NEW YORK – American Suzuki Motor Corp. stages the debut of the ’07 XL7 midsize cross/utility vehicle here at the New York auto show.

The XL7 replaces the outgoing model of the same name and is being built at CAMI Automotive Inc., in Ingersoll, Ont., Canada, Suzuki’s joint venture with General Motors Corp.

The new vehicle is based on a stretch version of the Theta platform that underpins GM’s Chevy Equinox and Pontiac Torrent CUVs, and, therefore, is able to seat seven people vs. the Equinox and Torrent’s 5-passenger seating. The XL7 also offers 5-passenger seating.

It will be available in both front-wheel- and all-wheel-drive configurations, with an independent 4-wheel suspension. MacPherson struts are used up front, along with a multilink rear setup.

The XL7 is powered by a 3.6L DOHC V-6 engine making 250 hp. GM supplied Suzuki with the engine block. Tom Carney, vice president-sales, for American Suzuki, tells Ward's the auto maker will sell it back to GM for use in the Torrent.

The engine is mated solely to a 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting mode.

Suzuki says although the XL7’s new engine is almost one liter bigger than the outgoing model, fuel efficiency is improved.

The XL7 is rated at 18 mpg (13 L/100 km) in the city and 24 mpg (10 L/100 km) on the highway for FWD models, and 17 mpg (14 L/100 km) city and 23 mpg (11 L/100 km) highway for AWD models.

Towing capability is 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg), Suzuki says.

Inside, the XL7’s third row 50/50 seat can be folded flat for cargo hauling capability, as can the front passenger seat.

Trim details include wood or satin nickel pieces on the instrument panel and doors, as well as chrome accents and matte black plastics.

Safety features include a body structure designed to mitigate front- and rear-end collision damage, standard rollover sensing, four standard airbags and electronic stability control.

Suzuki will offer two trim levels: premium and luxury, both available in FWD or AWD configurations. There will be three premium models: two with 5-passenger seating and one with seating for seven.

Two luxury models are offered: one FWD and one AWD, both with 7-passenger seating and rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Suzuki also offers a navigation system and sunroof on the luxury models but says buyers choosing the DVD system cannot get navigation.

Suzuki expects sales of the XL7 to be split evenly between the FWD and AWD models. Pricing is expected to range from $23,000-$29,000.

The Suzuki XL7 goes into production in August at CAMI, with a fourth-quarter on-sale date targeted.

Meanwhile, Suzuki shows the new SX4 compact hatchback, already unveiled last month in Geneva. Carney says Suzuki will have an advantage in the SX4’s segment with standard AWD.

Powered by a 2L 4-cyl. engine making 143 hp, the SX4 is due to go on sale late this summer at a starting price of about $15,000.

The SX4 rides on the same platform as the Suzuki Swift subcompact, sold in global markets. Carney says the possibility of the Swift being sold in the U.S. is under discussion.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com