2007 Suzuki XL7 First Drive
Suzuki makes extra-large plans for the new XL7
Suzuki is the underdog of the automotive world.
Outmatched by big automakers with more resources, they've made deals, created partnerships and carved out a business on the fringes of the North American market. A better warranty. Lower prices. A cute ‘ute that offers off-road capability. That's the Grand Vitara, and it's one of the shining stars that have helped Suzuki record sales gains in 2006. The Forenza, the Aerio SX – each caters to a niche crowd of shoppers like first timers and bargain hunters. That's fine and dandy, but the real gold – the brass ring – is in a mainstream dominated by front runners like Toyota and Honda. One must only look at the sad tale of the underpowered, Daewoo-built Verona midsize sedan as an example of what happens in the rough and tumble mainstream.
Suzuki has given up on the Verona – a smart decision – but tries again to crack the mainstream with a completely new seven-passenger crossover suv to replace the XL-7. Losing its hyphen for 2007, the XL7 has nothing in common with the outgoing model, which was an underpowered, ladder-frame, truck-based SUV that stood out primarily because it could go off-road better than most vehicles in its class. This new XL7 abandons the off-road niche for a more powerful pavement prowler, a car-like unibody vehicle designed for families who value comfort, convenience and three rows of seats. Vastly improved over the old XL-7, the new 2007 Suzuki XL7 is also slotted squarely into that fearful mainstream, going head-to-head against some mighty tough competition including the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander.
Talk about your underdogs. Convincing car buyers to choose the Suzuki XL7 is sure to be a struggle, but there is a sliver of opportunity thanks to the XL7's mixture of a long warranty, a powerful engine, and impressive safety features. And while a lack of overall refinement and a few better competitive choices may turn people away from this underdog, we like its chances to make a place for itself. It may not be thanking Mom and smelling roses, but when that final whistle blows, the 2007 Suzuki XL7 is sure to win some brand new fans.