Zooming Right on Down the Road
by Scott Corlett
Mazda is a cute and quirky little car company. With less than two percent of automotive sales in the United States, the executives at Mazda long ago realized that the company could never follow a GM “car for every purse and purpose” strategy. In 2000, building on the company’s past success with performance vehicles such as the venerable RX-7, Mazda officially hitched its fortunes to the sport segment when its marketing people adopted the seductive tagline “Zoom-Zoom.” Given this, when we heard that Mazda planned to launch a seven-passenger crossover SUV, a barrel of Botox couldn’t have smoothed the wrinkles from our forehead. How, we wondered, could an auto company put the zoom-zoom in a vehicle the size of a Ford Explorer?
In January, Gaywheels.com was invited to test drive the new 2007 Mazda CX-9. After a breakfast and a presentation by the Mazda team in the swank bowels of the Beverly Hilton, we went to the rooftop of the hotel’s parking structure and checked out the big boys. All the rage among families with young ones, third-row seating was the predicate for the CX-9’s size and design. At nearly two hundred inches in length, the CX-9 is longer than an Explorer, a Honda Pilot, or a Volvo XC90. This translates into superb legroom for all rows—even the back bench of the CX-9 is good for those who wear shoes larger than a size two. Moreover, here’s half the zoom-zoom: even at this grand scale, the CX-9—due to its sleek, ready-to-spring stance—looks much smaller and more agile than any of its third-row brethren. The stars who live just up the palm-bordered boulevards from this hotel pay big bucks for that nifty trick.
We climbed into a blue beauty, a CX-9 in midlevel trim equipped with front-wheel drive and painted Mazda’s fab Stormy Blue Mica. After a short stint on a freeway filled with ever-driving Angelenos, we exited for a canyon run in the hills outside the city. As we slalomed through turn after tight turn among the California gold of rock and dried brush, we quickly forgot about the 130-odd inches of metal, glass, and leather behind us. The CX-9 remained flat and steady through the curves, even when we pushed hard enough to activate the lenient Dynamic Stability Control system. Coming out of the turns, the sole-offered powertrain—a 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission—returned the CX-9 to speed without the excessive fanfare of sharp shifts or loud rev noise. On that hilly, twisty road, to an accompaniment of drive music chosen by the folks at Mazda and piped from an iPod Shuffle through the CX-9’s optional, 11-speaker Bose stereo, we found the second half of the zoom-zoom.
After lunch, we hopped into a CX-9 with top-end trim and all-wheel drive. En route back into town, on the battered concrete of the infamous 405 stop-and-go, the smoking-hot 20-inch tires, which are standard on this trim, did their best to smooth the craters and bumps. As we approached a freeway junction, the Friday-afternoon traffic slowed to a standstill due to a construction crane that had fallen over the roadway. This might have been just another day in the Valley, but we ran a finger over the touch screen of the optional Navigation system and found a new route over the star-studded hills to the hotel. In the CX-9, there are plenty of these mostly optional gadgets to aid drivers and quiet kids: a backup cam; a nine-inch, rear-seat DVD screen; and one of the best keyless entry/ignition systems on the market (with a wallet card instead of a bulky fob—like, duh). Alas, surprisingly in a vehicle of this size, the CX-9 has no front and rear parking assist other than the helpful, but insufficient backend cam.
We pulled up to the valet stand at the hotel, and our door was whisked open by one of those Hollywood service employees whose skin and smile are so flawless that his big break can’t be far down the road. We gave a final look around the CX-9’s richly appointed cabin, at its polished wood, supple leather, and pleasing synthetics. Then, we jumped out and smiled at the valet. Zoom-Zoom.
Trim Base Price (FWD)
Grand Touring $33,270
Mazda is a gay-friendly company.
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