Monday, October 15, 2007

2007 Suzuki XL7

Americans can be forgiven for knowing little about Japanese automaker Suzuki, which has not enjoyed much visibility or presence in this country. But that is changing. Known mostly for mini-cars in Japan and motorcycles here, Suzuki has been coming on strong of late with a raft of new U.S. models and a serious marketing effort. Among those new models is this XL7 midsize CUV, Suzuki's largest and most powerful vehicle ever.

Evolved from a 2005 concept and built on GM's Theta (Chevy Equinox, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Vue) compact CUV architecture, this new 252-horsepower XL7 ("crossover long seven-passenger," no hyphen) is definitely more fun than the average crossover (CUV). It's quick, fun to drive, quiet and comfortable inside, smooth riding and yet surprisingly athletic in the corners.
Why a GM platform? Because General Motors owns three percent of, and has several joint venture product partnerships with, Suzuki. And the XL7's 3.6-liter variable-valve-timing 24-valve DOHC V6 is a GM engine, though Suzuki's version is built in Japan under license.

Powertrains and Chassis
This energetic powerplant pumps 252 horsepower and 243 lb.-ft. of torque through a five-speed automatic with a manual-shifting (manumatic) mode. Mounted in a double-isolated cradle, it propels the XL7 from rest to 60 mph in less than eight seconds and delivers 18 mpg EPA city and 24 highway with standard front-wheel drive and 17/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. That available all-wheel drive uses an electronically controlled rear differential that responds instantly when rear-wheel traction is needed. And with a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, the XL7 is capable of hauling active owners' ATVs, dirt bikes or wave runners.

Compared to the previous model's rear-drive, body-on-frame chassis, the new XL7's unibody structure delivers car-like ride, handling, and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). The MacPherson-strut front suspension is a long-wheel-travel design, and the multi-link rear layout uses trailing arms and triple locating links to enable a low, wide floor and maximize rear-passenger space.

Safety Features
Advanced driver, front-passenger and side-curtain airbags are standard, and the XL7's body structure is designed to manage loads and transfer impact energy around the reinforced "safety cage" cabin to help protect occupants in both front and rear crashes. Its front and rear crumple zones are engineered to collapse in a controlled manner to absorb crash energy, while the single-piece door apertures and door beam reinforcements help resist side-impact intrusion.
Also standard are four-wheel ABS with traction control and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Program (ESP). These systems working together, using inputs from a lateral accelerometer and yaw and steering angle sensors, can selectively apply individual brakes to correct skids and help the driver maintain control on slippery surfaces or during emergencies. And rollover sensors monitor the vehicle's angle and rate of roll to help keep all four wheels planted on the road.

The new XL7 puts the most expressive body yet on a GM Theta platform. The strong Suzuki styling cues include triangle-shaped turn lamps, a large Suzuki "S" badge on a bold three-bar grille and broad-shouldered, muscular wheel arches. The exterior look is enhanced by integrated roof racks and dual exhausts with large chrome tips.
The interior boasts matte black, low-gloss surfaces with chrome accents and handsome faux wood or satin nickel sections on the instrument panel and doors. Leather seating and a leather-wrapped steering wheel come with up level trim packages.
Easily the most spacious and comfortable Suzuki ever, the XL7's body is stretched nearly 8.5 inches compared to its GM platform siblings to accommodate that available third-row seat and claims best-in-class second-row seating with a six-inch deep footwell. The reclining 60/40 middle-row seat tumbles and folds for easy access to the back row, and the 50/50 third-row seat folds flat into the floor to optimize cargo room. The front passenger seat also folds flat for longer items such as ladders, surfboards or maybe a small kayak.

Trim Levels and Packages
Four trim levels are available: base XL7, Luxury, Special and Limited, with three-row, seven-passenger seating optional on the first two and standard on the Special and Limited. Standard features on the $23K XL7 include automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, power windows, door locks and mirrors, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer with driver information center, auto on/off headlamps, black roof rails, 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and AM/FM/CD six-speaker stereo, while three-row models get load-leveling rear shocks, under-floor rear cargo storage and rear air conditioning with separate controls.

The Luxury model adds leather, power driver's seat, heated front seats, 17-inch wheels and tires, wood trim accents and (with three-row seating) either an optional sunroof or a DVD entertainment package (it can't package both) with wireless headphones and remote engine starting. The Special comes with standard three-row seating, remote starting and the DVD entertainment system. The $28K Limited piles on fog lamps, rear spoiler, upgraded roof racks with silver-colored rails and cross bars, aluminum lower bumper valances and AM/FM/CD/MP3 XM Satellite Radio-ready seven-speaker audio. An optional Platinum Touring Package replaces the DVD entertainment system with a power tilt-and-slide sunroof and adds touch-screen DVD-based navigation and chromed alloy wheels.

American Suzuki Motor Corporation (ASMC) has more than 530 U.S. dealers in 49 states. And, like all 2007 Suzuki automobiles, the XL7 is backed by the company's 100,000-mile/seven-year, fully transferable, zero-deductible powertrain limited warranty. You may still not know much about Suzuki, but now you know what you should about this new XL7.

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