With memories of last July's Cougar Ace disaster presumably heavy on their minds, Mazda just shipped out their first batch of new Mazda CX-9 CUVs from Hiroshima to North America. This time the crossing will be aboard the Coral Leader car carrier. It left Hiroshima yesterday for its voyage to California via Tacoma. The ship is expected to reach the U.S. before the New Year. With the Cougar Ace's payload of Mazda3s and CX-7s ultimately written off, we can only hope that this batch of vehicles, which includes the new 7-passenger CX-9, will have a much less eventful crossing. Bon Voyage.

The two-row, 5-passenger CX-7 has been something of a hit for Mazda with its stylish good looks and equally attractive combination of good performance and affordable pricing. The bigger CX-9 is hoping to be just as endearing in the ever more popular three-row segment. When they finally hit U.S. showrooms in late January, the sticker on the CX-9s will read $29,035 and up. That's the base price for the front-drive Sport model. There's also going to be Touring and Grand Touring versions with awd available across all trim levels. No matter which one you pick, you get Ford's award-winning corporate 3.5-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed auto trans. In this Mazda CUV, the engine is rated at 250 hp. It was designed primarily for the U.S., but it is also rumored to be on its way to Australia in 2008.

[Source: Just-Autos, sub req]