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First drive: Mazda CX-9 eyes Kluger territory

Accomplished: Refined new CX-9 has plenty of stretching room for seven.

Mazda fills out its SUV range with the seven-seat CX-9, priced from $49,990

6 Dec 2007

MAZDA has moved one step closer to offering a full range of SUV models with this week’s launch of its CX-9, which joins the popular CX-7 and ageing Tribute five-seater compacts as the company’s first seven-seat SUV.

Mazda claims many other firsts for the CX-9, which hits Australian roads this month priced at $49,990 for the entry-level Classic and $57,265 for the flagship Luxury variant.

Powered by a 204kW/366Nm 3.7-litre V6 that is claimed to be the most powerful Mazda engine ever, it says the CX-9 is also “Australia’s first affordable seven-seat SUV with style” and “Australia’s first true crossover by combining passenger car handling with SUV all-road ability and wagon-style, flat-floor versatility”.

While the former claim is a clear shot at affordable seven-seat SUVs like Holden’s Captiva, Toyota’s Kluger and Ford’s top-selling Territory, the latter is a bold claim for a model that will compete with many soft-roaders that allege to offer both road-car handling and “all-road” ability.

Mazda also claims the CX-9 represents the best value for money in the medium SUV class by offering unrivalled power, space, safety and style, as well as class-leading refinement and the rejuvenated Japanese’s brand’s trademark driving dynamics.

What cannot be argued with is the CX-9’s high level of standard safety equipment including Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Rollover Stability Control (RSC), traction control (TCS), anti-lock braking (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) systems, plus six airbags across the range.

Built in Hiroshima, Japan, Australia’s CX-9 is also the first Mazda to come with a reversing camera, while the top-shelf CX-9 Luxury is Mazda’s first model to come with 20-inch alloy wheels as standard.

All-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are also standard across the range, as is a flat-folding third-row seat with easy access, wide door openings, and a second-row seat with a 60/40-split, folding function that has been “flipped” for right-hand drive Australian versions. The CX-9 was designed primarily for the North American market.

The Classic opens the CX-9 account and offers, as standard: seven seats, three-zone automatic climate-control air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows/mirrors, a six-CD MP3-compatible in-dash sound system, 7.5-inch touch-screen display monitor, front foglights and 18x7.5-inch alloy wheels with 245/60 R18 tyres.

As mentioned, DSC/RSC/TCS/ABS, a reversing camera and twin front, front side and side curtain airbags are also offered at base level.

22 center imageThe CX-9 aims to complement the smaller CX-7 five-seat compact SUV, which has found more than 7000 new homes in Australia in 13 months on sale here. Mazda Australia says it expects to sell 400 CX-9s each month, and believes most of them will be the $57,000-plus Luxury version.

Completing Mazda’s SUV line-up will be a replacement for the aged Tribute compact that is closely related to parent company Ford’s recently revealed Focus-based Kuga SUV, dubbed the CX-5.

For now, the CX-9 follows the same muscular jacked-up wagon theme pioneered by the CX-7, with which it shares its narrow, tapered windows and a kicked-up beltline. A bold five-point grille with “floating” horizontal chrome bar stamps it firmly as the latest model to wear Mazda’s new SUV design DNA. At rear there are dual trapezoidal exhaust outlets.

Up front reside twin-piston front brake callipers and 320mm vented rotors, while single-piston rear callipers work with 325mm vented rotors. Power steering consists of an engine-speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion system returning 3.1 turns lock-to-lock and a turning circle of 11.4 metres.

Mazda says that at 2875mm, the CX-9 has one of the longest wheelbases in its class. Employing a dedicated monocoque platform not based on the CX-7’s, the longest Mazda passenger vehicle measures 5074mm in length, 1728mm in height and is 1936mm wide. It features MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension borrowed from the RX-8, MX-5, Mazda6 and CX-7, but with link layout and tuning “optimised” for the CX-9’s 2041kg kerb weight (Luxury: 2080kg).

Compared to the smaller Mazda CX-9, the CX-9 is 394mm longer, 83mm taller and 64mm wider.

Mazda says this equates to ample seating room for all seven occupants. The second-row seat slides and reclines, offering a maximum of 662mm of leg room at hip height and 226mm of foot room. The seat slides through a range of about 120mm.

According to Mazda, the third-row seat is not a kids-only zone but has been designed for full-size adults. As a result, “it offers a more natural seating position and more space than the competition”. Access to the third row is via a lever that flips the seatback and slides the base forward, and there is a latch to allow third-row occupants to release the second-row seat. Automatic headlights are standard and there is the interesting ability to adjust the sensitivity of the rain sensor.

The CX-9 offers 267 litres of cargo capacity with all seats in place. With all but the front seats folded flat to the floor there is a total of 928 litres. Further cargo storage is provided by a lockable and illuminated glovebox, glasses compartment, dual cupholders (10 in total), door map/drink pockets, a coin box and centre console box, the latter containing an audio auxiliary jack and 12-volt outlet. The second-row centre armrest console offers room for two drinks and rear air-conditioning controls, while third-row occupants get two cup-holders each.

Instead of the Classic variant’s “luxury-feel” cloth trim, CX-9 Luxury buyers get a “noble black and elegant sand” leather interior, as well as indirect blue illumination in the door trims, instruments and audio panel.

Mated to the same Aisin-built six-speed “Activematic” transmission as seen in the CX-7 and driving through Mazda’s “Active Torque Split” AWD system, which directs up to 50 per cent of torque rearwards via an electronic control-coupling in the rear differential, the short-stroke 60-degree 3.726-litre longitudinally mounted V6 is claimed to drive the CX-9 to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds. With 204kW on tap from 6250rpm and 366Nm on hand at 4250rpm (with 90 per cent available from 2800rpm), it is claimed to offer 60-100km/h overtaking acceleration in 4.8 seconds.

Official ADR81/01 fuel consumption is quoted at a relatively thirsty 13.0L/100km using regular unleaded (91RON) fuel, while CO2 emissions are stated at 309g/km. Fuel capacity is 76 litres and braked towing capacity is 2000kg (750kg unbraked).

In addition to leather trim and 20-inch wheels, the CX-9 Luxury gains chrome door-handles, heated mirrors, a chrome tail-gate garnish, power eight-way driver’s seat adjustment with memory, power four-way passenger seat adjustment and a 277-Watt Premium Bose amplifier with 10 speakers (instead of the Classic’s six-speaker system).

Mazda CX-9 range pricing:
CX-9 Classic (a) $49,990
CX-9 Luxury (a) $57,265

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