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Suzuki Reinvents the XL7 and Shows New Entry AWD SX4

XL7 Was the Star, But SX4 Made U.S. Debut in New York
Suzuki‘s show stand at the New York auto show introduced two new entries for their 2007 model year lineup, one at the entry level and one to sit at the top of the range. The SX4 was officially introduced at Geneva in March and its small size means it will be a lower-volume vehicle for Suzuki, so the XL7 had top billing in New York. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific were there in the audience and got to take our first look at the new entries.
Has Suzuki Finally Solved the Equation for Success?
Point, Counterpoint… more Point: With these two new entries it appears that Suzuki may finally hit stride in the United States. Well styled and well priced, the concept for each of these new SUVs seems to be on target. No longer does Suzuki have to apologize for weirdly styled and packaged SUVs. These are mainstream and competitive – at least from a styling and package perspective. In the final analysis, it may be how well they drive.
SX4: AWD for $15,000
The SX4 is based on a European Suzuki product called the Swift, which is a small front-drive car. Suzuki is targeting the $15,000 to $18,000 price ladder for this entry product, though pricing will be finalized closer to launch. The powertrain is a 2.0L DOHC four-cylinder, standard with a five-speed manual or optional with a four-speed automatic. The SX4 slots in below the Grand Vitara and functionally takes the place of the Aerio all-wheel-drive wagon, which is being dropped. We covered the SX4 in a previous VehicleVoice blog entry.


Suzuki’s First Mid-Size SUV Offers Real Room for Seven
The real news for Suzuki in New York was the XL7, which the company reinvented with help from GM, losing the small, truck-based package and gaining a product that seems just right for the market today. The XL7 takes advantage of Suzuki’s involvement in the joint GM-Suzuki CAMI plant in Ontario, Canada. The previous Grand Vitara was kicked out when GM started building the Theta-based Chevrolet Equinox at the facility. In the form of the XL7, Suzuki adds a variant of the Chevrolet Equinox, though the XL7 takes the package further and offers more seats and more power.

With a new platform also comes a minor change to the name: The old, truck-based version was spelled XL-7. With the 2007MY, Suzuki dropped the dash and the model is now just XL7.

Suzuki’s Largest SUV
Looking to Theta gives Suzuki its largest SUV to date. The Suzuki shares a wheelbase with the Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, but is longer, taller, and slightly wider. This means a gain of approximately two inches in wheelbase, around five inches in overall length, and about two inches in width, compared with the XL-7. Suzuki puts this space to good use, and offers the new iteration in five- and seven-passenger configurations, a trick very likely to be added to the Chevy Equinox and perhaps as soon as 2007 model year. The second and third rows can be folded in several ways for carrying cargo rather than people, including the ability to fold the third row flat into the floor, at least most of the way.




Unlike SX4, the XL-7 is being offered standard in front-drive form. All-wheel drive is an available option. The XL7 doesn’t take the same 185HP 3.4L V6 as the Equinox. Instead, Suzuki got a license to build GM’s High Feature 3.6L V6 (estimated at 250HP for Suzuki) in Japan, and ships to CAMI for installation. A five-speed automatic transmission is the only one offered, and the only one really needed for a vehicle like this one. The XL7 also features a stainless steel dual exhaust system with two 3.5-inch-diameter exhaust tips.

Standard safety features include a rollover sensor, front and rear crush zones, front and side curtain airbags, ABS with brake-force distribution, and a stability program. On the convenience item list, the XL7 can be ordered with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system or a navigation system, but not both.
Pricing and Models. Suzuki expects to price the XL7 in the $23,000 to $29,000 range. Three versions of the Premium trim will be offered, with two getting five seats and one offering seven. Two Luxury trims will be offered as well, both with seven-passenger seating and the rear-seat DVD system. One will be front drive, the other all-wheel drive. Standard tires will be sixteen-inch units, with Luxury models getting seventeen-inchers. As of the New York introduction, Suzuki expects the take rate between front- and all-wheel drive to be about 50/50.

XL7 Should be Strong Offering for Suzuki. This could be an excellent product for Suzuki, in part because it shares in the GM parts bin. It did not take a long look at the interior at the New York show to find steering wheel and steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls that seem to come from the latest GMT900 SUVs, though the XL7 does not seem to share as much with the Equinox instrument panel or center stack. Though GM may not offer class-leading interiors, they are typically better than Suzuki interiors. Not only will XL7 likely benefit from a bit better quality than other members of the Suzuki family, the XL7 package is in the form of a crossover, and on paper hits the current sweet spot in the market.



On the downside, there are other products launching for 2007MY that fit in this little niche (think Ford Edge, Mazda CX-9 or even CX-7) and it is quickly becoming a crowded group, so competition is fierce. Suzuki will likely have price on it side, and picking from the GM parts bin should help prevent it from feeling cheap. If Equinox incorporates these upgrades for 2007 instead of 2008 model year, it will only add to the noise Suzuki must fight through to be heard.

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