- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

The 2007 CX-7 crossover SUV was conceived specifically for the United States and Canada.

“The North American market continues to play a pivotal role in Mazda Motor Corporation’s global future,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations. “Vehicles such as CX-7, designed and engineered specifically for the North American market, will make Mazda an important and influential force in the industry.”

One look at the CX-7 reveals Mazda’s intention to blend vehicle genres. The large 18-inch wheels and tires, accented by massively flared wheel arches, are typical of the industry’s current SUV visual protocol.

However, the pointed grille and front fascia, large lower front air intake, continuously curved roofline, dual exhaust outlets and heavily angled windshield — 66 degrees to be exact — describe a vehicle designed to enhance spirited driving inclinations. Even better, these attributes improve the CX-7’s aerodynamics, a quality rarely associated with tall and blunt sport utility vehicles.

Once inside, passengers are greeted by a well-appointed and nicely finished cabin. The seats are firmly bolstered, the leather well-textured and the controls conveniently organized. Three large instrument gauges peer out from behind the three-spoke steering wheel.

The automatic shift lever has been integrated into the floor center console and follows a “question mark” shaped path.

Five occupants fit comfortably, and the rear seats fold in a 60/40 configuration to increase cargo capacity. With the rear seat folded, a full 58.6 cubic feet of cargo may be loaded; when the seatback is in vertical position, 29.9 cubic feet remain. A reversible trunk board in the rear includes a plastic surface on one side, allowing wet or soiled items to be transported without damaging carpeting.

All CX-7 models are powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder, with an output of 244 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Aluminum block and cylinder head construction, four valves per cylinder and direct injection spark ignition contribute to the small engine’s capacity for big power.

A similar engine powers the Mazdaspeed 6 sport sedan, although CX-7 gets a revised turbocharger that reduces lag by increasing low rpm response. Peak torque occurs at a reasonable 2,500 rpm, horsepower maximizes at 5,000 rpm and the engine redlines at 6,700 revolutions.

One transmission, a six-speed automatic with manual control, directs power to either the front wheels or all four corners. Those CX-7s equipped with AWD include Mazda’s Active Torque-Split, a system capable of delivering up to half of available torque to the rear wheels, when conditions demand transfer. Wheel speed sensors, dynamic stability control, traction control and ABS are integrated in the system, providing precise handling with immediate adjustments, depending on traction and braking. Rack-and-pinion steering, four-wheel disc brakes, MacPherson front struts and a multilink rear suspension setup combine with the unit-body frame to deliver carlike composure.

While the well-executed body structure provides ample collision protection, several passive features aid in protecting occupant integrity in the event of a crash. Front seat belts include load limiters and pretensioners. Six air bags are standard, including dual front units, dual front-seat side-impact bags and curtains for all outboard passengers. A rollover sensor allows the curtain air bags to remain inflated for approximately six seconds.

Three trim models will be offered. Base Sport CX-7s come with cloth seats and include power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, a single-CD four-speaker audio system, manual air conditioning and all of the aforementioned safety and stability features, except AWD.

Stepping up to Touring class yields leather trim on the seats, shift knob and steering wheel, heated front seats, eight-way power driver’s seat adjustment and a cargo cover that is retractable.

Customers who opt for Grand Touring equipment enjoy distinctive leather, electroluminescent gauges with ambient temperature display, automatic climate control, HID headlights, fog lamps, chrome door handles and heated/body-color exterior mirrors.

All CX-7s may be optioned with the Technology Package that includes a moon roof, six-CD audio system, DVD-navigation, advanced keyless entry and Smart Start, a rearview camera and perimeter alarm. The Preferred Equipment Package adds a cargo net and tray, rear bumper step plate and the retractable cargo cover, if not already included. Additionally, all models may include the moon roof and Bose six-CD audio system as a single package.

Other stand-alone options and accessories include AWD, Sirius satellite radio, remote engine starting and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated compass.

Starting at $24,310 (destination included), the CX-7 hits showrooms this spring as a 2007 model. Expect a fully loaded Grand Touring model with AWD to ring up just below $35,000.

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