It's a bargain for its size -- a big SUV without a big price tag.
What was tested? 2008 Suzuki XL7 Premium ($23,249).
Price as tested: $23,249
There are plenty of things I like about this vehicle, the Suzuki XL7. It has a refined drivetrain, lots of space inside and great safety ratings.
But there's one reason I wouldn't buy it.
Let's start with the good news.
The XL7 is a lot of vehicle for the money. The base model costs around $21,000 -- the same as a well-equipped compact car -- but it has a whole lot more space. It's nearly the size of a full-size SUV but looks like a trendy crossover vehicle with gentle curves and a high beltline.
It has a refined drivetrain, lots of space inside and great safety ratings.
Its engine and transmission are impressive, too. It feels powerful and smooth when you step on the right pedal, a huge improvement over the sluggish and clunky previous generation XL-7. It only gets 18 miles per gallon in town, but it never feels like it's grunting or straining.
It also has a great warranty with no deductibles for 100,000 miles or seven years. And you'll feel safe driving your family in it thanks to its quadruple five-star crash safety ratings from the federal government.
So what does it lack?
It only gets 18 miles per gallon in town, but it never feels like it's grunting or straining.
Yes, I realize this is a family-friendly SUV with a low price tag, so it's unreasonable to expect it to be all that thrilling. When you think about spending that much money on one purchase, though -- even if it's a bargain -- there needs to be something that pushes your emotions over the goal line. Something about it should make you want to dance.
After spending a week driving this SUV, I never found that magic feature -- that one awesome gimmick -- that would make someone drool over an XL7. It didn't play MP3 discs in the base radio. It didn't get amazing gas mileage. It didn't look stunning. It didn't accelerate like it was being pushed by God.
And it certainly didn't have a good suspension. Driving it felt more like maneuvering a big delivery van as it bounced and hopped down the road. That would be forgivable if it had a smooth, luxurious ride, but the XL7 doesn't. It seems to amplify bumps rather than hide them.
It also has a great warranty with no deductibles for 100,000 miles or seven years.
I see why people buy this vehicle. It offers an unusual combination of frugality, size, performance and style that many people find attractive.
If Suzuki could find a way to make it more exciting, though, the company could probably find a lot more buyers.
Pros: It's a bargain for its size -- a big SUV without a big price tag. It also has a good warranty and quadruple five-star crash safety ratings.
Cons: It doesn't have any must-have features to get buyers excited.
Driving it felt more like maneuvering a big delivery van as it bounced and hopped down the road.