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2007 Mazda CX-7

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San Francisco: In many families, the kids end up taking on different roles. Johnny plays football, so brother Bob programs computers and sister Cynthia goes dancing. In the same way, Mazda, the Japanese auto company, is the athlete of the global Ford family. Starting with the historic rotary-powered RX-7, through the groundbreaking Miata in 1989 and up to todayís RX-8 four-door sports car, Mazda has dished out affordable, fun-to-drive sports cars. Mazda now offers, for 2007, perhaps the sportiest crossover SUV the world has ever see, the Mazda CX-7.

I sure wish theyíd picked a more interesting name, but alphanumerics are all the rage these days and Mazdaís got them too. But this vehicle is something pretty special, especially in the bold red my test vehicle wore. The CX-7 is not a traditional sport utility vehicle, as itís not truck-based and is anything but boxy, but it provides vast amounts of sport and utility. So what is it?

Well, to start with, itís a five-passenger people mover. The raked-back windshield could go on a Corvette, but there are little triangular windows at the front pillars that look like they belong on a minivan. The kicked up rear fender line and tapered top read a little more like a station wagon, but the boldly defined wheel flares are pure SUV as we have come to know it. The front wears the latest Mazda face, with drawn back eyes and a five-pointed grille with a big bottom breather mouth below the bumper.

The CX-7ís rear compartment, when the split rear seats are dropped, boasts a 70-inch-long flat cargo floor. Thereís even a little lip in front to keep your suitcases out of the front seats. You can stuff three golf bags in back with the rear seats in their upright position (it would be even nicer if four would fit so the entire foursome could travel to the golf course together).

Inside the CX-7, itís obvious that somebody thought about how to make it look and feel upscale without pushing up the price. The elegantly sculpted surfaces mix black, tan, and silver in a way that resembles luxury sedans, such as the Lexus LS series cars. Fine fit and finish contribute to the sense of quality. Mazda claims that they studied what people stick in their cars storage areas and designed the CX-7 around it. Maybe. I know that the car held all of my junk without complaint.

The CX-7 comes with only one engine, but it does an excellent job of delivering the sporting goods. Itís only a 2.3-liter four cylinder, but with turbocharging and intercooling, it manages to generate 244 horsepower at 5,000 rpm, and it does it quietly and oh-so-smoothly. Torque peaks at a low 2,500 rpm, giving the car plenty of energy at the level regular folks drive it, not just racing enthusiasts. Driving around town, I felt the car leap ahead when I gave it some loose leash, and it hums contentedly on the freeway at pretty much whatever speed you end up going. Eighty feels relaxed (tell that to the highway patrolman).

You can choose front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive in the CX-7. The AWD version uses sophisticated computer logic to automatically deliver torque to the wheels that need it. If you drive the car like most SUVs are used, all-wheel drive is a nice safety feature, but it wonít help you navigate the Rubicon Trail, nor is it intended to. The front-wheel-drive version earns EPA fuel mileage numbers of 19 City, 24 Highway. The AWD model loses one mpg in the city. Your mileage will vary, and will probably be less.

You can select one of three levels of equipment. Even the base version, the Sport model, isnít too shabby right out of the box. You get a six-speed automatic with individual gear selection (no manual is available). Stirred into the mix are ventilated four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability and traction control, keyless entry, and big, bold 18-inch alloys for a big footprint. The Touring model adds heated leather seats with power adjustment for the driver. The Grand Touring further upgrades the car with automatic climate control, even snazzier seats, and sparkling electroluminescent gauges.

My tester was pretty loaded, and proved to be a fine driver. That extra height gives the SUV feeling without the lumbering truck ride and handling. The CX-7 fits neatly in parking spots and feels nimble in town. The instrument panel, with its two levels and deeply set racing-style gauge package, helps deliver the feeling of fun that Mazda surely intended here.

So, whatís the tab? The Sport model starts at just $24,345, including destination charges. The Touring moves to $26,095, while the Grand Touring touches $26,865. Thatís not a heavy price for what is surely the rocket of the affordable crossover crew.

I had only one beef with the CX-7, besides its boring name. The touch screen sometimes wouldnít take my manual input. It is probably just a problem with this specific car, since Mazdaís typically work flawlessly.

If youíre looking for an engaging driver, but have people and cargo hauling needs, you should definitely consider this new player in the rapidly expanding SUV crossover market. 
By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Mazda Home Page

Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©AutoWire.Net
Column Name: The Mazda CX-7 is the sportiest crossover SUV you can buy today
Topic: The 2007 Mazda CX-7
Word Count: 943
Photo Caption: The 2007 Mazda CX-7
Photo Credits: Mazda Internet Media
Series #: 2006 - 65


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