An all-new model for 2007, the CX-7 is Mazda’s new “crossover” vehicle, built entirely on Mazda platform architecture in Japan and available in two trim lines, the GS and GT.

Both models use a 2.3-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 244 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual sport mode. Optional on both trim lines is an active torque split all-wheel drive system that uses a computer-controlled coupling integrated with the rear differential to deliver up to 50/50 front/rear torque distribution if the system senses slippage.

Features on the GS include manual air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, dynamic stability control, traction control, 18-inch alloy wheels, black-coloured heated power mirrors, privacy glass, variable intermittent wipers, rear intermittent wiper, CD player with four speakers and wheel-mounted controls, cruise control, power locks with keyless entry, power windows with driver and passenger one-touch up/down, cloth upholstery, manual driver’s side seat lift, 60/40 folding rear seat, leather-wrapped wheel and shifter knob, side airbags, curtain airbags with rollover sensor, and anti-theft alarm system with engine immobilizer. A power sunroof can be added as an option.

The GT adds body-coloured power mirrors, Xenon headlamps with manual leveling feature, fog lights, automatic climate control, power sunroof, eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, leather-trimmed upholstery, electroluminescent gauges, exterior temperature gauge and cargo cover.

The GT can be further optioned with a $3,150 navigation system with touch screen and rear-view camera, or with a $1,000 Luxury Package of nine-speaker premium Bose audio system with six-CD in-dash changer and Intelligent Key system.

Nicely sized and beautifully styled, the CX-7 features Mazda’s trademark razor-sharp handling and subtle, elegant interior. Its five-passenger configuration gives front seat riders plenty of room, but rear-seat legroom is a bit tighter. The engine suffers from turbo lag, and can be difficult to moderate under light throttle off the line, but once it picks up, it’s very fast and fun to drive. Cargo space is handled by folding rear seats that drop at the pull of a handle, and a well-balanced liftgate that’s very easy to open and close. Bigger than the Mazda6 Sport Wagon, sportier than the six-passenger Mazda5, the CX-7 slots well into the fast-growing true “crossover” segment, but may face serious competition from the all-new and similarly-styled Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX; as well, at the top end of the CX-7’s price scale, buyers can also look at established vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica and Nissan Murano.

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