Vince Pornelos / Vince Pornelos | October 20, 2008 00:00
Re-definitionThe Mazda CX-9 is perhaps the most difficult vehicle I've ever had to put to words.
It's not because it's a bad vehicle… far from it. It's because I can't seem to find the right yardstick to measure it with.
For starters, it's got the specifications to rival sports cars. Under the hood lives and breathes an amazing, rev-happy, sport tuned 3.7 liter V-6 motor, with the collective thrust of 273 horses. Power is sent through a 6-speed Activematic transmission with sports mode, and channeled to large twenty-inch alloy rims with low-profile tires. The suspension settings, traction and body control are built to tackle tight turns and twisty mountain passes that make most heavy SUVs want to hit the gym or go South Beach. It drives, accelerates, stops and corners like a well sorted sports car.
So it's a sports car then? Well, no.
For one, it certainly doesn't look like one. The CX-9 has the length, the height, the width and the high off the ground enough to be a large SUV. Open any of the CX-9's four doors and inside is seating for seven full-size adults. There's a commanding driving position, allowing the driver to see all before him/her, unlike the low-slung characteristics of sports cars. Plus a tailgate with plenty of trunk space to boot; even more when the 3rd row is folded down. Not exactly the defining characteristics on a designer's sports car drafting table.
So it's an SUV then? Still no.
It may have the size of an SUV, but it's designed to be as sleek and as dynamic as possible. They chose to use a gasoline powered V-6 instead of the SUV propulsion of choice: diesel. It even weighs significantly less than its contemporaries. It has drive channeled to all four wheels, but it's meant to improve grip on the road, and not traction off it.
The Mazda CX-9 could probably be the one of the most obvious example of what a crossover is. However, unlike other manufacturers who try to mask their crossover SUV's car/sedan-based origins, Mazda chose to proudly show it. And flaunt it.
Being a crossover doesn't really mean being compromised, or worse, ending up like a big, overpriced conundrum. Instead, Mazda took the SUV formula, and shaped it to fit their philosophy. Their image. Best of all, they knew what they wanted out of the CX-9, and chose to let the world know what it is to the core. Is that so bad?
Now I'm beginning to appreciate it.
Sure, it isn't perfect, with a strong thirst for fuel and lacks a few features that I would characterize as standard in this price range like HID headlamps, sunroof and power tailgate.
However, the CX-9 knows what it wants to be, and that's enough to define itself.
It's its own yardstick.