The Suzuki XL7 car reviews

Review Notes: 2002 Suzuki XL7 Limited 2WD with 2.7 V6 and automatic
Personality Looks and feels like a luxurious until you get moving
Quirks Driver's door lock controls all other locks; luxury feel marred by drivetrain
Gas mileage 17 city, 20 highway
Unusual features Interior filled with luxury cues
Above Average Ease of entry
Needs Work In Gas mileage, automatic transmission
Bottom-scraper test Passed
Car reviews written by David Zatz

Based on the Grand Vitara, the XL7 is extra large and seats 7. In past years, the resemblance to the Grand Vitara was rather strong, but more recently the XL7 has been restyled, inside and out, to become more of its own vehicle. The change is welcome and makes the xl7 a better deal than it was in 2002. The luxurious feel of the doors and trim is now matched by woodgrain on the elegant center console, with its thermostatic climate control, and a well-designed instrument panel with chrome-ringed gauges.

The XL7 is a mid-sized SUV, large for a Suzuki but relatively small for the current American monster trucks. This allows for a nimble feel and good handling, as well as a relatively small engine for decent if not actually good gas mileage. The engine feels overtaxed when going uphill, especially with the air conditioning on, but otherwise provides good acceleration.

The transmission shifts moderately firmly, but lacks authority. There is a power mode switch which delays upshifts and speeds downshifts, enhancing acceleration and responsiveness at the cost of economy. The 2003 implementation feels better programmed than in our past experience.

Our limited model had two wheel drive, but the four wheel drive models can be shifted in and out of four wheel drive at moderate speeds (in a straight line).

There is good room for four, with the middle seats easily flipping forward (from either driver or passenger side) to produce extra seats for a pair of children or dwarves. With the third row of seats folded down, there is good cargo space. Access is easy, thanks to a reasonable height - you neither have to climb up nor down, as in larger SUVs or cars. It seems to have been designed as an SUV for those who really need a minivan but can't bring themselves to get one, with the convenient and pleasant interior and height.

The rear is covered by a door, rather than a hatch; it opens to the right, which is more convenient in right-hand-drive nations.

Visibility is good for an SUV, thanks partly to the low height. The wipers and defrosters are effective in both front and back.

The controls are sensible and well designed, including the cruise control, which has a separate (Toyota-style) stalk. When the system is activated, a Cruise light goes on; when a speed is locked in, Set is added, a good way to do it. The climate controls were very well designed, with automatic and manual modes, and knobs and buttons which could easily be manipulated through thick gloves. Heat came quickly through both front and rear vents. The rear vent fan can be controlled by front or rear passengers, but oddly faced forward, so that the rearmost passengers would not reap its benefits. In summer, owners will appreciated the vented moonroof cover, which lets you leave the moonroof in vent position to exhaust hot air without allowing sunlight in. Dual moonroof controls for venting and opening are handy, too.

The center console is small and includes a sliding top which can be used as an armrest, or be flipped over backwards to serve as cupholders for middle row passengers. There are also front cupholders underneath an elegant sliding lid. Front doors have map pockets, as well.

The stereo, which on our Limited model included seven speakers and a subwoofer, is very capable, with strong stereo separation and clear sound.

Our $25,000 test vehicle included the 2.7 V6, automatic, ABS, sixteen inch alloy wheels, power windows, mirrors, and locks, sunroof, remote keyless entry, front and rear air conditioning with thermostatic control, CD changer, cruise, tilt steering with remote stereo controls, leather seats, and a seven year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. That's not a bad package for a seven-seat SUV. It's not even a bad price for a seven-seat minivan, though minivan buyers will get a more responsive engine, better mileage, and more space, not to mention a sliding side door. If this package was sold by Ford, it would easily double, all by itself, Suzuki's total US sales. While that's not going to happen, it might well end up being sold by Chevrolet at some point - sort of but not really competing with the TrailBlazer.

Overall, the Suzuki XL-7 has been much improved over last year's model, and is a good alternative to full-sized behemoths such as the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Suburban. No, it's not a towing monster, but it has room for seven or lots of cargo, is more comfortable than those full-size monsters, and is much more comfortable on the wallet - both in purchase price and in gas mileage. Those with more modest needs for space may want to save a few dollars and consider a responsive and off-road-ready Jeep Liberty, while those wanting more power and height might want to try the Chevy TrailBlazer. Buyers may even want to consider throwing style to the wind and checking out a minivan or station wagon. Any way you look at it, though, compared with similarly priced SUVs, the XL7 is a good deal with a surprisingly good interior.

