2008 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring – Click above for high-res image gallery If you keep up with the print mags, it would be easy to think that every journalist, PR flack and blogger loves Mazda's CX-9. Automobile Magazine made a spot for it on their All-Stars list, Motor Trend named it Sport Utility of the Year, Car & Driver thinks its one of the 5 Best Trucks of 2008, SEAMO crowned it their Family Car of the Year and USA TODAY even went as far as calling it "about perfect." We put 380 miles on the 7-seater in our best attempt to debunk the CX-9's mythical aura of SUV perfection and found most of the legend true. %Gallery-29343% All photos Copyright ©2008 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc. Approaching the CX-9, one of the first thing you notice is its size. "Damn, that's big!" was a common sentiment of our friends. It's true. From afar, the car's 20-inch wheels and narrow greenhouse give the impression of a smaller, sportier vehicle. But up close, you realize you're gonna need a step ladder to wash the middle of this thing's roof. Mazda dug deep into its bag of sports car styling to make the 16.5-foot-long CX-9 look svelte. As on the smaller CX-7, the CX-9's windshield is low and long, more like an Italian supercar than a suburban soccer mom's ride. Those huge alloys sit under bulging fenders and wrapped in semi-low-profile rubber. A chrome-surrounded row of side windows narrows to an angled rear hatch topped with the requisite spoiler. In back, jeweled taillights sit above the rear fascia inset with twin chromed tailpipes. Inside the monstrous Mazda, it's easy to imagine the company's engineers studying hundreds of photos of luxury-car interiors, picking the best woodgrain trim from one and seat design and instrument layout from another. The end product looks great. The cream-colored (friends call it "Sand") leather seats are contrasted nicely by dark gray inserts. The chrome-edged, faux wood trim upgrades the cabin further and nicely ties in the brushed-aluminum door pulls. The seats electrically adjust eight ways, and at the push of a button toast your tush. Center stage on the CX-9's dashboard is the entertainment system, just what every couch needs for comfort completion. Though the interior looks great, the design team should have been given actual examples of luxury cars to mimic rather than just photos. While Mazda used soft, buttery leather in the interior of the smaller CX-7, for the CX-9 it instead went with leather that almost exactly imitates the feel of high-grade vinyl. My wife complained more than once about sliding around in her seat because the leather offered no grip. (Keep reading to see why it wasn't because of enthusiastic driving.) And what exotic animal, exactly, are those oddly-textured gray inserts meant to imitate? Eel? Stingray? Opossum? To be fair, other than the seat covers feeling like a that of a bargain-bin office chair, they were easily adjustable and comfortable; just a little …
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