He said/She said: Mazda CX-9

She ? Since Mazda pulled the wraps of its CX-9 crossover in 2007, it?s received top ratings including the prestigious North American Truck of the Year for 2008, a Consumer Reports ?Recommended? rating, five-star government safety ratings for front and side crash safety along with critical acclaim from the automotive press.

Even with the proliferation of crossovers since then, the Mazda remains a leader in the category.

He ? We have often thought of Mazda as the Japanese equivalent of BMW, only at a more reasonable price and not quite as fast.?? The main characteristic is they are both fun to drive.? The CX-9 is a good example of that premise.? Here is a three-row crossover that carries seven passengers in style, but is still exciting to drive thanks to its quick acceleration and precise handling.

She ? For 2010, the CX-9 gets significant exterior and interior upgrades, more options and reinforced safety features. ?The front end has more a Mazda family look with the sport five-point grille and wide, bold bumper.

The interior has a quality feel with an easy to read four-pod instrument cluster.? The center stack, which is bordered on the sides by a good-looking faux wood, has large well-marked dials and buttons for climate, audio and navigation functions.

He ? A smooth 273-hp, 3.7-liter DOHC V-6 powers all CX-9 models through a six-speed transmission that uses the first four gears to maximize acceleration and the top two gears for better fuel economy.? The transmission also has a convenient and positive manual shift mode controlled by a special gate on the console-mounted shifter.

The CX-9 has a standard front-wheel drive configuration, but is upgraded to all-wheel drive for $1,400.? The Active Torque AWD monitors slippage, steering angle, lateral acceleration and driveline torque to deliver the power to the wheels with the best traction.? Under normal driving conditions, the system sends 100 percent of the torque to the front wheels.

The CX-9 accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and has a top speed of 119 mph.? The EPA estimates fuel economy at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.? Our actual average during a week of local driving was 18.0 mpg.

She ? The CX-9 comes in three trim levels, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring with pricing starting at $29,385 for the Sport including the destination charge.? All three models have an extensive list of standard features. ?The Touring version is $1,920 more and adds features like power and heated leather seats and heated outside mirrors.? The top model Grand Touring is $33,395 with the addition of rain-sensing wipers, Xenon headlights, blind spot monitoring, 20-inch aluminum wheels along with several other cosmetic and convenience enhancements.? Equipped with all the available options like rear seat entertainment, power liftgate and navigation, the Grand Touring AWD tops out at about $41,000.

The Mazda CX-9 should be on the shopping list of anyone looking for a classy crossover or SUV with three rows of seating.

He ? Mazda makes a big deal out of their ?Zoom Zoom? slogan and their ?Soul of a Sports Car? philosophy, and they should because the cars accurately reflect both slogans.? With four-wheel independent suspension, anti-roll bars and low profile 18- and 20-inch tires, the CX-9 not only looks sporty but also the handling is precise and steady, even with the bulky size and nearly 4,500-lb. curb weight.

There is a lot to like about the CX-9.? From styling, comfort and performance, it remains one of my favorite crossovers.? However, I would like to see a little better fuel economy, but not at the expense of its fun-to-drive characteristics.


More from Our Auto Expert