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The Mazda CX-9 is a four-door, seven passenger full-size crossover sport-utility vehicle. When Mazda decided that it was time to introduce a full-size crossover SUV into their lineup, they turned to parent company Ford in order to benefit from their years of experience in this segment of the market. The result was the development of a new platform to be shared between the two companies, with Ford using it to underpin the Edge crossover and Mazda moving forward with the CX-9 in 2007.

One year later, the 2008 CX-9 still bears most of the same styling cues and under the skin details as the previous model. The outward appearance of the CX-9 helps it maintain the family looks of the CX-7 mid-size crossover, as well as tie into Mazda’s automobile offerings. The CX-9 manages a sporty exterior design without resorting to aggressiveness, a trait which is helped by the long, sloping hood and windswept upper deck.

For 2008, the most significant change to the CX-9 can be found under the hood, where a 3.7 liter V6 replaces the previous year’s 3.5. This new engine produces 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to move the large crossover with considerable gusto. Base models are front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional, and all versions of the CX-9 are equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission with Sportshift manual shifting.

The CX-9 is the largest vehicle to roll into a Mazda showroom in the history of the company, and inside the crossover all of that extra space is put to good use. The CX-9 seats 7 passengers, and for once the third row of seating does not seem like an afterthought but actually a comfortable place for a pair of normal-sized adults to spend a road trip. Seating is generally excellent throughout the vehicle, with adjustments for legroom not intruding on the space of passengers behind.

Each of the three CX-9 trim levels are well-equipped. The Sport model comes standard with three zone climate control, cruise control, power door locks and windows and cloth seats. The Touring edition adds leather, Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones and other portable electronic devices, and power heated front seats. The Grand Touring is the best equipped of the three, incorporating all of the standard equipment of the Touring and adding interior lighting accents, keyless entry and nicer interior trim. The Grand Touring also comes with a blind spot monitoring system which keeps an eye on the lanes on either side of the vehicle, as well as optional moon roof, backup camera and navigation system.

The CX-9 performs well for a vehicle of its size, thanks in part to the strapping V6 engine. The suspension is tuned more for fun than for comfort, which drivers will appreciate but passengers might find a bit grating over the long term. The vehicle’s steering and braking are communicative, and the CX-9 can also be ordered with a towing package that allows it to handle trailers of up to 3,500 lbs – perfect for camping.

The Mazda CX-9 is an excellent first foray into a new market for Mazda, and their ability to translate their driving philosophy into a full-size crossover SUV is to be commended.

The 2009 Mazda CX-9 has had a few minor changes since the last model year. The CX-9 now has a trip computer as a standard feature on all models. The base CX-9 model has gotten Bluetooth capability standard. Every CX-9 with all-wheel drive has been given the trailer tow prep package as standard. Every Grand Touring model has been given a rearview mirror with auto dimming and a garage door opener standard. The optional package that provides rear-seat entertainment as well as upgraded audio systems have both been given standard satellite radio automatically.

The Mazda CX-9 has a 3.7 liter, V6 engine that produces 273 horsepower. The only transmission available on the vehicle at any trim level is a six-speed automatic transmission system.

The CX-9 comes in three trim levels- the base level Sport model, the upgraded Touring trim and the Grand Touring trim. Every trim level has both all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive available. The vehicle can tow as much as 3,500 pounds. The base mode, the Sport trim, comes standard with air-conditioning, a CD player, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, 18-inch wheels made from alloy, power accessories, a trip computer, an auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control and audio controls on the steering wheel.

The Touring trim level has a these features plus leather seating with two different colors, heated mirrors and front seats that have heat and power controls. The highest trim level, the Grand Touring, adds several luxury features to the vehicle. It features: 20-inch wheels, keyless entry, keyless ignition, xenon headlights, wood accents in the cabin, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview mirror with auto dimming, memory presets on the driver’s seat and unique blue illumination in the cabin. Options include a Bose sound system, a sunroof, a navigation system and a docking station for video games.