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Mazda Hits Crossover Bulls-Eye in USA. Image by Paul Shippey.

Mazda Hits Crossover Bulls-Eye in USA
Mazda's new CX-7 is about to be launched in Europe. Paul Shippey tries out the high-quality CX-9 in the USA.


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| A Week at the Wheel | Boulder, Colorado, USA | Mazda CX-9 |

"This is a Mazda?!"...she exclaimed, as she settled into the cushy leather seat of the CX-9. "It feels like a German car, an Audi or BMW. This is very nice, I want one of these!"

My friend's response sums it up nicely: this could be one of Mazda's most impressive offerings to date. Seems like the company has raised its design and build quality up a couple more notches.

Mazda's new CX-9 was designed primarily for the North American marketplace; like its sibling CX-7, the aim was to create a vehicle that stood out from the rest in the SUV market space. The seven-passenger, crossover SUV bears some relation to the Ford Edge (not surprising given that it's based on the same platform), but that's where the DNA ends. You may also wonder how the CX-9 relates to the new CX-7. Truth be told, this is not a stretched CX-7 to accommodate a third row; no sir. They are actually two entirely different vehicles according to Mazda.

On first acquaintance, the CX-9 feels incredibly solid, almost German solid. If you'd taken the Mazda badging off the vehicle it would have been difficult to identify. The styling is refreshing and at the same time striking. It drew lots of praise from onlookers. There's also a structural density to the CX-9 that I've yet to find in another Mazda product. This is helped by the fact that Mazda uses laser-welding and the laser-plus adhesive bonding of its Mazda6-based uni-body.

Styling is dramatic, with sleek, swooping lines. One look at the CX-9 and you can tell that Mazda's design team took cues from the CX-7. Its profile and shape are surprisingly similar to the CX-7, but its body is smoother and less bulbous in shape.

One of the key features of this newcomer is that is has a fold-down third row seat that can actually accommodate full-size adults, unlike most others that claim this, but in reality can only accommodate midgets or kids.

According to the maker, the CX-9 has the largest pass-through to the third seat you can find. This can be attributed to the third row's 833mm of legroom, a second row that adjusts fore and aft by 127mm for easy access, an easy-to-use latch that lets you slide past the second row into the back, and the CX-9's long 2875mm wheelbase.

So you get the idea; this is a real people mover and more. The CX-9 is a people carrier with poise, agility and good power. Under the hood you'll find an invigorated version of the Ford 500 and Freestyle's 3.5-liter quad-valve V6. I say invigorated because this engine is a new revision that addresses the shortcomings of its predecessor.

This time it punches out 263 horses and 249lb.ft of torque. The good news is that there's now torque all over the rev range, from low down to higher up, which was not the case with the older powerplant. It's also smooth and responsive when summoned for a passing maneuver.

This V6 is strong enough to propel the 1,943kg of sheet metal from 0 to 60mph in a very respectable 7.7 seconds. The quarter-mile will take 16 seconds and it gets there with little fuss or bother. The Japanese-built transmission works smoothly and crisply when swapping cogs and fortunately bears no semblance to the unpolished one in the Ford Edge. The engine may work great, but one setback may be the CX-9's fuel economy with an EPA-rated 16mpg in the city and 22mpg on the highway.

Ride and handling are pretty good for an SUV. The CX-9 tackles twisty roads with great composure for a large vehicle and the steering offers good feedback with crisp turn-in. It feels very sporty. One small sacrifice for this lack of body roll, which I was happy to live with, is a harsher ride on lumpy roads, thanks to a more rigid suspension and oversized 20-inch wheels.

Aside from accommodating seven passengers, the interior is very nicely decked out. The leather seats were very comfy on the long drive I did to the mountains, and the driver ergonomics are good. The faux wood, metal and black plastic trim looks pretty up market and would not be out of place in a German maker's vehicle. There's ample interior storage. The CX-9 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Our test car offered extras like satellite radio, a Bose 10-speaker audio system with surround sound, and an in-dash 6-CD changer.

Features available include leather interior trim, power adjustment for front seats, high intensity discharge headlamps with automatic-on, rain-sensing wipers, mirror-mounted turn indicators and driver's-seat memory.

In summary, I would rate the Mazda CX-9 as one of (if not) the most impressive Mazda products I've driven. It looks great, drives well, and has high levels of comfort and luxury. It's also a very efficient and practical people mover with high levels of active and passive safety wrapped into the package.

The base MSRP is $34,470 for the AWD derivative. Our car totaled $36,660 with extras. Mazda claims its competitors are the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Acura RDX. In my opinion I would put only the RDX in this class. I think one needs to turn to the likes of Lexus and maybe even BMW for true competitors, such is the quality of this vehicle. Great job Mazda!
2007 Mazda CX-9 range overview

- Mazda CX-9 Sport FWD: $29,630
- Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD: $30,830
- Mazda CX-9 Touring FWD: $31,730
- Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD: $32,930
- Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD: $33,270
- Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD: $34,470

Paul Shippey - 17 Jul 2007

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2007 Mazda CX-9 specifications: (Grand Touring AWD)
Price: $34,470 MSRP
Kerb weight: 2062kg

Full technical specifications

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.

2007 Mazda CX-9. Image by Paul Shippey.


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