THE RIDE: Four-door, seven-passenger 2008 Suzuki XL-7 Limited front-wheel-drive midsize SUV.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2007, this Chevy Equinox-based SUV is the flagship for Suzuki. Sitting on a unibody frame, the XL-7 delivers a civilized ride. Also laudable is its 3,500-pound towing capacity, which is just enough to pull along a motorcycle or small watercraft.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: With as much as 13 trims available, a 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 engine develops a respectable 252 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 243 pounds-feet of torque at 2300 rpm. It is mated to a 5-speed automatic with manu-matic transmission. An independent MacPherson strut in front and a multilink rear suspension with self-leveling shock absorbers for adjusting to heavier loads keep the SUV stable and smooth. A hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system guarantees a solid on-center feel. It's worth noting that the XL-7 received a five-star rating from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration for frontal and rear crashes, and a four-star rating for rollover in a single-vehicle accident.
LOOK & FEEL: A three-bar grille with multireflector and jewel-like headlights meets up with a steeply raked windshield and a black roof rack with aluminum accents. The rear shows off vertical taillights, dual chrome tips, a spoiler and an aluminum bumper skid plate. The cabin is functional, thanks to roomy leather seats, chrome door handles and power windows, locks, mirrors and tilt-and-slide sunroof. There is 146.1 cubic feet of interior space, made flexible by the 60/40 split folding second-row seat, the 50/50 split third-row folding seat as well as the front-passenger folding seat. So, bring in the ladder or plywood material to load off from the local home-building store.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution with Brake Assist, rollover sensor, three-point seatbelts, tire pressure monitoring sensor and daytime running lights are standard.
OUT THE DOOR: $27,299, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P235/60R17; wheelbase, 112.4 inches; length, 197.2 inches; weight, 4,049 pounds; fuel capacity, 18.6 gallons; highway, 22 mpg; city, 16 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The navigation system and power sunroof now are standard on the Limited edition of the XL-7. Making the SUV a major attraction also is an admirable performance with a functional interior and numerous standard safety features, notably the curtain airbag for third-row passengers. Pitch in the seven-year, 100,000-mile fully transferable power train limited warranty and you have a great buy.