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2007 Mazda CX-9

This Is The Ford Edge You Really Want

    You’d never believe it after driving the two vehicles, but the Ford Edge and the Mazda CX-9 share an engine and a good chunk of their architecture. We say that because the Edge, like too many of Ford’s recent products, is ho-hum and the CX-9 is a serious contender for the large crossover crown. Both CUVs are handsome, but the Mazda is far better to drive and its interior offers superior materials, three rows and something we like to call design. But this isn’t a comparison test; we’ll get to that some day. This is a review of the biggest vehicle Mazda has ever built, and somehow still managed to inject with a little soul.
     Outside the CX-9 is middle-of-the-road. Sure, the greenhouse and rear three-quarter views are particularly upscale, but the front end is pretty generic and lacks the design excitement of its flared-fendered little CX-7 brother. Standard 18” wheels go a long way toward establishing Mazda’s trademark sporty vibe and 20” wheels are optional if that kind of thing is important to you. Sure, there are nice little chrome details here and there and LED taillights to inject some excitement, but the CX-9 won’t draw stares like the Buick Enclave will.
     Up front Mazda uses the same 3.5-liter V6 found in the new Edge and it still rings out 263 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. The power peaks are higher than most consumers will ever rev their engines too, but at least it’s nice to know that the great 6-speed automatic will let you visit that end of the tach if you slide the shifter into the manual gate. Shifts are quick and smooth and the automatic rarely picks the wrong gear.
     In typical Mazda fashion the CX-9’s steering is fluid and only slightly light at speed. The big crossover never feels ponderous or heavy, but moves in a controlled and refined way. No doubt the well-sorted front strut and multi-link rear suspension helped, along with the anti roll bars at both ends. The brake pedal has absolutely no slack and is tuned for a firm feel. Some will call it touchy; we call it responsive. In fact, it’s probably the best brake pedal feel we’ve ever come across in a vehicle of this nature.
     The active all-wheel drive system never got too active during our mid-summer test drive, but Mazda promises that when needed, up to 50 percent of the big Mazda’s torque can be routed to the rear axle. In our case the CX-9 operated like a front-wheel drive vehicle and saved fuel in the process. And with ratings of 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway, saving fuel is a good thing in this Mazda.
     We found premium materials and nice design everywhere we looked in the CX-9. Our all black interior never looked bad thanks to some nice silver trim and red instrument backlighting. The thick leather seats came up for particular praise with everyone agreeing the bolstering was just right. Even the second row seats had some shape and were far better than the flat benches found in most SUVs, plus they recline and slide fore and aft. Mazda has designed one of the best sets of cupholders we’ve ever come across and the Nav system does a stellar job controlling the Bose stereo through clearly marked buttons and touch screen options. However, shorter drivers might find themselves stretching to reach the volume control.
     Like any good modern vehicle the CX-9 offers an auxiliary input for portable music players. The 3-zone climate controls couldn’t be easier to use and the third row seats fold flat without any hassle. We think the interior door pulls are too far forward on the front doors, which results in poor leverage and a heavy, hard to close door. Mazda should fix this and while they’re at it they should feel free to throw in a larger glovebox. The third row is pretty easy to get to, although the new GM crossovers have the Mazda beat in both accessibility and outright room in the way back. Captain’s chairs for the second row would be a nice option too.
     The CX-9 was a pleasant surprise. It drives much better than we expected and it felt ideally priced at $37,837 for our well-equipped Touring model. Jim O’Sullivan, Mazda North America’s president and CEO, might have summed it up best when he said, “The CX-9 represents everything a Mazda SUV should be, offering ample power, striking appearance, fun-to-drive vitality, precision build quality and unexpected versatility. While other vehicles in this category focus only on what’s behind the drivers seat for the family, we have engineered a unique solution that is equally as exciting for the driver. ” If you don’t believe Jim, take it from us. The CX-9 is one of the best crossovers on the market. Check it out.

The Good:
Uncluttered interior design, impressive materials, well-sorted 6-speed auto, comfy seats, drives like a sporty crossover should.
The Bad:
Small glovebox, no captain’s chairs available, poorly placed interior door pulls, poor fuel economy.
The Verdict:
Mazda continues to crank out winners.

Photos courtesy of Mazda

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