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Suzuki Weekend – The Quest to be Mainstream; The Suzuki XL-7 and the XL7

Jim Brennan November 11, 2012 Weekend Edition 2 Comments

Welcome to the Sunday edition of the Suzuki Weekend. The reason behind these series of postings stems from the fact that American Suzuki Motor Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection this past Monday, and will stop selling cars in the U.S. There was a time in which Suzuki tried to offer more mainstream models, and an early attempt was the Suzuki XL-7, along with its replacement, the XL7. Continue after the jump to see what I mean.

Suzuki introduced the first-generation XL-7 in 2001. At the time, it was the first SUV in its class to offer a third-row seat for a price starting under $20,000. Based on the small Grand Vitara, this XL-7 had a trucklike, body-on-frame construction and either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case. These rugged underpinnings made the XL-7 fairly competent for off-road use.

All models of the Suzuki XL-7 were equipped with a 170-hp, 2.7-liter engine matched to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic (something other small SUV makers were not doing). In reviews of the time, most publications noted that they liked the availability of a third-row seat and the vehicle’s reasonable price. However, the truck didn’t match up well to the competition in terms of either refinement or maximum off-road ability.

The model’s optional third-row seat was of dubious value. Changes to the first-generation Suzuki XL-7 were minimal. In 2002, power was increased to 183 hp and 4-wheel antilock brakes became optional. There was also a clumsy facelift offered sometime after 2004 to try and modernize what was becoming a very old model.

The second-generation Suzuki XL7 debuted for 2007. It used the same unibody platform and many of the same components as the Chevrolet Equinox, Pontiac Torrent, Saturn Vue and Opel Antara but incorporated third row seating exclusive to the Suzuki. The second generation model used a version of the GM High Feature engine, built in Japan and shipped to CAMI Automotive in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, where the XL7 was assembled with the Equinox and Torrent.

The last Suzuki XL7 was the largest, most comfortable Suzuki SUV ever built, with a spacious, functional and refined interior. Reviewers found that the XL7’s unibody chassis provided a carlike ride and good reflexes on the pavement, however, there was a clear lack of off-road ability compared to its predecessor. In May 2009, Suzuki halted production of the XL7 indefinitely due to low demand. Through May 10, 2009, CAMI Automotive Inc. had only produced four XL7s for Suzuki after producing more than 12,000 units the previous year.

So, did Suzuki’s quest to go mainstream do the company any favors, or did it just mask Suzuki as another beige Japanese car company? Let me know either way, and tell me what you think about the XL-7 and the XL7.

  • lilpoindexter

    When I got into bike riding, I considered a Vitara/ Grand Vitara…but I got a Subaru Legacy instead, and I'm glad I did, it's a fine cruiser with a cavernous interior and a carlike (lol) ride.

  • mrh

    I swear I had never seen a second gen XL7 until this posting.