The Whole Shootin’ Match
Steve Schaefer, Fri, 29 Jun 2007 08:00:00 PDT
My late father used an expression when he meant something was all-inclusive, or loaded: "the whole shootin' match." Well, that phrase applies perfectly to the new Suzuki flagship. It holds seven, goes anywhere, and is loaded with everything you could ask for.
The XL7 is totally redone this year, effectively moving from the truck-based platform of an SUV to a unibody car platform. As a crossover, it can still be equipped with all-wheel drive, giving it off road ability, but you don't have to give torque to the rear wheels to gain substantial benefits. The list of virtues is long and the argument for owning one is strong.
I enjoyed a week of motoring in the Limited version with all-wheel drive-the top of the line, to use another familiar expression. Like all XL7s, it came with a 3.6-liter, 252-horsepower V6 that can pull you to sixty miles an hour in under eight seconds. That's practically classic muscle car territory! All XL7s give you an electronic five-speed automatic that you can shift manually if you care to.
Interestingly, despite being a bigger car and having a much larger engine than the 2006 model, the fuel economy is equivalent or better than that of the previous 2.7-liter mill. Front wheel drive models earn ratings of 18 City, 24 Highway, and you give up 1 mile per gallon for the extra weight of all-wheel drive.
The Green Car Vehicle Guide gives the XL7 an above-average 7 for the Air Pollution score and a so-so 4 for the Greenhouse Gases score, but it is a 252-horsepower V6, after all.
I cruised from the central San Francisco Bay Area to Monterey and back, and life is good behind the XL7's steering wheel with its prominent S. The hard plastic surfaces wear an interesting pattern-not quite leather-like, but the seats are covered in real leather that looks like leather. The engine hums quietly, mounted in a separate double-isolated cradle, and with five gears, the transmission doesn't have to stay in any gear too long. The XL7 will tow up to 3,500 pounds, so you can bring your boat or recreational motorcycles along with you.
The XL7 looks pretty much like its competitors. Suzuki isn't the volume leader, although if they keep delivering quality vehicles like this one, they could become one someday. The company's growth in America over the last few years has been remarkable, aided by a wide selection of new products from various sources.
This one differs from its competition in wearing unique arrow-shaped headlamp units. The side windows take the crossover look, dropping down gently in back, while the roof dips more gradually, creating a mass at the tail that conveys strength. The vertical taillamps zig forward at the leading edge, giving the XL7 a little distinction in back too. Regardless, this crossover is the largest SUV ever made by Suzuki, and it really stands its ground.
Being a crossover, the XL7 has a car-style four-wheel independent suspension, which imparts a comfortable, well-damped feeling as you pack on the miles. The XL7 can hold seven, and provides nice accommodations for everybody, although third-row passengers get substantially less legroom (it's still a tolerable 30.8 inches). At least headroom is fairly consistent front to back, but it's probably best to seat the big folks in the first two rows.
The second row seat folds and tumbles forward and the third row drops flat, so carrying cargo is no sweat. The front passenger seat folds flat, too, so you can bring along your surfboard when you're cruising towards the beach, although all XL7s do come with roof racks.
The base XL7 starts at just $22,999, and has standard features aplenty, from remote keyless locking to the power trio: windows, locks, and mirrors. You also get cruise control, a trip computer, a six-speaker audio system, air conditioning with climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, and lots more.
The next step up is the Luxury, which at $24,599 adds leather seats with power adjustments and heat, while bumping up the alloys to 17's. You can get the base car or the Luxury model as five- or seven-passenger models.
The third step is the Special, which comes standard as a seven-passenger vehicle and throws in a DVD entertainment package and remote starting for $26,899.
Lastly, the Limited, like my Majestic Silver tester, adds several appearance options, such as a rear spoiler, and upgrades the stereo. It also gives you the DVD system from the Special. Like the Special, it's seven-passenger only. The Limited will set you back $27,949. You can add all-wheel drive to any model and pay more. My tester, with essentially everything, including the Platinum Touring Package (Navigation system, sunroof, chrome wheels), came to $31,749.
There's a new crossover in town, and he's a straight shooter.