The Second Coming of the Crossover
By Miss Cocoa Efficient
If you read my articles on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed how I gush, fawn and go generally gaga over Mazda products. In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you here and now I am the proud owner of a bright red Mazda3 Grand Touring; it’s one of the best cars I’ve ever owned and I make no apologies for my obvious bias. Of course, my love for Mazda cars goes beyond their shapely exteriors and spirited driving dynamics, as any good image coach will tell you, exterior looks are dandy but it’s what’s inside that counts.
How many times have you spotted the man of your dreams at the gym, all muscled up and looking like a bronze Adonis, only to find out he’s as shallow as Ann Coulter’s compassion pond and equally dim-witted? It’s the same with cars, because while good looks count for something they are not everything. Honestly, who cares if a car is an undisputed head turner if once inside you find yourself surrounded by a lack luster design and Wal-Mart quality plastics? This, my little status seekers, is why I love Mazda products. No matter what the car, be it the entry-level Mazda3 or the racy RX-8, Mazda makes certain the interiors are modern, functional and artfully crafted, which brings us to the subject of this review: the new Mazda CX-7 crossover SUV.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a crossover combines the best attributes of an SUV (roomy cargo hold and a commanding view of the road) with the ride, handling and fuel economy of a mid-size sedan. It’s a common sense package that is as easy on the eyes as it is on Mother Earth. The CX-7 is a sleek five-passenger crossover with a gorgeous interior, a long list of standard and optional features and a price starting below $25,000. If there is one thing Cocoa Efficient loves more than chocolate, muscle men and chocolate covered muscle men, it’s a bargain!
When looking at the CX-7, the windshield’s dramatic rake immediately catches the eye. Angled at a 66-degree incline, the CX-7’s windshield and sleek front end combine to create a look that is more sports car than family hauler, exactly the image Mazda wants the CX-7 to portray. The sides reveal enough curves and bulges to put Mae West to shame and although a gently rising beltline is usually something to be feared by gay men, on the CX-7 it’s a quite appealing. Mazda finishes off the sporty look with a stylish set of 18-inch alloy rims surrounded by P235/60R18 all-season tires.
The CX-7’s wide door openings and low step-in height make it easy for people of all shapes and sizes to enter and exit, even when wearing a full-length sequined gown and moderately sized tiara. The “look at me and my fat white ass” routine we’ve all suffered while bending over to release the rear seatbacks is a thing of the past thanks to a clever release mechanisms located near the hatch opening. The flip up rear liftgate reveals a large cargo hold with a level loading floor because Mazda knows how much we homos have to pack when traveling.
The CX-7’s cockpit easily rivals more expensive vehicles such as the Infiniti FX35 and Lexus RX 330. A variation on the traditional Mazda three-ring instrument cluster features a center-mounted speedometer flanked by a smaller tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges. The three-spoke steering wheel is lifted straight from the MX-5 (formerly known as the Miata) and features redundant controls for the audio as well as the cruise control. Seating is firm and supportive up front and rear seat passengers are treated to spacious area with plenty of head, hip and legroom. A neat feature is the rear seat’s ability to fold without the need to remove the headrests. My test vehicle, a fully-loaded Grand Touring, included an amazing nine-speaker Bose surround sound audio system, touch-screen DVD navigation, a rear back-up camera monitor, heated leather front seats and a keyless entry and start system allowing the user to start the engine from outside the vehicle as well as roll up the front windows and open or close the power glass sunroof.
Power for the CX-7 comes from a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine producing 244 horsepower. Mazda’s six-speed Sport AT automatic transmission includes a manual shift mode which allows the driver to shift up or down without having to depress a clutch pedal. All three models are pulled by their front wheels but offer the option of part-time four-wheel drive (the system is activated only in the event of wheel slippage and cannot be permanently engaged). While the 2.3-liter turbo provides quick off-the-line starts, it is somewhat sluggish when it comes to high-speed passing. Mash your foot to the floor and you find yourself waiting for the transmission to kick down and the turbocharger to reach its maximum output before the CX-7 can make its move. A V6 probably would provide more low-end torque, but would also consume more fuel. Besides, the all-aluminum four-cylinder engine yields an important benefit not associated with speed but rather with handling.
Remember when you were a kid and you had a little red wagon? You’d ride in the back while up front sat your pudgy little friend, Timmy. Down the hill you’d go, picking up speed at breakneck pace until the realization of the impending left turn dawned on the both of you. Desperate attempts by Timmy to turn the wagon met with defeat because the position of his big butt directly over the wheels responsible for steering made it impossible to do anything except plow forward. A set of black rubber skid marks disappearing into an unfriendly clump of prickle bushes and poison ivy marked the final resting spot of you, Timmy and the little red wagon that couldn’t. If only you’d switched places with Timmy the odds of negotiating the curve would have improved dramatically. The same fundamentals that doomed your wagon apply to modern day automobiles, which is why with less weight over the front wheels the Mazda CX-7 achieves a more balanced front-to-rear weight ratio helping to deliver better handling and improved steering response.
Needless to say, the CX-7 delivers an impressive driving experience far exceeding the ride and handling of the average truck-based SUV. Its steering is precise and on center and the suspension effortlessly soaks up road blemishes and expansion joints while returning the type of driving experience you’d expect from a sport sedan. In addition to the superb suspension geometry, Mazda tosses in a number of electronic safety measures such as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), traction control and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.
The CX-7 is designed to serve many masters, from SUV owners seeking a reduction in size as well as fuel costs, to wagon lovers needing a bit more room. With its sharp styling, capable road manners and affordable price tag, the CX-7 should have no problem reaching its projected sales goal of 40,000 units. Put this SUV at the top of your shopping list and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Mazda is a gay-friendly company.
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