2008 Suzuki XL7 Limited

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As with many lower-priced vehicles, evaluating the Suzuki XL7 comes down to one simple question: "Do you prefer quantity or quality?"

Equipped with a generous amount of low-end torque, the Theta-based XL7 Limited packs brisk acceleration (0-60 mph in just less than eight seconds), space for seven passengers (OK, five adults and two miserable, third-row children), and a gigantic list of features.

Standard on our XL7 tester was ABS, electronic-brake force distribution, an electronic stability system with traction control, five-speed automatic transmission and keyless entry. Optional was our silver XL7's chrome wheels, leather interior, navigation system, in-mirror rear-view camera, and rear-floor cargo bin.

On paper, I was impressed - options make the XL7 look extremely competitive and reasonable (priced at less than $28,000). But driving the SUV reveals more than a few quality issues.

Starting at the car's front, the XL7's engine sounds and feels loud and unrefined. Yes, it provides ample motivation, but drivers hear everything single horse stomping under the hood. Perhaps these horses also drank too much, as I continually heard some type of liquid swishing/flushing every time I accelerated from a stop. XL7 insulation must be minimal, as is door thickness.

Traction control was only a minor help, as the vehicle often spun tires when asked to dart across lanes and through traffic. And while there wasn't much torque steer, I'd prefer tighter steering to help give the Suzuki experience a more appropriate, sporty kick.

Running over cement cracks, I also noticed bits of the XL7's interior already rattling with less than 5000 miles of wear. And if buyers can order the XL7 with a rear-camera, why no parking-sensor option?!

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