I’m 31, single and happy. So obviously my mother is constantly nagging me to get hitched and give her grandchildren. Even my sister’s impending marriage has failed to distract her; she’ll never be content until, presumably, I am not. Perhaps she’s right. I’m the only unmarried man at my weekly poker game. My best friend is expecting his first child this summer. If I were honest, I might admit I’m at the age when oat-sowing men settle down, produce offspring and molt. I can, however, offer at least one compelling reason for not introducing my spawn upon the world’s stage: I'd fit the Suzuki XL7's psychographic profile.
The best part of this car reviewing gig is the weekly Xmas gift in the driveway. Sadly, I’ve been busy thinking of excuses not to drive the XL7. Surely the battery on the WRX will drop dead if I don’t take it for a spin. There’s that one twisty bit on the 0.7 mile jaunt to the store; best not to waste it. Suzuki’s all new seven-seater has turned me into a child that hates his toys. If I could bottle boredom, I’d write “XL7” on the label and shove it up the tailpipe.
Though you’d never guess the XL7 is a stodgy snore based on exterior appearances. The nose is an ADHD-derived pastiche of at least three separate design tongues, all of which fail fantastically. It has the jut-jawed, approach-angle killing bumper found on Toyota trucks. The three-bar chrome grill is quite literally stolen from Ford. And the sagging lower portions of the headlamps are lamely fashioned after the sharp bend in the Suzuki S. From the side, you’re looking at a fat Saturn Vue with the wheel arches squared off. All three windows have black plastic cheats that try to convince you the greenhouse is shapely. It’s not. The rear isn’t even worth mentioning.
Inside, Suzuki has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact that their SUV is fashioned from the same materials used to make the brightly colored plastic eggs protecting kiddies’ trinkets. The XL7’s brittle gearshift not only sports Sebring-quality fake wood (as does much of the interior), but is quite literally hollow. As are the volume toggles on the wheel. The armrest feels like it melted and all the knobs seem distinctly second-hand. Serendipitously, I’ve discovered a new axiom: as bad as Suzuki seats. Speaking of which, there is a third-row, but I couldn’t imagine how one would get back there. So I didn’t. At least the sat nav is cute.
If you want to know why Suzuki– or anyone– would put power window switches on either side of the gear selector, the po'boy cabin design owes its not-so- fundamentals to its platform partners: the Chevy Equinox/Pontiac Torrent twins. While this kind of matrix can create a groovy vibe, GM’s seven percent [ownership] solution blessed the ostensibly Japanese automaker with yet another inexpensive opportunity to broaden its lineup with, um, crap.
At this point, I’m supposed to describe the XL7’s driving dynamics. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any. Yes, yes; it goes, it stops, it turns and when you run out of gas you can refuel. Other than that, I got nothing. Objectively, I put 400 miles on the odometer. Subjectively, I can’t remember one of them. Knowing this, with a deadline looming, I took the XL7 for a final spin around the block. This minivan on stilts goes, stops, turns and you can refuel it– though I'm hard-pressed to figure out why anyone would bother.
There is one caveat, one unexpected find. Ascending a hill I became trapped behind a particularly slow Toyota. I swung left and really buried the throttle. The XL7 simply erupted. The 3.6-liter, 24-valve, double-overhead cam, high-revving mill threw 252hp and 243lbs. ft. of torque at the incline. Imagine a funicular on NOS. Credit God-knows-what, but the XL7 goes much quicker than it should. Most impressive (and odd): it covers the 70 to 90mph sprint with a fury many sports cars can only dream of. I can best describe it as raging full on. Of course, if you were to change course at that speed, the body lean would scrape the rear-view on the pavement. Note to Suzuki: put this engine into a chassis that can exploit its banshee-like power.
Hang on. It took over four-days of puttering around Los Angeles and a Camry that rode its brakes uphill before I even considered giving this monotonous hippopotamus the cane. That's just dull. And unacceptable. I mean, the recent XL7's TV ads show a biker babe and a cool dude in an XL7 swapping keys, and asks, can you handle it? Yes, and no. My poor mother.
[JL and RF discuss the XL7 below.]