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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
12-19-2006, 12:30 PM
It's weird, when you stop to think about it, that Suzuki is so very good at building world-class motorcycles (like the GSX-R sport bike, for example) yet hasn't produced a single really outstanding four-wheeled vehicle to date.

So far, anyhow.

But that may be changing. The company's newest models are increasingly impressive. And not just incrementally better -- but night and day improvements over previous efforts.

Like the 2007 XL-7 sport-utility vehicle.

It is completely new for 2007 -- and as different from its predecessor as the current Ford Mustang is from a '74 Pinto.

More to the point -- it's no longer a clunky-handling fuel-slurping, too-small-on-the-inside truck-based compact SUV.

While having true off-road capability (thanks to a truck-style four-wheel-drive system and heavy-duty frame) made the old XL-7 tougher than the car-based "crossovers" it was trying to compete with, most buyers (as far as sales trends suggest) would rather have a better on-road ride and other suburb-friendly qualities instead. So Suzuki went clean sheet and built the new XL-7 like other crossovers -- on a car-type chassis with pavement-friendly suspension system and available all-wheel-drive. The changeover makes the '07 XL-7 similar to other popular mid-sized crossovers like the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Sante Fe and Toyota Highlander -- and, Suzuki hopes, drops it right into the sweet spot of a market that's turning away from traditional, truck-based SUVs and their built-in problems of clumsy handling, poor use of interior space and awful gas mileage.

Given the XL-7's starting price of $22,899 -- with standard 252-hp 3.6 liter V-6 -- compared with the $27,095 base price (and 244-hp 3.5 liter V-6) of the Honda Pilot and the $24,880 base price (and 155-hp, 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine) of the Toyota Highlander, Suzuki finally has a solid hand to play.

For openers:

Though the previous model was also called XL-7 -- and could in theory carry as many as seven passengers -- it was a tight squeeze to actually get seven people in there. In the new XL-7 (which is nearly a foot longer overall than the old model and some 2 inches wider) the second row is no longer claustrophobic -- and the optional third row seats can carry occupants over six-feet tall without risking deep vein thrombosis. Once they're back there, at any rate. The XL-7's third row has leg and head room that's adequate even for an occupant as big as me (I'm 6 ft. 3 and weigh 195); it's just getting back there that can be a little challenging. The first step is folding the second row seat backs forward -- easily and ergonomically done by pulling forward on a handle built into the top of each second row seat back. But to get the second row seat bottoms to fold forward, you must root around for a fabric noose thingie that's tied to the seat bottom and then tug up and forward to get the second row seats out of the way. It requires flexibility and some strength to do this. Assuming that's not an issue for you, there is adult-useable room back there -- and a decent cargo area left over behind those third row seats, too. With the third and second row seats folded down, total cargo capacity is 95.2 cubic feet. An additional under-floor storage cubby adds even more capacity -- and provides a place to store smaller items out-of-view.

The new V-6 is a another Great Leap Forward for the XL-7. With 252-hp on tap, it is 67 horsepower stronger than last year's over-tasked 2.7 liter, 185-hp V-6. And more to the point, it is stronger than the engines offered by most of its immediate competitors, some of which (like the Toyota Highlander) don't even come standard with a six-cylinder engine. The XL-7's 0-60 time drops to under 8 seconds with the new engine -- while max rated towing capacity actually increases by 500-lbs. over the old model to 3,500-lbs. Highway fuel economy is now in the mid-20s with either front or all-wheel-drive -- and about 2-3 mpg better overall than the less powerful 2006 model.

A five-speed automatic comes standard with the new V-6 and features a Sport/Manual mode that permits manual control of gear changes. Power delivery is smooth and unstressed. The V-6 has ample power for part-throttle passes and plenty in reserve so that you don't feel maxed-out cruising on the highway at 70-something. A huge improvement here.

The optional AWD system is similar to what you'd find in competitor crossover SUVS. It's "always on" and requires no specific action by the driver. Normally, most of the engine's power goes to the front wheels. When they begin to slip, power is automatically routed to the rear wheels via a viscous-coupled differential. There is no "low" range as in the previous model, so off-road capability is not what it was. But AWD is the better all-arounder for everyday driving. It improves traction on dry pavement as well as when that pavement's slicked by rain or snow. Truck-style part-time four-wheel-drive is not set up for dry pavement -- and when not engaged, the vehicle is actually running in two-wheel-drive (even if it says "4x4" on the fender) and much more prone to slipping and sliding around than an AWD-equipped vehicle.

In addition to its revamped layout, tempting price point and strong standard engine, the new XL-7 is well-equipped even in its base form -- with standard climate control air conditioning, 16-inch wheels, six-speaker stereo with CD player and full roster of safety equipment including both traction and stability control as well as ABS brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system that tells you which specific tire(s) are running low. The only big ticket safety device that's not included in the as-it-sits price are the optional three-row curtain air bags. Not bad for under $23k.

(For comparision, the XL-7 is even less expensive than the equivalent '07 Hyundai Sante Fe with the optional 3.3 liter V-6, which starts at $23,645. )

XL-7s equipped with the optional third-row seat also get a load-leveling rear suspension and back-seat secondary climate controls. A rear-seat DV entertainment system is available on these versions as well. And to keep the XL-7 in the game on the higher end as much as it is on the value end, buyers can order up both a Limited and Platinum Touring model -- with the latter offering DVD navigation, a sunroof and unique-design 17x7-inch chrome-plated rims. Heated front seats, keyless ignition and a premium audio system with XM satellite radio come with the Limited. Order up the "works" and you're looking at $31,749 -- which is still a lot cheaper than a top-of-the-line Toyota Highlander Limited with AWD (base price $32,210 before adding the $2,000 navigation system, $1,700 heated leather seats and $720 sunroof) or the Honda Pilot EX -- which can't be ordered with both navigation and rear-seat DVD entertainment (you have to pick one or the other).

The Hyundai Sante Fe offers stiffer competition -- and a better warranty -- but the larger point is that the 2007 XL-7's a legitimate player in a segment where as recently as last year it wasn't even second-string. That's amazing progress in the space of just one model year -- and along with other new Suzuki models like the sporty SX4 crossover and snarky little Aerio, the company that's done so well with two wheels may soon be able to say the same thing about its four-wheeled offerings as well.

END

Kwozzie1
01-14-2007, 09:50 PM
Like the 2007 XL-7 sport-utility vehicle.



I think Suzuki make a good true 4WD machine.....now if only they had a diesel engine.

Eric
01-15-2007, 07:11 AM
"I think Suzuki make a good true 4WD machine.....now if only they had a diesel engine."

Agreed!

Land Rover is apparently going to bring over a diesel LR2 this year - or next. It's a start...

Kwozzie1
01-15-2007, 10:19 PM
"I think Suzuki make a good true 4WD machine.....now if only they had a diesel engine."

Agreed!

Land Rover is apparently going to bring over a diesel LR2 this year - or next. It's a start...



We already have them downunder...probably the most popular engine choice in this market. Not sure about the D3 but I can get 990kms to a tank in my D2

I feel the D3 is designed for "ladies who lunch" the poseur factor

Eric
01-16-2007, 05:38 AM
"We already have them downunder...probably the most popular engine choice in this market. Not sure about the D3 but I can get 990kms to a tank in my D2."

I'd want the diesel for such a vehicle as well; the TDI Touareg I drove last year was impressive. We're finally getting the low sulfur fuel these vehicles need to pass U.S. smog regs. - so we ought to have some decent choices to select from shortly!