All-new for 2007, the CX-9 is Mazda’s seven-passenger crossover SUV. It is the second of three all-new vehicles designed and engineered specifically for North America that the company will launch in the next two years, and it follows the introduction of the CX-7.

Although its styling is similar to the CX-7, it is not simply a larger version of it; the CX-9 uses a platform derived from the Mazda6, which it shares with the all-new Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. It’s also larger, wider and taller than the CX-7, and has a longer wheelbase. The three rows of seating include a 60/40 split second row that slides some 12 cm fore and aft, and reclines; and a 50/50 third row that is easily accessed through 60 cm of space between the folded second-row seat and the C-pillar. Both rows fold flat for cargo storage; to minimize cargo-compartment intrusion, the rear coil spring is positioned between the lower lateral member and the unibody.

Power is from a new Ford-built 3.5-litre V6 with DOHC, variable valve timing and electronic throttle control, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and with front-wheel or active torque-split all-wheel drive. The optional AWD can be added to both trim lines; it uses sensors to automatically send torque to the rear wheels if it detects slip, with up to 50 per cent available.

The GS includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, intermittent rear wiper, body-colour outside door handles, privacy glass, rear spoiler, three-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless remote, eight-way power driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped wheel, and CD player with auxiliary input jack and wheel-mounted controls.

The GT adds 20-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps, fog lights, bright-finish exterior accents, sunroof, mirror-integrated turn signals, interior wood trim, four-way power passenger seat, driver’s seat memory, and heated leather seats.

The GS can be optioned with a power sunroof, while the GT can be optioned with a premium six-CD stereo, rear entertainment system, navigation system, keyless start and power tailgate.

Beautifully styled, the CX-9 is very well done, with a smooth and powerful drivetrain, comfortable interior and sharp handling. The ride is very firm, however, and while it’s easy to access the third row, there isn’t much legroom and is best left to children. The first and second rows are very roomy, though; Mazda says the CX-9 has more legroom than the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Volvo XC90.

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