Suzuki XL-7 4WD 2004 review
But the original baby 4WD, which had many fans because of its great off-road ability, was both a curse and a blessing for Suzuki.
The upside was that its loyal band of followers managed to return from the bush each weekend without getting bogged and without having to pay exorbitant fuel bills or high maintenance fees.
Though tiny, the two-stroke Jimny – called the LJ50 in Australia – was dirt-cheap fun.
In 1981, a WA LJ50 enthusiast and owner Les Allen, and I, were the first to retrace the Holland Track from Broomehill to Coolgardie since it was first opened in the 1890s in one of these weeny 4WDs.
Following a rising wave of concern for the environment, the smelly, smoky, noisy and highway-unfriendly Jimny engine became a pariah.
Further models appeared, including the biggest Suzuki to date, the XL-7.
The bugbears of the past have gone but despite the near invisibility of Suzuki's 4WD models on the Australian market the product adheres to its primary role of getting people through some pretty nasty off-road terrain.
It will seat seven, has the comfort level of a passenger car and all the creature comforts, and is as easy to drive as the LJ50.
Which brings me to Lancelin.
There probably isn't a better place so close to Perth to legally have a day of fun on pure, white sand. The sand, weighed down by recent rains, was firm and the undulations rated in angles from modest to cliff-face proportions.
As expected, the sandpit was a doddle for the XL-7. At 4.7m long and with a 2.8m wheelbase, the XL-7 is no baby 4WD and shares little in dimensions with its ancestors.
It's also porky at 1625kg – a meat pie or five away from its svelte predecessors.
The long wheelbase XL-7 wagon, has a low-range gearbox and full chassis.
It's physically stronger than its softroader competitors – primarily the Mazda Tribute, Toyota Kluger and Subaru Outback – but this translates into extra weight.
The low-range gearbox adds a new dimension, making the XL-7 streets ahead when it comes to traversing demanding off-road situations.
On the Lancelin dunes the automatic version of the XL-7 powered up and slid down the sandy inclines with ease. Low range was engaged on a few occasions to cross patches of soft, dry sand, but the strength of the V6 kept it moving.
The only grizzle was climbing over sandy peaks that caught the underbelly of the XL-7.
A bit closer to Perth, the Ledge Point off-road area has completely different soil characteristics.
Isn't it great a shire or town gives its off-road community a great weekend fun park?
At Ledge the ground is firmer so the tracks are moulded into hard ruts that really test the suspension. The XL-7's suspension, which is pretty basic though remarkably durable, has limited travel.
What really endeared me to it was its ability to get its wheels back on the ground as quickly as possible to maintain traction.
I didn't get bogged so I came away from the trip with a smile.
The sophisticated V6 engine is similar to the Suzuki Grand Vitara's 2.5-litre version, with more low-end torque adding to its off-road ability.
It will also rev freely to the 6000rpm red line without complaint or vibration.
On the bitumen the Suzuki has a ride comfort equal to its rivals and loses little in road handling.
The XL-7's seats are made for small bodies. The cabin room is fine but the seats could be wider for our fast-food fed frames.
The standard third seat row is comfortable and spacious for children.
But because it has reasonable legroom, the boot is small and won't house the family luggage.
The third row splits and folds down to increase boot space; the second seat row can also be split and slides fore/aft on runners. The swing-out rear door is light, despite carrying the spare wheel.
The XL-7, tested in basic form, has dual-zone climatic airconditioning, electric windows and mirrors, dual airbags, velour trim, six-disc in-dash CD, alloy wheels and ABS.
There is a Luxury version available with more fruit at extra cost.
This is a very impressive machine. It loses a couple of points because it looks ordinary but will really reward the family who actually want to go off-road and get home again.
Range and Specs
|(4x4)||2.7L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$2,970 – 4,620||2004 Suzuki XL-7 2004 (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|Limited (4x4)||2.7L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$3,190 – 4,950||2004 Suzuki XL-7 2004 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data