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2008 Mazda CX9 Review

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By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

My pretty blonde, her Pop and I pulled into the parking lot of his favorite restaurant the other day in our big, classy Mazda CX9 test car and we happened to park next to a CX7 in the identical color. They looked like twins except for the noticeable size difference. This one is big. The other is medium sized, but styling and design are virtually identical. We took the CX7 on a road trip to Virginia last summer so we have a good sense of the differences.

If you like the looks and the formula of the CX7 you’ll love this CX9, unless it’s just too big for you. It costs close to 10-grand more but it’s full of luxury content and the design is first rate. Based on an expanded Mazda 6 platform (shared with lots of Ford related products) this large, front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive crossover (CUV) boasts three rows of seating (7-passengers), lots of cargo capacity and content the equal of much more pricey competitors. It came out just last year. The most comparable vehicle I’ve had lately might be the popular new Buick CUV called Enclave. Either could grace my garage if I were in that market.

Seating (leather is standard on our Grand Touring model) is excellent in the CX9. Front buckets are firm and generous with plenty of bolster. Rear seats recline a few degrees and fold fairly easily out of the way for rear access. The third seat is adequate for two average sized passengers. Mazda claims it will accommodate two six-footers. I’m a bit skeptical of that claim but did not test it. Rear doors, by the way, are huge making for easy ingress and egress.

Under the hood we find a transverse 3.7-liter, 24-valve, DOHC V6 rated at 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque mated to a remarkably competent 6-speed sport shift automatic transmission. The engine compartment, by the way, is neat and tidy but the heavy hood is held up with a prop rod. (A vehicle of this class, I think, ought to have struts to hold up the hood.) This engine is smooth and willing at all rpm ranges. It represents an upgrade from last year’s 3.5-liter unit. Fuel mileage is a tad less but still not bad at 15-city/21-highway.

Driving dynamics of the CX9 are excellent. Seating position is high and vertical. Seats and steering wheel adjust to meet the needs of most size and shape of drivers. Controls make sense and are easily managed. Soft red and blue light bathe the gauges at night.

Plenty of room for people and stuff includes 17.5 cubic-feet of cargo space behind the third seat and 47.5 cubic-feet with the second and third seats folded.

Base price on the various CX9 models range from 30-grand to $35,900. Our “Grand Touring All-Wheel Drive” version shows a base of $34,655. Standard with that price comes: ventilated disc brakes all around with ABS and traction control, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 50 aspect ratio tires, automatically actuated Xenon headlights, heated 8-way leather seats with power lumbar support and memory, air bags in front and along the entire side with roll-over protection, roll and dynamic stability control. Options listed include: the $40 cargo net, Sirius Satellite Radio for $430, blind spot monitoring costing $200, moon roof/Bose/CD Package at $1,760 and the GT Assist Package (voice-activated navigation with touch screen, rear-view camera and power hatch) for $2,500. Bottom line, with the $635 destination charge adds up to $40,220.

Bumper-to-bumper warranty is good for 36 months or 36,000 miles with powertrain covered for 60 months or 60,000 miles.

This CX9 is a nice big vehicle with reasonable fuel mileage and admirable utility. Mazda’s tag line touting the “Soul of a Sports Car” may have some applicability here. We found it to be reasonably entertaining to drive considering what it is, handling better than much of the competition. And the extra grunt coming from under the hood is much appreciated by us driving enthusiasts.

By the way, the CX9 won the North American Truck of the Year award, an honor independently judged by about 4 dozen of the country’s most respected journalists.

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Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved