Whole new chassis and suspension in '96 as I recall as well.
I don't really know how the XRL differs from the pre 1996 XR-R. I'm sure you could loose some weight if you can live without the blinkers, mirros, passenger pegs, rear mud guard and all that stuff.
The XRL was pretty slow, heavy and not the easiest thing to get started after you drop it. A DR350S or SE would be similar, but better imho (not a lot lighter than the drz though).
A DRZ is pretty darn friendly - maybe work on it a bit to get the weight down a little. I'd rather ride a DRZ than an XRL no matter how tight the trails, but I tend to ride fast so my preferences could differ.