The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2008 Mazda CX-7 Review - Along The Colonial Trail - VIDEO ENHANCED

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SEE ALSO: Mazda Prices, Specs and Pictures - Mazda Buyers Guide

2008 MAZDA CX-7
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Click PLAY button below to watch the CX-7 Introductory video

This week’s road test involves a good long road trip with a 2008 Mazda CX-7 crossover sport-utility (CUV) on a Colonial American history tour of the Williamsburg, Virginia area including Jamestown (celebrating its 400-year history) and Yorktown. These three locations make an historic triangle where a scholar could literally make a career, or where parents have a chance to pique the curiosity of their youngsters - or bore them to tears, depending on the kid.

We’re anticipating about 12 hours for the freeway drive but we’ll stop in Washington DC (at about 10 hours) for the night so we can spend the day doing a few things in the nation’s capitol. The first leg of the drive was an easy jaunt through Cleveland and Breezewood. The CX-7 is a good freeway cruiser, with enough power to keep up easily with brisk traffic in spite of having just four cylinders. Cops everywhere convinced us to set the cruise control with the handy steering wheel-mounted buttons. The Mazda held its speed precisely even up and down the steep hills.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

OUR RIDE This Mazda mid-size, 5-passenger CUV, based on the respected Mazda 6 platform, is just the right size for the four of us: me and my pretty blonde, her brother Rick and his wife Kim. The rear cargo area behind the second seat swallowed all our gear with space to spare – suitcases, bags, a large cooler, a couple bags of groceries and lots of miscellaneous stuff. Traveling by car, we’ve always thought, is so much better than flying because you can take lots of stuff along. Just throw it in. CUVs are particularly handy for this purpose since they handle like the underlying car and hold cargo like something larger.

The rear cargo area is exceptionally well-designed with remote releases for the spring-loaded folding seat backs and a reversible floor panel, carpeted on one side and hard surfaced on the other for dirty or rough cargo. Releasing and folding the rear seatback is a one-hand job regardless of which release we’re using – well designed, indeed.

The rear seat, our companions report, is comfortable even on this long ride. Because of the tapered roof line in the rear I was concerned that the rear door might be a bit shallow. No worries. It is plenty big enough for easy ingress and egress. I was a bit concerned also when they delivered the CX7 because the rear seat base looked a bit shallow and flat hinting that there might not be enough padding for comfort. Not a problem, Rick and Kim insist, it’s easy on the rear in the rear.

A visually distinctive design, the CX7 has unmistakable Mazda styling queues. The wide, steeply-raked windshield, protruding front wheel wells, puckered front fascia with the large Mazda logo grille remind us of the sporty-looking Mazda 6. In the rear, dual chrome exhaust tips protrude nicely hinting at a high performance image. And the big standard 18-inch Bridgestones on 10-spoke alloy wheels distinguish it from a mild-mannered suburban schlepping machine.

We seldom felt underpowered even with this little 2.3-liter, turbo 4-cylinder. The sound was unmistakably that of a four-banger. The transversely mounted engine makes 244 horsepower with 258 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode and an active torque split all-wheel-drive system, all of which matched our needs for this trip – though we had no occasion to use all-wheel-drive. While rated at 16-mpg in the city and 22-mpg highway our experience was varied. We filled five times this week with lowest mpg numbers on those fills corresponding to more city driving, as expected. Our fills calculated to mileages of 19.9, 24.2, 21.3, 20.1, and final fill showed 23.6. We were pleased with those numbers.

Handling is first rate with fully independent suspension, well-vented disc brakes all around with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist, power rack-and-pinion steering and suspension tuned just right for control and comfort.

So – here’s the travel story:

WASHINGTON DC Our overnight stop in suburban Washington, DC allowed us most of a day to take the bright, modern Metro subway system downtown to visit a few sites. We spent most of our time at the hallowed and haunting Smithsonian Holocaust Museum where remarkably diverse displays describe the rise of Nazi power and years of persecution, separation and extermination of Jews, homosexuals and anyone else the regime thought inferior or not in support of their cause. It was an amazing and sobering experience to be reminded of the unfathomable cruelty of which the human race is capable.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Across the green is the new World War II Memorial honoring Americans who fought against the Nazis in Europe, the Japanese in the Pacific Theater and miscellaneous other miscreants around the world. The Memorial captures the magnitude of that sacrifice in a variety of ways including architectural drama and an interactive database where we found my pretty blonde’s dad, Herb, listed among the heroes of the D-Day invasion of France. Many of these guys have a hard time talking about the invasion experience, as does he. We appreciate the historical reflections and respect the sacrifices honored here.

