NEW FOR 2009:

– GT model no longer available in two-wheel drive
– GS model adds eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, MP3 capability with auxiliary audio input, passenger side seatback pocket, silver finish on front console and glove compartment levers, and locking glovebox
– GT model adds turn signal indicators on mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror with garage door opener, silver finish on fog lamp bezels, and high-gloss-finish alloy wheels
– Luxury Package adds Intelligent Key System, Sirius satellite ratio and Bluetooth hands-free system

For 2009, the Mazda CX-7 beefs up its list of standard equipment, and adds an Intelligent Key System (which provides keyless entry and start), Sirius satellite radio and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity to the Luxury Package’s list of six-CD changer, premium Bose audio system, AudioPilot noise compensation system and Centerpoint surround sound system. The trim lines also slim down: while the GS model is still available with front- or all-wheel drive, the GT is now limited strictly to all-wheel drive.

The CX-7 uses a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The all-wheel system uses active torque split and can deliver up to 50/50 power distribution if it senses slippage.

Features on the GS include 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, automatic headlamps, body-colour mirrors, bumpers and door handles; power windows, locks and mirrors, CD stereo with four speakers, auxiliary input and wheel-mounted controls; leather-wrapped tilt wheel, cruise control, keyless entry, alarm system, power eight-way driver’s seat with lumbar support, heated seats, and illuminated vanity mirrors.

The GT adds automatic climate control, bright-finish exterior door handles, Xenon headlamps, fog lights, power sunroof, leather-trimmed upholstery, electroluminescent gauges, exterior temperature gauge, cargo cover, piano black and silver interior accents, mirrors with integrated turn signals, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and garage door opener.

Available options on the GS include a power sunroof; along with the Luxury Package, the GT can also be optioned with a navigation system that includes a backup camera.

Beautifully styled, the CX-7 features razor-sharp handling and an intelligent interior. Rear-seat legroom is a bit tight, but the folding rear seats drop at the pull of a handle to turn this midsize vehicle into a cargo carrier. The engine tends toward turbo lag and can be difficult to modulate, but once it hits its groove, it’s wickedly fast and great fun to drive. Prices drop appreciably from the 2008 levels, and while premium fuel is recommended for maximum performance, the CX-7 is content to run on regular-grade gasoline.

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