Saturday, June 24, 2006

Car Quest: Mazda CX-7

Today I took the family up to Trussville, Ala. to check out Mazda's latest tall crossover SUV wagon thing, the CX-7.

Walking up to the Copper Red Mica ute, I was impressed both by how big it was, yet how small it seemed. Does that make sense? It's tall. It's long. It's wide. But the Mazda stylists gave the beast some curves, some shapes other than rectangles. And, in my opinion, it works.

Stacy, our salesman, showed Christina how to buckle our safety-seated Will into the back while I continued to check out the exterior. At eye level, the metal-flake crimson paint was smooth and shimmering. A closer look revealed darker streaks running through the gloss, which did not lend an air of luxury to the car. In fact, I might even say this car had some major paint flaws. Below the belt line, the paint was not smooth at all, with an obvious orange peel. For a car that costs this much, I expect rock-candy clear.

A turn of the key had the dual chrome-tailpipes burbling and us on our way. The throttle seemed a bit slow. By which I mean I stab the gas and...................get acceleration. An obvious lag between requesting ooomph and getting it. Turbo lag?

I drove mostly using the 6-speed Sport Shift, choosing to somewhat mix my own gears. It made the drive much more fun around the twisty course Stacy chose for us. Brake feel was touchy, but very effective. The four-wheel discs saved the life of one very frightened kitten early in the test. The turbo-4 had good pickup and felt quite powerful once past the lag.

I've read other reviews complaining of the CX-7's jolty ride, and expected something worse than my 1991 Camaro. What we experienced, though was closer to a tightly-sprung BMW SUV. Sure, the bumpy spots moved us around some, but Christina, who sat in back with Will, noted that it wasn't nearly as bad as my PT Cruiser.

Christina pointed the SUV in the opposite direction and took us back to the dealership. She said visibility was pretty good, no major blind spots. But she did complain about the huge A-pillar intruding on her left turns. She also commented on the touchy, but very effective brakes. She didn't experience as much go-lag as I did and didn't think it a problem.

So, all in all, the CX-7 survived and remains on the list as a contender. It's got the space we need as a young family, the luxury we so rightly deserve (right?) and it looks pretty damn cool. However, there are negatives. First, in a total slip of foresight, Mazda did not include an iPod interface or even a line-in plug. That's almost unforgivable in a brand new car. Somewhat below average fuel mileage isn't an instant killer, but that's on premium gas. YIKES! It's also at the tippy top of our price range and somewhat over-indulgent for a couple of fairly-liberal Democrats.

Next we may drive the VW Passat wagon or maybe the Honda Fit or possibly the Subaru Forrester. Stay tuned.

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