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While Autoblog was busy checking out the new Rogue, Grand Caravan, SRT4 and C30, everybody else at the recent South East Automotive Media Organization ride and drive was apparently loving on Mazda's CX-9. Out of a possible 100 points, journalists at the event gave the SUV a score of 91, putting it way ahead of the 32 other vehicles from which to choose.

The contenders were rated on attributes that included safety, capacity, accessibility, value, amenities, ergonomics, NVH and styling. Personally, as both a family man and a member of the automotive media, my vote went to the new Dodge Caravan overall. It definitely loses out to the CX-9 on looks, but as a kid-hauler, it obviously ruled in all other categories. So how does a minivan with dual DVD players, seating for seven, a fold-away table, hookups for video games and wireless headphones lose to an SUV with many of the same options, but costs as much as $8,000 more?

After driving each car at the event, journalists were asked to submit their ratings for the vehicle on all the above attributes. We were told by someone in the know that Autoblog's rating sheet was one of very few submitted for the Caravan. Which means it didn't get driven a whole lot. We're not suggesting any wrongdoing, just saying that a bunch of automotive journalists with limited time and miles of twisty roads to drive will rarely choose a relatively slow and ugly minivan over a sleek, luxury-like SUV. Unless their boss, (that's you, John) asks them to.

Hey, John, next time, dang it, I'm driving the R32 instead of the Rogue and the CX-9 instead of the Caravan.

[Source: Mazda]

Charlotte, NC - The South East Automotive Media Organization (SEAMO) recently honored the 2008 Mazda CX-9 with the inaugural "Family Car of the Year Award" during the group's sixth annual media ride and drive event, held at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

"We are honored to receive this inaugural award from journalists in the southeast," says Dave Sweet, group manager, Product Strategies, Mazda North American Operations. "The CX-9 3.7L is our newest and most exciting vehicle that combines the utility of a family vehicle with seating for seven, and the power and 'zoom-zoom' of a sports car. With a new blind spot monitoring system for 2008, we know that families and fun seekers will enjoy the ride while benefiting from the many safety features. Family cars should be a joy to drive and this award demonstrates that fun and functionality make a winning combination."

Engineered with Mazda's "Soul of a Sports car" DNA, CX-9 deftly blends sporty driving spirit with seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle (SUV) practicality. For 2008, CX-9 reaches a higher level of performance with a new standard 3.7-liter DOHC V6 engine, resulting in 10 more horsepower (273) and 21 additional lb-ft of torque (270) compared to 2007.

From among a pool of 33 available test-drive vehicles, attending journalists from the south east region submitted a total of 97 ballots to select the top family-friendly vehicle. Vehicles were judged on family friendliness through eight categories: safety, capacity, accessibility, value, amenities, ergonomics, NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) and styling. A maximum score of 100 points could be awarded for each ballot.

Tom Kelley, SEAMO's Executive Director, said "while there are dozens of 'Car of the Year' awards out there, the family car segment has yet to gain an appropriate level of attention, so the creation of SEAMO's 'Family Car of the Year Award' was long overdue. The 2008 Mazda CX9 stood out from an impressive field of competitors to exemplify what SEAMO members consider to be the most important attributes of a great family car."

To determine the vehicle's final score, points from each ballot cast for the vehicle were averaged and then the average score was weighted with one additional point for each ballot cast for the vehicle. The 2008 Mazda CX-9 took top honors with a final score of 91 points.

Founded in 2001, SEAMO's membership includes the Southeast's top automotive journalists, along with regional and national marketing representatives from all of the mainstream automotive brands. In addition to conducting the Family Car of the Year Award program, SEAMO is also the host organization for the North American Concept Vehicle of the Year Awards.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts, accessories and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers.Operations in Canada are managed byMazda Canada Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico byMazdaMotor de México in MexicoCity.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Another 6 Crossover? Why not? You look at what Mazda has done for themselves in 5 years and there is little to dispute with what C&D and MT are saying as well.

      Most impressive automaker of the decade, I think.
      • 7 Years Ago
      In my book the Chrysler minivan has been all around the best family vehicle you could buy for quite some time. The new ones are even better.
      We had a 99 grand Voyager. When it came time to replace it we wanted somthing different. After driving many other vehicles, we ended up with a 05 grand Caravan. All others fell short.
      Mazda is a great looking car in any model. The company deserves more of the praise that Toyota and Honda share.
      • 7 Years Ago
      See, Tutor, they chose the CX-9 because the -9 allows you to have an excellent family vehicle without the sudden impulse to kill yourself every time someone asks you what you drive. That counts for alot, and thats why the Caravan got the blow-off.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Who the heck are SEAMO? I doubt we will be seeing this endorsement advertised anywhere.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Maybe because the Caravan lags behind the Odyssey and Sienna even though it is a new design -- confused crossover like styling and a dashboard/interior that has plastic from a Chinese toy factory. The Mazda CX-9 has been universally praised by auto journalists across the world as a stylish, well-designed/built and entertaining-to-drive 3 row crossover.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "It maybe Chrysler's most competitive product but it still lags behind Toyota and Honda's not new products."

