2008 Mazda CX-9 – 2008 SUV of the Year Winner – Truck Trend

28 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2008 Mazda CX-9 – 2008 SUV of the Year Winner – Truck Trend
Mazda CX-9

2008 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the Year Winner: Mazda CX-9

Built to the 9s: With two helpings of sport and a healthy dose of utility, the Mazda CX-9 outperforms this year’s field

You’ve heard Mazda’s marketing spiel before. From Zoom-Zoom to the Soul of a Sports Car, the brand’s ad gurus have pushed harder than starving telemarketers to convince shoppers that Mazda’s cars and trucks are sportier and more fun to drive than the competitions’.

Generally, those slogans hold true, as Mazda’s vehicles-from the rotary-powered RX-8 and the exuberant MX-5 to the minivan-esque Mazda5 and the rakish CX-7-indeed deliver quick, agile (okay, zoomy) sensations that are akin to, well, a sports car. As the only Japanese car company to ever win the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, Mazda knows a thing or two about sports-car DNA and, more important, how to inject it into just about everything it slaps the winged badge on.

But could Mazda really inject that DNA into its first-ever three-row, largest-in-the-lineup crossover? Well, after three days of testing 11 vehicles at the dragstrip and skidpad, in and around greater Los Angeles, and on the twisty, high-elevation roads that squiggle through the mountain town of Lake Arrowhead, we’re here to report that the CX-9 is not only Mazda’s finest demonstration of infusing sports-car qualities into an SUV, but also Motor Trend’s 2008 Sport/Utility of the Year.

As the saying goes, it’s all in the details, and that’s where the CX-9’s sporty personality shines. Slide behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and into the nicely bolstered bucket, and you’re treated to one of the most comfortable, driver-focused seating positions available, not just in an SUV but in any vehicle.

Whether you’re five-two or six-two, finding that perfect spot is a snap: Simply fine-tune the driver’s seat that power-adjusts in eight ways (standard on Touring and Grand Touring trims), tweak the steering column that modifies for reach and rake, and the result is nest nirvana: The pedals seem to welcome the balls of your feet; the RX-8-size steering wheel, with audio and cruise controls, appears to come right to your hands; and the stylish T-shaped dash, with its large, metal-rimmed gauges and simple but elegant center stack, delights aesthetically and ergonomically. The cabin, which, on our Grand Touring tester, is adorned with rich plastics, faux wood, and two-tone leather, not to mention calming indirect blue lighting and a pleasing mix of horizontal and vertical elements, manages to feel enveloping yet still plenty airy, an uncanny combination unmatched by this year’s competitors.

The exterior details exude sport as well, and when looking at the CX-9, certainly with the GT’s polished, 20-inch alloy wheels (18s are standard on Sport and Touring trims), it’s hard not to feel racy. From the steeply angled windshield and sharp fender flares to the slanted headlamps and the distinct trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips, the CX-9 puts a spin on the traditional two-box sport ‘ute and punts it into orbit.

While arguably not as bold as the bigger and bulgier Enclave, the CX-9 nevertheless makes the class-competing Highlander, Tribeca, and Veracruz appear conventional and unexciting by comparison. A 12/10ths-scale CX-7 only done better, the CX-9 is sleek and elegant, sporty and sophisticated, an SUV seemingly well suited for going to the mountains, midtown, or the market.

Mazda CX-9

Wherever you take the CX-9, rest assured there’s plenty of room for the whole gang and their gear. Despite the sleek, flowing body that suggests tight quarters, the CX-9 boasts a spacious interior for seven, highlighted by more second-row legroom than in the Enclave, Highlander, Tribeca, or Veracruz, and more third-row legroom and cargo room behind that row than you’ll find in the last three. Only the Buick, which dwarfs the other four in length, width, height, and wheelbase, offers more third-row legroom and cargo room aft than the Mazda.

Further, when a weekend run to IKEA is in order, the CX-9 presents 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-rows folded flat, which equates to an extra ottoman compared with the Highlander (95.4) and an entire bedroom than the Tribeca (74.4). Of course, the CX-9 isn’t perfect, delivering the least first- and third-row headroom (the latter a result of the sporty, slanted hatch) and the slightest first-row legroom of the five, but it does get points for providing a second row that slides roughly five inches fore and aft on both sides, leaving ample space for finding the third row (over two feet between the folded second row and the C-pillar). Six-foot adults won’t mind the third row for short to medium trips, while kids will love it back there, especially if the CX-9 is equipped with the optional rear-seat entertainment system (not available with a moonroof) that features a nine-inch LCD and 5.1 surround sound with 11 speakers.

As amusing as a movie is on the go, though, avoid the second and third rows and opt for the driver’s seat-the chair of choice. From here, the controls that count are at your beck and call, ready to react with the utmost responsiveness.

Sink your spur into the well-calibrated electronic throttle, and the new-for-2008 3.7-liter V-6 shakes the reins on 273 horsepower, a 10-horse boost over the previous 3.5-liter. (If you’re wondering why the CX-9 didn’t play last year, the 2007 model went on sale after our cut-off date.) More important, torque has risen from 249 to 270 pound-feet, and, at 4250, is now realized 150 rpm earlier. While we still wouldn’t mind a tad more low-end grunt, the 3.7 nonetheless behaves in a silky, refined manner, accentuated by a sporty growl from the dual exhaust. Mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic that’s as seamless as a rubber glove, the Japan-built Ford-based V-6 scoots the CX-9 from 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds and through the quarter mile in 16.0 flat at 87.8 mph, placing it ahead of every three-row midsize crossover in this year’s field sans the sprightlier Highlander, which recorded 7.3 and 15.7 at 87.7.

Moreover, when full control of the powertrain is desired, the CX-9 offers a slick manumatic feature that, similar to BMW road cars and many race cars, downshifts with a push forward of the gearshift and upshifts with a pull back. Most automakers configure it the opposite way, but we feel Mazda (and BMW) get it right.

Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9
Mazda CX-9
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