We also had time for a short visit to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History looking for the big blue whale exhibit. Rick visited here about 20 years ago and all he wanted to see were the whales but the exhibit was closed for some reason. Wouldn’t you know, the whale exhibit was closed again for remodeling, so Rick was out of luck again – twice in twenty years. Go figure.

We barely scratched the surface in DC of enlightening, inspiring and provocative explorations that could fill weeks of time, if we had time to spare.

WILLIAMSBURG Barely more than two more hours of driving brought us to our condo at Williamsburg on the 15-mile-wide spit of land between the James and York Rivers, both of which open into the Chesapeake Bay

Perhaps the longest running movie in the US today greets us at the visitors’ center. The classic story of a Colonial farmer, John Fry, who is elected to the House of Burgesses during the days of British governance, stars Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-0 fame. Originally made in the late 1950s it has been cleaned and color enhanced to look fresh even today as it introduces guests to Colonial Williamsburg. I wonder if Lord still gets residuals from that movie.

Stepping back in time we spent the entire day strolling through Colonial Williamsburg where the focus is on the 1770s preceding the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Craftspeople ply the trades that supported society in those days - the blacksmith, printer, the gunsmith, the baker and so on. Corrals contain beautiful Red Devon cattle, so rare now that even this reporter who grew up with beef cattle had never heard of the breed. Stately draft horses look ready to pull the simple one-bottom plow parked beside the barn.

One might encounter any number of famous and not-so-famous Colonial folks in the form of actors, craftspeople and artisans while hanging out in this ½-mile by 1-mile section of the town of Williamsburg where 80 original structures have been preserved and many others reconstructed using original methods, tools and plans. By just spending a day we could get a good sense of what life was like in those heady days of social and political turmoil.

While a ticket is required to tour the authentic homes or enter the government buildings to hear the actors describe life in Colonial days one could just wander the streets enjoying the shops and outside activities all day without a fee and be thoroughly entertained and enlightened.

JAMESTOWN The parks at Jamestown, on the other hand, take us back way further – more than a century-and-a-half - to a time when Europeans first came to this continent to stay. On this little neck of land, where the ground water was so brackish it made them all sick, where they only survived with the help of the native people, the Brits established their first permanent settlement in 1607.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

A group of 104 adventurers, entrepreneurs and miscreants disembarked early that year in three English sailing ships loaded with supplies - one big enough for repeated trans-Atlantic voyages and two smaller ones meant to be left in the new settlement for plying the local waters. They brought just enough stuff to establish a permanent settlement and get through the first year figuring they could trade with the local native tribes for food and materials. They barely survived those early years, and slowly grew into a substantial settlement. For nearly the first century Jamestown was the Colonial capitol until it was moved to Williamsburg.

Two parks tell these stories. The Jamestown Settlement museum and park, supported by an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, presents both indoor and outdoor descriptions and displays of the time. Inside, the static displays tell a detailed story of the first years of the settlement and the hardships encountered along with the native people’s mixed interactions with the settlers.

Outside are amazing recreations of an Indian village, the original British Fort and a dock where reconstructed ships duplicate the originals. Interpretations of the sites are both annotated with signs and described by docents and actors playing roles and exhibiting skills of the day.

The National Park Service is in charge of the island where the original Jamestown settlement stood. Excavations around the grounds are uncovering artifacts that are displayed and annotated in the brand new “Archaearium.”

An 18-month-long celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement extends into the spring of 2008 encompassing all three of these historical locations.

YORKTOWN If you’re lucky you’ll encounter a guide like Mac MacClammy, the kind of fellow we wish we’d had for our high school history class. His enthusiasm for the subject was infectious as he described the amazing string of unlikely events that led to the colonists’ victory at Yorktown against the British, the final decisive event of the Revolutionary War. He described the development of the siege of Yorktown and the way the French fleet drove off the British fleet that was heading in to support the Redcoats who had possession of the town. The Brits were left to the mercy of General Washington and his trusty troops. We ran into Mac at closing time as we were scouting the park and wished we had all day to listen to him.

Yorktown, rounding out this historic triangle, is located on the other side of the neck from Jamestown, and is the site of important historical significance as well,. The siege of Yorktown essentially ended the Revolutionary War when General Cornwallis of the King’s army surrendered to our General Washington and his force of American, French and a few German soldiers. A fascinating, scenic driving trail through the forests, well marked and annotated, describes the siege and passes through the areas where various units were encamped. The home where final negotiations and signing of the surrender took place has been restored and is part of the tour.

The Yorktown Victory Center describes not just the Yorktown siege but annotates the entire Revolutionary War with dioramas, videos, artifacts and an actual encampment reenactment were actors demonstrate the skills of the time. A field surgeon talked about amputations and an artillery crew demonstrated the firing of a mortar to the giggles and delight of lots of youngsters visiting the park. It certainly helps to make history real for kids trying to grasp its importance.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

FORT EUSTIS AND THE MUSEUM OF ARMY TRANSPORTATION As you probably know, we’re always looking to enhance our road trips with visits to unusual or obscure automotive museums. Well, we’ve found one here. Just a few miles east of Williamsburg, just off I-64, we found the United States Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps. Curator Marc Sammis tells us that this is just one unit of the largest museum system in the world, the hundred or more facilities of the US military. The Army Transportation Museum features a chronological exhibition of Army transportation from the Conestoga wagons of the Revolutionary War to the armored Humvees of the Wars in Iraq. Spread around the museum grounds are displayed collections of vehicles ordered by the government for practical and experimental use – collections of amazing aircraft, amphibious vehicles, railroad exhibits and cargo haulers. One of my favorites is the experimental amphibious car, a hover-craft that looked like a cartoon of a ’58 Buick.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Inside, the chronology flows through each war and military conflict displaying not only the vehicles but the weapons, uniforms and equipment that went along with the mobility. I was intrigued by the story detailed in the section next to the World War I display that talks about the first transcontinental military convoy in 1917 (I think it was) that plied the new Lincoln Highway from coast to coast. The military observer along for the ride was a young officer just out of West Point by the name of Dwight Eisenhower, who later, as many of you know, championed the Interstate Highway System.

BUSCH GARDENS EUROPE After spending the week in intensive, and certainly enlightening, educational experiences it was good to finish the week with some pure entertainment at Busch Gardens Europe. This beautifully landscaped theme park features sections designed around European cultures – England, Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, and so on. Huge roller coasters entertain adrenaline junkies of all ages including this one. With a 205-foot vertical drop one of these coasters claims to be the tallest floorless dive coaster in the world. Riders hang out over the drop for about 5-seconds before the dive begins. Whoaaaa. We didn’t go on that one. The lesser one called The Lac Ness Monster was enough for us. These are just two of the six big roller coasters at Busch Gardens Europe.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

A modern steam-powered train takes visitors around the park (named the world’s “Most Beautiful Theme Park” for 16 consecutive years by the National Amusement Park Historical Association) huffing and puffing and blowing steam - no smoke, though, because the boiler is heated with natural gas rather than old-fashioned coal or wood. Carnival rides and carnival games abound and a variety of musical shows and 4-D movies kept us entertained all day.

The mile-high corned beef sandwich at the German place was just right for lunch.

The only educational elements at Busch Gardens Europe are displays of exotic birds, grey wolves and bald eagles. The eagles and wolves are there with government sanction to be ambassadors for their respective species, say the Busch park people.

Like most of these tours of exploration we had way to little time to do it justice and were on our way home much too soon.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

HEADED HOME. The pleasant environment inside the Mazda made the 12-hour drive home easy. The leather front seats were comfortable even for this oversized reporter who often gets a pain in the backside on extended drives. The large gauges and controls were mostly easy to figure out, though I had to search for the nearly invisible little knobs for trip odo reset and dash light dimming. Both of those protrude from the top of the gauge cluster. I never did find a compass to indicate our direction of travel and needed one often in the coastal Virginia area where no roads go straight.

Our 2008 CX-7 Grand Touring test car sells for $28,000 and comes very well equipped with AWD, 244-hp turbo, 6-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and tires, automatic Xenon headlights, leather seating, 8-way power driver’s seat, ABS with 4-wheel vented disc brakes, roof spoiler, automatic climate control, large lockable center console big enough for a laptop computer, cool electro-luminescent gauges with indirect blue lighting, traction control, and lots of other stuff. With options of a premium Bose sound system, all-weather floor mats and Sirius Satellite radio our bottom line shows $30,688.

Warranty covers the CX-7 bumper to bumper for 3 years or 30,000 miles. The powertrain is covered for 60 months and 60,000 miles.

This Mazda/Ford platform is used for many different products. No longer can an auto manufacturer make just a single vehicle from a good platform. They must, to be successful, find lots of ways to spell efficiency – rather like efficiencies in language in the old days.

George Washington, for example, is quoted as saying, “A man cannot claim to be well educated unless he can spell a word three different ways.” I like that, but my spell check has no such ability.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

The Jamestown – Yorktown Foundation: or 888-593-4682
Colonial Williamsburg: or 800-HISTORY
U.S. Army Transportation Museum: 757-878-1115
Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance:
Colonial National Historical Park:
Historic Jamestowne:
America’s 400th Anniversary Info: