Introduced during the 2001 model year and badged as the Grand Vitara XL-7, Suzukis newest and largest model is now marketed under the XL-7 designation in order to draw a distinction between it and the smaller Grand Vitara. The XL-7 name denotes the vehicles ability to hold seven passengers; in contrast, the Grand Vitara seats only five occupants. The standard XL-7 seats five people, but the upscale models hold seven. Suzuki has not yet released details on changes for the 2003 model year.
Suzuki is one of the smaller Japanese manufacturers. The automaker has specialized in small cars and SUVs for years. The companys Aerio sedan and Aerio SX wagon were introduced as 2002 models. General Motors owns a stake in Suzuki, but there have been no announcements about sharing the XL-7 with GM.
Its easy to see the family resemblance between the XL-7 and the Grand Vitara. But at 110.2 inches, the XL-7s wheelbase is more than a foot longer than the Grand Vitaras wheelbase, and the XL-7s overall length is 19 inches greater at 183.6 inches. Both models have about the same height. Like other Suzuki SUVs, the XL-7 is built on a truck chassis. A side-hinged tailgate opens to the right.
Seven seats are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. The XL-7 has two front bucket seats, a three-place bench in the center and a split, folding rear seat that holds two. The middle and rear seats fold down but are not removable. Five-passenger models lack the third-row seat. The XL-7s cargo capacity is 73 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down.
Cloth upholstery is standard, but the plush Limited edition gets leather. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a CD player, a full-size spare tire, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. The Plus edition adds rear air conditioning, a third-row seat and alloy wheels. A cassette/CD player, spoiler and sunroof goes into the Touring model. Topping the pack is the Limited, which was added in 2002 and comes with a standard automatic transmission, a leather-trimmed interior, running boards and a wood-grain dashboard.
Under the Hood
The XL-7 comes with either rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), and it carries a 2.7-liter V-6 engine that produces 183 horsepower. A four-speed-automatic and five-speed-manual transmission are available. Equipped with a Low range, the 4WD system must be disengaged on dry pavement.
Antilock brakes are standard on the Touring and Limited models and optional on other trims equipped with 4WD. Side-impact airbags are not available. All models have LATCH child-safety seat tether anchors.
The XL-7s performance is eager but not startling, and Suzukis automatic transmission yields quick, crisp shifts. The SUV maneuvers easily through corners and curves. A bit of body roll is evident, but not to a troubling degree. The XL-7 is easy to drive and demands only slight correction on the highway. Its ride quality isnt particularly rough ranking just above the SUV norm but you do notice nearly all pavement imperfections.
Front-seat occupants get plenty of space, but the second row is a little short on legroom and would be a squeeze for three occupants. Theres only a narrow cargo shelf at the rear when the third-row seat is in place. When you look into the inside rearview mirror, the second- and third-row headrests can be more distracting than the spare tire that protrudes up into the back window.