Tested: 2007 Mazda CX-7 GT

Roomy & Zoomy

I didn’t sit in on a press conference, or attend the launch; but, after my week-long test in the 2007 Mazda CX-7 GT, it appears Mazda has done its homework well. So much so that the new CX-7 mid size crossover truly blurs the line between sport utility and sports car thanks to a turbocharged engine and bountiful passenger and cargo room.

The CX-7 shares the same 2.3L turbocharged direct injection engine as the Mazdaspeed6 sedan I drove earlier this year; however, it offers distinctly different performance thanks to a revised Hitachi turbo and different ECU programming. The CX-7 has 30 fewer ponies than the speedy 6, but its 244 hp at 5,000 rpm is complemented by a smooth six-speed automatic transmission that unloads all 258 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm.

While it does deliver more low-end torque than the turbocharged sedan (where torque peaks at 3,000 rpm), I did notice a bit of turbo lag and sluggishness on low-speed rolling starts. It’s not as noticeable when using the “manumatic” shift mode, or when starting from a standstill; but, once it gets up to speed, you quickly forget as the CX-7 offers an extremely smooth and quiet ride that travels over small bumps and road irregularities effortlessly and confidently. The 1,782-kg vehicle stops just as easily with four-wheel disc brakes boasting ABS and EBD nestled behind the all-season Goodyear sheathed 18-inch alloys.

The CX-7 GT reaches 100 km/h in the high sevens with ample passing power to get the job done quickly and quietly. More impressive perhaps is the vehicle’s heroic handling characteristics. The independent suspension arrangement is a strut-type front and multi-link rear with coil springs and stabilizer bars at both ends. There is very little body roll through corners and the taught chassis goes through flat when setup properly. The CX-7 feels almost neutral with power going to the front wheels most of the time. If either of those detects any slippage, however, the vehicle becomes all-wheel driven with up to 50 percent of torque getting directed to the rear wheels to help regain traction in concert with Mazda’s dynamic stability and traction control systems. A speed sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion setup affords very accurate steering while the three-prong leather covered multi-function steering wheel offers great feedback for the driver.

The CX-7 distinguishes itself via a unique yet thoroughly zoomy Mazda appearance with an overall shape that’s reminiscent of a compact hatchback, only much bigger. In front of the steeply raked (66 degrees) windshield, the hood tapers inward from back to front with bulbous wheel arches and body-colored side mirrors contributing even more to the sporty look. Powerful Xenon headlights are joined by a set of fog lights in the lower bumper, which features are gaping inlet that allows for enhanced cooling of the turbocharged engine. Chrome window trim and door handles give it a rather mature appearance while the dual-tip stainless steel exhaust system hints at its sportiness. The rear end is uncluttered with a slender roofline spoiler and large clear taillights that flank the one-piece up-swinging hatch.

Inside you will find just as much refinement as on the exterior, with leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, automatic climate controls and power glass sunroof all coming as standard equipment on the GT model. Brushed aluminum trim pieces litter the passenger compartment and all of the controls are easily reachable, including the steering wheel-mounted controls for the optional nine-speaker Bose audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer my tester came equipped with. Mine also had a Sportster Sirius Satellite radio (not shown) mounted to the right of the aluminum-look climate control knobs; and, although I thoroughly enjoyed it, would have preferred the optional navigation system.

Big pluses are the dual front and side curtain air bags and dual side air curtains. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the 2007 Mazda CX-7 in both frontal and side-impact crash tests where it earned the U.S. government’s highest ratings–five stars–in both tests.

Rear seat passengers get a decent of amount of leg and head space along with curtain air bags. And, thanks to 60/40-split folding capabilities, the rear cargo space skyrockets from 848L (from behind the rear seat-backs) to 1,782L (from behind the front seat-backs) in a matter of seconds. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 and 24 mpg (city/highway). Mazda recommends 91 octane fuel to fill the 69L tank, however, it will take 89 (as well as 87 in emergencies) to somewhat curb the effect of high gas prices and below average fuel consumption.

The as tested price for the 2007 CX-7 GT is $41,345 CAD, including the sole optional “luxury” package. The GS model MSRPs at $31,995 CAD. The CX-7 is offered in three trim levels–Sport, Touring and Grand Touring–in the U.S. starting at $24,310 USD. Additional taxes and charges may apply.

While the CX-7 shares several parts from other Mazda platforms like the suspension (3 and 5) and engine (Mazdaspeed6) as well as some of the underpinnings of the Ford Edge crossover, the combined effect is a totally new Mazda vehicle that raises expectations for this exciting yet still young segment. Better still is that it doesn’t drive or behave like most SUVs, but more like a well-planted sports car with performance characteristics other automakers ought to mimic. As it is, impeccable ride quality helps the long journeys seem short. I just hope the next-gen CX-7 drinks less fuel. While you’re at it, can you please put a rotary hybrid powerplant in there too?