Raising the cabin tech level from that in the CX-7, the CX-9 offers standard Bluetooth hands-free calling on the model's top two trim levels. We found pairing our phone to the system an intuitive process, and the built-in voice-dialing interface is very good.
For the CX-9, Mazda does away with much of the black lacquered plastic that we saw on the 2007 Mazda CX-7. Instead, cabin materials are made up of muted matte plastic, faux brushed aluminum, and slivers of wood trim. Leather-trimmed seats come standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, although not available on the Sport.
The CX-9's optional DVD-based touch screen navigation system is similar in design to that we saw on the CX-7. On all option packages, the system comes bundled with a rearview camera, although as of April 2007, the camera (with a display built into the rearview mirror) will be available as a stand-alone option.
The 2007 Mazda CX-9 comes standard with a six-speaker audio system. Audio options include a 277-watt, 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio system with MP3-disc playback capability, and a rear-seat entertainment system with 296-watt Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system.
The CX-9 comes with a single engine choice, an all-new, U.S.-made, 3.5-liter V-6 variable valve-timed mill good for 263 horsepower. This engine is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox that features a manual shift mode.
At nearly 200 inches long, the CX-9 is the biggest car Mazda has built to date. While it shares its platform and much of its mechanical DNA with the Ford Edge, the CX-9's wheelbase and damper and steering tuning are unique. The CX-9 is available in two-wheel- or all-wheel-drive, the latter featuring hydraulic clutches for active torque split between the front and rear wheels.
Designed specifically for the North American market, the seven-seat 2007 Mazda CX-9 will go up against the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, and the GMC Acadia in the midsized crossover SUV segment. The CX-9 comes in three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring.
The second-row seats slide forward to facilitate entry to the third row. Mazda says that the third-row seats are not just for kids, although we say that they're not for tall adults, either. Unlike those of many other seven-seaters, the CX-9's third-row seats are standard on all trim levels and are not be removable.