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Thread: 2008 Mazda CX-9 (the minivan alternative)

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    2008 Mazda CX-9 (the minivan alternative)

    "Family size" is usually synonymous with "bulk" - and boring - not "zoom zoom zoom" driving enjoyment. But Mazda's CX-9 sportwagon gives you function and form; it's got room for seven - plus your driving gloves.

    Introduced as a brand-new (and largest-ever for Mazda) model in '07, the '08 version gets several very significant updates, chief of which is an increase in the size of the standard engine from 3.5 liters to 3.7 liters - and a bump in output from an already very solid 263 horsepower to 273. Torque's also up from 249 lbs.-ft. last year to 270 lbs.-ft. for '08. That's an improvement of more than 20 lbs-ft. - which means a lot in any vehicle, but even more in one that's pretty big.

    And pretty heavy.

    (A CX-9 pushes 5,000 lbs. with two people onboard - or about 1,000 lbs. more than a typical mid-sized sedan.)

    I wasn't able to clock 0-60 with a stopwatch, but given that last year's 263 hp CX-9 could make it there in about 7.7 seconds, the pumped-up '08 version ought to be at least a tenth or two quicker than that.

    And 7.5-7.6 seconds 0-60 surely meets the "zoom zoom" test.

    Gas mileage does dip a little - the price you pay for some extra speed. Last year's 18 city, 24 highway slips to 16 city, 22 highway (FWD versions; AWD equipped models are a bit thirstier). But the added pep/performance is more noticeable than the sacrificed 2 mpg. Under certain conditions (fully loaded, running in hilly/higher-altitude areas) the difference may even prove to be negligible since the larger, more powerful '08's engine won't have to work quite as hard to keep the CX-9 up to speed. Down the line, wear and tear ought to be less too - for the same reason.

    As before, the CX-9's equally good at hauling people - and stuff. It has a super- spacious, wide-body interior with standard third-row that's equally kid or adult friendly. This is a nice contrast to the semi-useless third rows one often finds in vehicles of this type - which are ok for limber kids and young adults but either uncomfortably inaccessible for adults - or just too damn cramped to be serviceable for anything but very short trips. The Mazda's second row slide/fold system is easy to use, too.

    Cargo-wise, even with the third row up, the CX-9 offers 17.2 cubic feet of space; drop 'em and you've got almost 48 cubic feet - at the very top of the scale for vehiclesof this type.

    With both second and third rows down, you've got more than 100 cubic feet of space - enough for a queen-size mattress and a whole lotta shakin' going on.

    Or many bags of mulch.

    Though the CX9's max towing (3,500 lbs.) and payload ratings (1,500 lbs.) aren't tremendous, they're nonetheless solidly competitive with full-size minivans. And that's the real target here, after all. The whole point of a vehicle like the CX-9 is to provide the huddle masses yearning to be free of the soul-sucking experience of minivandom an alternative; something that does all the stuff a minivan can - but with panache and style no minivan can touch.

    No generic breedermobile breadbox, this. The CX-9 is sculpted and even sensuous - inside and out. Everyone seems to agree the interior (like those found in all current Mazdas) is exceptional. Not just functionally but also aesthetically. Sitting in the nicely bolstered driver's seat, the last thing you feel like is a depleted soccer mom - or dad. Even though you might have the entire team riding along with you.

    The dash layout's very much like what you'd come across in a sport sedan; hooded main cluster with four central gauges - red/orange backlit with pewter trim rings. The steering wheel has a nice feel to it - and both tilts and telescopes. Three-zone climate control is standard in even base models, too.

    Several configurations are available as far as seating materials/colors go - but my tester had a pleasing three-tone layout with cream-colored leather and gray inserts, along with some deep reddish wood slats for the center console and door panels. Really sharp.

    As is the handling - believe it or not.

    Yes, the CX-9 has serious competition, exterior (and even interior) style-wise from GM's new just-launched trifecta of large crossovers - the handsome GMC Acadia, the sharp-looking Saturn Outlook and the downright beautiful Buick Enclave. But come a corner and the CX-9 pulls away, the clear leader.

    Mazda's got some of the best-handling, most responsive vehicles - of all types - on the market right now. That "zoom zoom" stuff's no hype. Even this big lunker of a family-mobile not only doesn't seem to mind being pushed a little - it seems to like it. Front-wheel-drive or (optionally) all-wheel-drive, the CX-9 hustles through a turn like no minivan ever did. It does not feel nearly as large as it is; the weight doesn't lurch around oafishly - traction and stability control sweating hard to keep the tires planted. The suspension's definitely up to the job of maintaining a fast pace - and so is the drivetrain, including the standard six-speed automatic. It seems to savor throttle-up corner exits - and helps you maintain your line without any need to hold the lower gears manually.

    You can even get 20-inch rims - and some pretty aggressive rubber if you want. But the as-it-sits model (with standard 18-inch rims) will still impress you. Not just "given what it is" - but compared with much smaller, much lighter sport sedans and wagons.

    It's no wonder rides like the CX-9 are booming in popularity - while sales of traditional minivans are free-falling. Some automakers (Ford, for one) are dropping them from their product lineups entirely. The "why" is not hard to fathom: Cross-shop - and see for yourself. The only thing a traditional minivan still has going for it is the price. You can pick one up for considerably less than the CX-9's base price of $29,400 ($30,700 for AWD). A loaded Grand Touring model with AWD, the 20-inch rims, a new for '08 blind spot warning system, Xenon HID headlights (and special blue-tint interior lighting), Bluetooth wireless, GPS nav system and rearview back-up camera will get you close to $40k - or in the neighborhood of $10-15k more than you'd pay for a decently equipped new minivan.

    But while you may save some money, you'll be paying a stiff price in terms of what you'll be missing.

    Don't miss the CX-9. It's a way to fulfill your familial responsibilities - without selling out.

  2. #2
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    Re: 2008 Mazda CX-9 (the minivan alternative)

    For pictures - please check out the main site article (just posted):



    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...6&Itemid=10808

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