2007 CX-9 New Car Test Drive
The 2007 Mazda CX-9 is all new and the largest Mazda ever, aimed at people who don't need a rugged, truck-based sport-utility vehicle but stylistically can't bring themselves to drive a minivan.
How big is the biggest Mazda? With an overall length of almost 200 inches it is at least a foot longer than the Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander or even the new five-passenger Ford Edge, with which it shares some components.
With a standard three rows of seats it can carry seven adults (think 6-footers) thanks to a third row designed with adults in mind.
The surroundings are handsome and while it was easy for a 5-foot 6-inch woman to climb into the CX-9, the seating position is high enough that one looks over at, not up to, drivers of SUVs.
The CX-9 is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, providing a nice option for those who worry about snowy travel in hilly areas.
In addition, Mazda gets credit equipping even the least-expensive model with important safety equipment. This includes electronic stability control which help the driver maintain control, and air curtains, which provide head protection in a side-impact crash.
Power comes from a refined, new 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 designed by Ford and built in Ohio before being shipped to Japan where the CX-9 is assembled. It works with an impressive six-speed, Japanese-made automatic transmission that can be shifted manually if the driver is interested in some frisky motoring.
The CX-9 responds quickly to the driver's requests, feeling surprisingly enthusiastic about travel on a serpentine two-lane. But the price is a stiff ride on a rough surface.
So, if the CX-9 isn't an SUV and it is not a minivan, what is it? It is another example of what industry insiders often refer to as a 'crossover' vehicle. This is one of the fastest growing segments in the industry because crossovers can provide better fuel economy, ride and handling than truck-based SUVs.
Mazda officials also stress that the CX-9 is not just a longer version of the CX-7, the two-row, five passenger crossover introduced last year. The mechanical underpinnings are different and the structures of the two are not related.
Who might like the CX-9? Anybody who needs the people-carrying capacity of a mid-size SUV or a minivan but wants something with a sporty look and the road manners to back it up. That description fits a lot of us.
The 2007 Mazda CX-9 comes in three models, each is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The suspension is tuned the same for each model with a small ride and handling change coming in the Grand Touring, which gets 20-inch wheels instead of the standard 18-inch wheels.
Sport ($29,035) comes with three-zone air conditioning; power windows, power door locks; remote/keyless entry, cruise control, telescope-tilt steering wheel; variable-speed wipers; rear-window wiper; six-way, manual adjusting driver's seat and AM/FM/CD.
Touring ($31,135) adds leather upholstery, power and heated front seats; heated outside mirrors and Bluetooth hands-free wireless technology for cell phones.
Grand Touring ($32,675) adds fancier interior trim, 20-inch wheels; high-intensity discharge headlights; rain-sensing wipers; memory for the driver's seat, and advanced keyless entry Smart Card.
Options: all-wheel drive ($1,200); crystal white paint ($200); power seat ($350); remote-engine start ($350); 6CD ($500); moonroof with upgrade Bose stereo ($1,760); touring assistance package with navigation system, Smart Card, rearview camera and power open-close rear hatch ($2,717); retractable cargo cover ($205); towing package ($450).
Safety features include electronic stability control; anti-lock brakes; air curtains and front-seat mounted air bags. Air curtains are low-pressure airbags that come down from the ceiling to cover the side windows (all three rows). The idea is to provide head protection in a side-impact crash. Studies and crash tests have shown such head protection can significantly improve the chance of surviving side-impact crashes, which are particularly deadly because there is so little metal to protect the occupants of the vehicle being struck. The front seats also have air bags mounted in them. These are designed to provide chest protection in a side-impact crash. Optional all-wheel drive adds a measure of driving safety in slippery conditions.