        And what is the name of these hot new products? Because last I checked the Sienna and the Odyssey have not been redesigned. So either you think Toyonda's old minivans are hotter than Chrysler's new minivan or you are confused.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Frank, he said "not new," since the Sienna and Odyssey were introduced in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
        However, it doesn't lag behind the others. Just because it might not be as nice looking inside or out doesn't make it worse. The amount of features is amazing...the Odyssey/Sienna don't offer stow-in-floor 2nd row seats, heated 2nd row seats (in cloth or leather), dual-screen DVD players, etc., nor do they offer the range of customability (for example, you can't get a power liftgate on a cloth-upholstered Odyssey).

        "US, Canada and Australia for sure. There may be more markets planned. If you read MT and C&D, the space in the rear seat is pretty good and it has easy access."
        OK, Australia...one market doesn't make it worldwide IMO, and I wouldn't consider Canada worldwide--you can see it from the U.S. The CX-9 is not probably going to be sold in a lot of other markets, as there aren't many more interested in such a large vehicle like it.
        Space for the rear seat is not the same thing. The only reason the space is so important is because you have to have the room to strech out your legs, since you're riding knees-up. Funny you should mention access, because sliding doors make it much easier to access rear seating.
        • 7 Years Ago
        US, Canada and Australia for sure. There may be more markets planned. If you read MT and C&D, the space in the rear seat is pretty good and it has easy access. It maybe Chrysler's most competitive product but it still lags behind Toyota and Honda's not new products.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "Worldwide?" How many other markets is the CX-9 sold in?

        The new Chrysler vans are excellent vans. They are probably the most family-friendly vehicles on the market. They offer several different types of rear seating, and probably have more different options than any other comparable vehicle, minivan or crossover. (How many other vehicles do you see offering heated 2nd row cloth seats?)
        Despite its size, the Mazda CX-9 doesn't have a lot of 3rd row space for an adult (like many 3-row crossovers). The 2nd row seat is a bit low as well.

        I'm not a Chrysler fanboy or anything, but credit is due to them for the new vans. The vans are probably their most competitive product in a while.

        It's understandable as to why the CX-9 won the award; the thing is that that misses the point. I'm not trying to say that the CX-9 is a bad vehicle (as it's not), but it doesn't really offer anything to make it stand out as a family vehicle. You can argue the drivability, but that's not why many families buy such vehicles, and I doubt that it's the sportier nature that results in my seeing so many mothers driving Odysseys in my area.
      • 7 Years Ago
      OK, scratch that last comment. I just reread the post. It said "not" new products instead of 'hot' new products. Damn, time to get my eyes checked again!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I drove one of these - an FWD version - in April for a weekend as a support car for a bicycle race.

      The inside was really nice, but I thought the driving dynamics left something to be desired, particularly in comparison to a Pacifica I had driven in the same role a year prior....not that I am a fan of the Pacifica.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The CX-9 lags behind the whaaa?? The Pacifica? I mean, MDX, X5 or SRX I wouldn't contest Heck, I could even see someone preferring the Pilot or Taurus X, but the Pacifica?

        I personally don't like this segment, but you have to give the CX-9 props for for being nearly fun to drive. I'd still buy a Mazda5 instead, but it's a good attempt.

        The Pacifica, at least when I tried it, was pretty slow and numb. Nice car, sure, but way more of a Highlander competitor.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love the CX-9, it handles well for something its size and girth. And the ergonomics are fun. It's certainly more practical than the CX-7, which I have and love. For me, it is a great car. And I can see why journalists love the CX-9, it doesn't insulate you from the outside world too much. It gives you enough feedback to let you know you are the one driving, not the car. And frankly, I'm glad Mazda is focusing on making things fun again. Oh sure, there'll be those people who say the CX-9 is no sports sedan, but why compare apples and oranges?

      The CX-9 is a people mover with style and with enough traits of sedan/wagon siblings to excite some people. It's for those who need practicality and yet still want some style (taste is subjective though).

      For those of you who think the auto market is solely US/Canada, don't be mistaken, Mazda is going to be selling the CX-9 world wide. It's already sold in parts of Europe, Asia, and most of Latin America. If Mazda had came out with the CX-9 when i bought my CX-7, I would had definitely bought the CX-9.
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