on a Grand Vitara XL-7.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.