After The ZoomBy Paul Seredynski March 17, 2011
Mazda recently loaned us a CX-9 to attend the introduction of the 2012 Mazda5 in nearby San Diego. The CX-9 is one of our favorite SUVs, and continues to impress with a nimbleness that belies its shadow footprint. Youd never suspect that the fluid and frisky CX-9 shares its seven-seat segment with Fords Flex, as its chassis actually speaks the language of driving enthusiasts. For those in need of the seats and space, there is still a Zoom-Zoom option.
Were also fans of the Flex, a silly practical and cool looking box with a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 option thats a boon for those who tow. The CX-9s Ford sourced 3.7-liter V6 is no slouch however, and its snappy throttle response adds to the Mazdas willing character. Thanks to its higher ride height and stylish roofline, the CX-9 gives up some space in the rear to the Flex, but that added ground clearance makes it a fearless player in the speed bump and driveway entrance wars.
Where the CX-9 lacks compared to the Ford is in technology, as in gadgets galore. The CX-9s somewhat dated looking navigation system is functional enough, and its Bluetooth phone-pairing audio works fine. Compared to Fords Sync and class-leading nav and entertainment options however, the CX-9 and the remainder of Mazdas lineup seems a bit behind the times.
The new Mazda5 left us with a similar impression. Though its swift moves have been somewhat tamed, overall ride quality is improved in a way that should better serve the fat middle of the U.S. market. But the 5 doesnt offer a navigation option, never mind iPod control or even a USB port.
If an intentional swerve away from Zoom-Zoom was deemed prudent to garner more sales, where does that leave Mazda in a market filling with a generation that craves technology over dynamics?