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Mazda CX-7 first take

Mazda CX-7 first take

Mazda's contribution to the crossover trend arrived in our garage today, so we took it out for a quick spin to get some initial impressions (full review to come next week). One of our staff immediately scoffed at the notion of a crossover, insisting on labeling the CX-7 as an SUV. And when I got in the driver's seat, I felt like I was in an SUV, because the CX-7 feels pretty big. Although the hood slants down, the front fenders are big and trucklike. Maybe it's not an SUV because of the wacky upholstery, which has a strip of brown alligator suede running up the middle of each seat. You don't see that in a truck. But it does have a rearview camera, a gadget more common on SUVs than cars.

The power train is modest in the CX-7, with a transversely mounted 2.3-liter four-cylinder enhanced by a turbocharger. That's all mated to a six-speed automatic turning all four tires in our all-wheel-drive version. Although the car didn't push me back into the seat when I punched the accelerator, the power is satisfactory enough to move the car up to freeway speeds pretty quickly. And even better, the turbo isn't overwhelming--it does its part quietly, adding power without any unexpected rushes of acceleration.

For tech, the car has a navigation system with voice control and a Bose stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer. No cell phone integration. The LCD is big and bright, and it does a good job displaying maps or ID3 information from MP3 CDs, which the changer can read. The CD slot is actually behind the LCD, and loading or ejecting CDs causes a motor to tip up the LCD. The CX-7 has Bose speakers that sounded pretty good on our initial run, but we'll get deeper into that in the full review. The LCD is a touch screen, but the technology behind it seems little different from a standard touch screen. You have to really tap the onscreen buttons, as if there's a mechanical connection that has to take place.

The points-of-interest database doesn't include retail stores, so I won't be able to find Home Depot in this car, but it does have restaurants. The touch screen can be problematic, as I frequently ended up tapping the map as opposed to the button that starts route guidance, which has the effect of resetting my destination to some random point in the city. The MP3 CD display on the LCD is really good, with full song, artist, and album all displayed on the same screen.