Comparison chart: Suzuki XL7 versus competitors

2003 Suzuki XL-7*

2003 Toyota Highlander AWD V6 2003 Honda Pilot LX 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4x4 Laredo 2003 Ford Explorer 4x4 XLT 4.0L 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer 4x4 LS 2003 Saturn VUE AWD V6
Price With Freight $23,339 $27,370 $27,360 $28,640 $31,335 $28,800 $23,150
Horsepower 183 220 240 195 210 275 181
rpm 6,000 5,800 5,400 4,600 5,100 6,000 6,000
Torque 180 222 242 230 254 275 195
rpm 4,000 4,400 4,500 3,000 3,700 3,600 4,000
4wd type part-time full-time automatic full-time part and full-time; off-road ready automatic full-time automatic full-time full-time
locking hub control auto permanent permanent permanent auto auto permanent
transfer case shift manual none none manual electronic electronic none
front suspension independent independent independent non-independent independent independent independent
rear suspension rigid axle independent independent rigid axle independent rigid axle independent
brake type front disc/rear drum 4 wheel disc 4 wheel disc 4 wheel disc 4 wheel disc 4 wheel disc front disc/rear drum
vented discs front front front front front front+rear front
abs option 4-wheel 4-wheel 4-wheel 4-wheel 4-wheel option
abs channels 4 4 4 4 3 4 3
mirror activation power remote option - power remote power remote power remote power remote manual power remote
heated mirror yes yes no no no no no
Suzuki XL-7 Toyota Highlander Honda Pilot Jeep Grand Cherokee Ford Explorer Chevrolet Trailblazer Saturn VUE
max seating 7 5 8 5 7 5 5
front armrest driver/passenger driver/passenger center center center center driver/passenger

Rear Seats

folding 60-40 60-40 60-40 60-40 40-20-40 65-35 70-30
reclining manual manual manual none none none manual
descriptor split-bench split-bench split-bench split-bench bench split-bench bench

3rd Row Seats

folding 50-50 split bench none 50-50 split bench none bench ($670) none none
Suzuki XL-7 Toyota Highlander Honda Pilot Jeep Grand Cherokee Ford Explorer Chevrolet Trailblazer Saturn VUE
dashboard insert simulated wood metal-look none aluminum metal-look none none
console insert simulated wood metal-look metal-look none none none none
Overhead console full mini mini none full none none
storage yes yes yes no yes no no
lighted glove box no yes yes yes yes no no
instrument panel storage bin none bin none none none none
interior concealed storage yes no yes no no no no
seatback storage pockets 2 2 2 1 2 none 1
rear door bins yes yes yes no no no yes
front underseat tray yes no no no no no no
audio media storage yes no yes yes no yes no

Cargo Space

cover roll-up option option option none option none
cargo tray yes no no no no no yes


air conditioning automatic manual manual manual manual manual manual
rear air conditioning yes none yes none option none none
air filter yes yes yes no no yes yes
underseat ducts yes yes no yes yes yes yes
cassette no yes no no yes no no
speakers 7 including sub-woofer 6 4 6 4 6 6
steering wheel controls yes no no no no no no
Antenna retractable fixed window grid fixed fixed fixed fixed
Suzuki XL-7 Toyota Highlander Honda Pilot Jeep Grand Cherokee Ford Explorer Chevrolet Trailblazer Saturn VUE
fuel door release mechanical mechanical mechanical none none none none
driver foot rest yes yes option yes no yes yes
first aid kit yes option no no no no no
door lock activation power with 2 stage unlock option - power with 2 stage unlock option - power with 2 stage unlock power power with 2 stage unlock power power with 2 stage unlock
remote locks keyfob (all doors) keyfob (all doors) keyfob (all doors) none keyfob (all doors) none keyfob (all doors)
auto locking yes no no yes yes yes no
EPA mpg 17/20 18/22 17/22 16/21 15/21 15/21 19/25
curb weight (lbs.) 3,682 3,660 4,416 3,975 4,374 4,616 3,470
max trailer weight 3,000 3,500 4,500 5,000 7,000 6,200 2,500

Leg room

front (") 41.4 40.7 41.4 41.4 43.9 44.6 41.2
rear (") 36.4 36.4 37.4 35.3 37.2 37.1 36.8
third (") 31.3 0 30.2 0 34.8 0 0

Head room

front (") 40 40 41.9 39.7 39.9 40.2 40.4
rear (") 39.2 39.8 40.9 39.5 38.9 39.6 40.3
third (") 38.9 0 38.9 0 39 0 0

Hip room

Suzuki XL-7 Toyota Highlander Honda Pilot Jeep Grand Cherokee Ford Explorer Chevrolet Trailblazer Saturn VUE
front (") 50.7 55.1 57.5 56.5 55 55.5 51.6
rear(") 50.6 54.9 56.6 52.4 54.3 58.1 52.7

Shoulder room

front (") 52.8 57.9 61.6 58.9 59.1 58.5 55.4
rear (") 53 57 61.4 57.8 58.9 58.5 55.3
passenger volume (cu-ft) 127.5 105.7 176.9 94.6 0 0 100
maximum cargo volume 75.1 81.4 90.3 72.3 81.7 80.1 63.8
length (") 183.6 184.4 188 181.5 189.5 191.8 181.3
body width (") 70.1 71.9 77.3 72.3 72.1 74.6 71.6
height (") 68 66.1 70.6 69.4 71.4 74.5 66.4
wheelbase (") 110.2 106.9 106.3 105.9 113.8 113 106.6
Powertrain warranty 84 60 36 84 36 36 36
distance (mi.) 100,000 60,000 36,000 70,000 36,000 36,000 36,000

 * xl7 data: Touring 4x4 AT (with ABS and 3rd Row Seat)