2008 Mazda CX-9 Long-Term Road Test

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2008 Mazda CX-9: Truck of the Year?

January 23, 2008

Photo by James Riswick

It has been over a week since the 2008 Mazda CX-9 has been voted North American Truck of the Year by a group of some 46 automotive journalists from around the country, and I haven't heard a peep of controversy. Frankly, I'm surprised.

Not that I dislike the Mazda CX-9. I like it quite a bit. I agree it deserves some sort of "Of the Year" honor.

The North American part, I can see. Sure, it is built in Japan, but it is sold here. The NACOTY committee would miss out on a lot of good iron (and aluminum) if they ignored cars sold here but made elsewhere. Some of them would have GM badges on them, too. Besides, the CX-9 was designed expressly for Mazda's North American customers.

But, is it a Truck? The definition of that term, for me, has been stretched to the breaking point. If anything that is not car-shaped can be called a truck then is my cup of coffee a truck?

A truck can haul a lot of stuff, go off road and, properly equipped, tow a big trailer, right? A bed helps, but I'll accept traditional SUVs on the grounds that they can be said to have an enclosed bed or a permanently-installed and nicely trimmed shell. A Chevy Suburban can do these things, so it's a truck.

A truck is not front wheel drive at its core. Neither does it have a transverse engine. Its 4-wheel drive system is not simply a means to avoid installing tire chains when heading to the ski slopes. These are car traits.

This is why they're called crossovers, folks. Cars like the 2008 Mazda CX-9 and the Buick Enclave are not cars and they're not trucks. What they are closest to--and the marketing guys are going react as if someone just shouted that the emperor is wearing no clothes--is a minivan or station wagon.

The North American Car of the Year committee ought to have recognized by now that the auto world, like politics, could stand a third, centrist party. MPV of the Year, anyone?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 8,090 miles

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