The triangular turn/headlamps on the all-new '07 XL7 cross/utility vehicle signal the efforts by Suzuki Motor Corp. to create something distinctive.

Suzuki struggled to create a midsize CUV that belies the fact it starts life riding on a General Motors Corp. platform.

The XL7 shares GM's Global Compact Crossover (Theta) Architecture with the Saturn Vue, Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent and is assembled alongside the Equinox and Torrent at CAMI International Inc. in Ingersoll, Ont., Canada.

For the '07 XL7, Suzuki abandons its 5-passenger body-on-frame predecessor for a 7-passenger CUV using unibody construction. It is the largest and most-powerful vehicle the Japanese small-car specialist has made to date.

In comparison with GM's 5-passenger variants, the XL7 chassis has been stretched 9 ins. (23 cm) to accommodate the third row of seats.

GM can use the stretched 3-row design. But under an agreement between the two auto makers, GM would have to change the styling completely to protect the exclusivity of Suzuki's design. There is little to suggest GM has any such intentions.

Underpinnings aside, the XL7 is an original Suzuki design, and all body panels are unique, as is the powertrain. Less than 40% of the XL7 is shared with GM's trio.

The more aggressive look is befitting this little beast, powered by a GM-designed but Suzuki-built “high-feature” 3.6L DOHC V-6 pumping out 252 hp at 6,500 rpm. That makes it more powerful than the GM triplets and many of its competitors.

However, it will not best the new 3.5L DOHC V-6 powering the Ford Edge. And GM will put a version of the 3.6L in the new Saturn Outlook/GMC Acadia that may prove faster off the mark.

Fuel economy for the XL7 is 18/24 mpg (13/9.8 L/100 km) city and highway with FWD, dropping 1 mpg with AWD. That is better than the fuel economy of the outgoing XL7 with a 185-hp 2.7L V-6.

The ride is decent, with independent MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link independent rear suspension. Shifting is smooth with a 5-speed automatic. Tip-in and acceleration are immediate.

Electronically controlled, on-demand AWD is available. The rear brakes are disc. GM also switched to disc from drum brakes on its CUVs for '07. Towing capacity is 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg).

The XL7 offers standard 4-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control, rollover sensing and side-curtain airbags.

Inside, Suzuki succeeds in masking a standard GM interior layout and plastic expanses with creative use of fabrics and materials including wood, chrome accents and low-gloss black matte surfaces.

Passengers get segment-leading spaciousness in the second and third rows. The reclining 60-40 split second-row seat tumbles and folds, while the third-row seat folds flat into the floor.

Now on sale, the XL7 starts at $22,899 for a 5-passenger base model (there are three trim levels) and $24,250 for a base 3-row. Pricing does not include $635 destination charges.

The Luxury version begins at $24,599, and the top-of-the-line Limited goes for $27,949. Of the 60,000 XL7s to be built annually, 50,000 are earmarked for the U.S. The rest are for Canada and export to Latin America.

’07 Suzuki XL7 (AWD)
Vehicle type Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger 4-door cross/utility vehicle
Engine 3.6L (3,564 cc) DOHC V-6, aluminum block/aluminum heads
Power (SAE net) 252 hp @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 243 lb.-ft. (329 Nm) @ 2,300 rpm
Compression ratio 10.2:1
Bore x stroke (mm) 94 x 85.6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 112.4 ins. (286 cm)
Overall length 197.2 ins. (501 cm)
Overall width 72.2 ins. (184 cm)
Overall height 68.9 ins. (175 cm)
Curb weight 4,049 lbs. (1,837 kg)
EPA fuel economy, city/highway (mpg) 17/23
Market competition Chevrolet Equinox; Pontiac Torrent; Ford Escape; Honda Pilot; Mazda CX-7; Hyundai Santa Fe; Jeep Compass; Saturn Vue; Toyota RAV4 and Highlander