In my former life as a sound engineer I’d burn a mix of a track to CD to play in the car to check how it sounded with rubbish speakers. If it sounded good in the car as well as through the expensive studio monitors, it was on its way to a good mix. The problem with the CX-7 is that the stereo sounds so damn good you couldn’t use this method, you’d have to resort to other weapons in the quest for a perfect mixdown: the crap TV or old transistor radio.
But you’re not reading this for recording studio tips; you want to know how the CX-7 drives. The answer is extremely well. It’s satisfying that Mazda have packed the four-cylinder, all-aluminium 2.3-litre turbocharged engine from the Mazda6 MPS into the CX-7. They have stripped 15kW and 30Nm from it, but the remaining 175kW and 350Nm of torque propel the 1745kg beast to 100kph in 8.5 seconds. The auto ‘box is fine, but for more control you can use the sequential manual which has the gears the proper racing way around (push forward to change down, pull back to change up). The acceleration is occasionally hampered by its refusal to kick down when you want it, and it’s not quite linear (mainly through changing up too late if you leave it in auto), but in a car this size, it’s welcome.
Under normal driving conditions 100% of the power is routed to the front wheels, but if they start to slip, Mazda’s Active Torque Split transfers up to 50% of the power to the rears in a fraction of a second. Add traction control, sports-inspired suspension (MacPherson strut at the front and multi-link at the back) and meaty 235/60R18s on all four corners and you have to really try hard to unsettle it. Braking is also good for a car this size – EBD (electronic brake-force distribution) and EBA (emergency brake assist) ensure the right amount of force is applied to the ventilated discs in a panic situation.
Inside you’re not getting that much more room (if any) than you’d get in a class-leading station wagon (for example, Subaru’s Outback has pretty much the same cargo space), but there are some nice touches. The split rear seats can be flattened with a convenient handle release in the boot and there are a multitude of pockets and storage areas.
The driving position is comfortable. Leather seats (electric on the driver’s side), are heated and supportive. A 3-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel housing controls for the stereo and cruise control and frames the MX-5-inspired dials. The speedo dial is the biggest flaw in the layout. It needs to be rotated 90 degrees clockwise so that the needle is pointing near 12 o’clock when doing 100, not 180. The middle of the dash houses a large red LED readout for the trip computer, stereo and climate control which, incidentally, has pollen filters and independent heating ducts in the rear. From the outside the wing mirrors don’t look big, but on the inside they look enormous like Mickey Mouse’s ears and actually make the interior feel smaller than it is, and they need a convex edge to them to help eliminate the blindspot from the thick B-pillar.
The windscreen’s acute rake means there is an acre of room across the top of the dash. Three speakers sit there, reinforcing the woofers in the doors, creating an audible stage like a PA at a rock concert. It’s unusual to hear such crystal clear stereo separation in a standard car stereo, but the six-disc, MP3-compatible Bose system delivers 240W of spacious performance across all types of music using no less than nine speakers and Bose’s Centrepoint technology. And, now I’m back on the stereo again, so it’s probably time to wrap this up.
In my recording days, the only crossover I knew of was in the back of my speakers, but a crossover vehicle is a fusion of SUV practicality with car (or sportscar) handling. In that respect the CX-7 can proudly wear the crossover badge. Because of the enormous wheels and wing mirrors it is much bigger in the flesh than it looks in the pictures. It stands over 1.6m high and is almost 1.9m wide, but while many new SUVs look like a block of melting butter, the CX-7 is styled well — almost wedge-like at the front, with muscular haunches at the rear.
In addition to the ample ‘zoom-zoom’, the CX-7 has more than enough ‘boom-boom’ through the excellent stereo. The four-wheel drive will appeal to families that want added safety, the versatility of the load space is excellent, and at $48,995 it’s well-priced. In fact, if you’re a hayfever-suffering music lover you could spend all summer in here!
Price: from $48,995
What we like:
What we don’t like:
- Some of the instrumentation is flawed
- Difficult to judge the front
- Blind spots
- Too quiet to be truly sporty
Words and photos Darren Cottingham