Mazda CX-9 2007

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After spending an afternoon driving the new CX-9, that clarification by the Mazda P.R. gentleman seemed unnecessary. Yes, the CX-9 is bigger. In fact, it’s startlingly bigger. But Mazda’s new flagship is a lot more than a 9/7ths CX-7. It has a certain solidity-fluidity-something the 7 doesn’t even try for, even taking into account its higher price, which ranges from about $29,500 for the front-drive, 18-inch-wheeled Sport version to $39,500 for the AWD Grand Touring rolling on 20 inchers. There’s a feeling of structural density here that’s well beyond any previous Mazda, due in no small part to the welding, and more welding, laser-welding, and laser-plus adhesive bonding of its Mazda6-based 199.8-inch-long unibody.mazda_cx-9_2007-2-copy.jpg

It’s also not a CX-7 in that normally aspirated (adios, rubberbandy turbo lag), its all-new 3.5-liter quad-valve V-6 producing 263 horsepower and 249 pound-feet of immediate torque running on regular unleaded–an important issue these days. This is the emergency-rescue V-6 that Ford’s 500 and Freestyle have been grimly waiting for, and it’s a sweet mill with creamy torque in just about any direction the tach points. The 3.5 is a well-mannered match for the Aisin six-speed tranny’s near-imperceptible shifts and the optional AWD system’s undetectable power routing.

As Mazda’s newest and largest people-mover, the CX-9 functionally replaces the MPV and obliterates all memory of it in style. Visually, it’s akin to Audi’s Q7 and Mercedes-Benz’s GL450 in its swoopy presence and brightwork detailing, though in terms of price, it’s targeted squarely at Wal-Marters like Honda’s Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

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The CX-9 Grand Touring we drove was beautifully detailed inside and solidly constructed. The wide center console probably overly compartmentalizes the driver from the front passenger, but packaging from there aft is rife with adjustability. Row number two (technically a three-bummer, but best limited to two) slides nearly five inches, reclines, is split 60/40, and with a single lever pull collapses forward to provide you a genuine shot at climbing back into the third row. And as third rows go, this one’s ahead of 95 percent of them, though if there are any claustrophobes in the family, we’d suggest the beige, not the black interior.

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Two quibbles with the CX-9’s dimensions: the long, long rear side doors (sorrr-eeee, my kids just don’t look when they open their doors) and the carry-on-luggage-scale 2.5 cubic feet per person behind the third row. That totals to 17.5 cubic feet–actually good relative to the competition–but the space is tall and thin, like a trunk set on edge. However, fold the third row (simple with the easy-pull release straps) and the cargo hold grows to 47.5 cubic feet, and the seatbacks split 50/50 for extra versatility.

Over a wide variety of road surfaces, the CX-9 was supple and quiet. And it cornered much flatter than an equivalent minivan might, with a nice build-up of forces at the steering wheel, though the rim’s fairly blind to the asphalt’s texture. Mazda’s showing some chutzpah in calling the CX-9 the Zoom-Zoom with Extra Room, but is it a terrific new crossover? Yes-yes.

Scribbled on December 21st 2007 in Mazda, Mazda CX-9
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