Arriving in Mazda’s US and Canadian dealerships this spring, the Mazda CX-7 is the first of three important all-new Mazda vehicles designed and engineered specifically for the North American market.
By Kevin “Crash” Corrigan
The whole Crossover vehicle idea has become a real recipe for success, and we have seen quite a few manufacturers enter this segment of the market this year alone.
Each seems to have differing ideas on what exactly the makeup of a Crossover vehicle should be. Some feel that that the size or load carrying capacity is the most important issue. Others strive to make their vehicles drive as car-like as possible. Then there are some who feel that large engines and performance are the key ingredients to it all.
Mazda have never been a company to sit and read other peoples recipe books as they tend to prefer writing them. This can clearly be seen in their new 2007 CX-7 Crossover SUV. I feel that they might just have cooked up a winner with this one, as they’ve taken a decent load carrying design, added more than a dash of luxury and of course, being Mazda, a big heaping of their own little secret ingredient, Zoom, Zoom!
Looking at the vehicle from the outside, it comes as no surprise to discover that the head chef was the same man who brought us the hugely popular Mazda6. It has the now almost trademark, Mazda front end look. The family resemblance can also be seen in the bold fenders, which many of their current models carry. Its windshield angle of 66 degrees would make many sports cars look downright brick-like, and it certainly adds to the vehicles sleek appearance. Some very nice 18 inch aluminum rims fill those bulbous arches and when combined with the vehicles chrome accents, give an air of up-market luxury. The CX-7 has clearly been designed with aerodynamics in mind. Yet in many ways, it still manages to appear a bold and capable, if not slightly downsized SUV.
As with all Mazda’s, the sporty design of the exterior is continued into the vehicles’ cabin area with an equally sporty designed dashboard layout. My test unit was fitted with Mazda’s luxury package, so on top of all the usual toys, it boasted a premium Bose sound system and a very easy to use touch screen Sat-Nav. This system also incorporates a clever rear back-up camera feature to enable safer reversing maneuvers. The cost of this system (approx $3000) is a little startling even though it is an exceptionally nice unit. I also had a small issue at first with the forward visibility. There is obviously a certain price to pay for that stylish raked windshield, as the pillars on each side can make you feel as if you’re looking through a tunnel. Another issue was the placement of speakers on the top of the super-sized dash board as the reflections from them, particularly the center one, were quite distracting whilst driving. At first I found this rather off-putting, although I did become accustomed to it, if not accepting of it, by the end of the week. The rest of the interior has been well thought out. The seating positions work well and there is more space than you expect once you’re inside.
Now to how it performs, and this is where the Zoom, Zoom people really get to strut their stuff and make everyone aware of exactly what the Z word is all about. No, I’m not going to tell you that it has a whopping great V8 like many of the others do. No, the CX-7 sports a rather nice little 2.3L four cylinder; of course, being Mazda, it just happens to be a 244HP, Turbocharged, intercooled version of the engine which powers their super-quick Speed6. This unit carries Mazda’s DISI system (Direct Injection Spark Ignition), which has been designed to deliver high performance at all speeds, along with low exhaust emissions and excellent fuel economy. This is certainly one big plus mark for this vehicle as many potential purchasers of crossover vehicles are possibly downsizing from larger SUV’s due to today’s high fuel costs.
Helping this amazing little burner is a six speed automatic transmission. We are starting to see these appear on more and more vehicles today. For anyone who hasn’t experienced one, it might seem like the vehicle is constantly changing gear but they do work well and are a real plus to both performance and fuel economy.
The CX-7 comes in both GS and GT versions with front wheel drive as standard, although AWD can be added to either. The AWD option carries a MSRP of approx $2000, which I didn’t find too outrageous. Of course, you may not need it as the CX-7 appears to have plenty of grip in front wheel drive form. It also handles the bumps, twists and turns well, in fact, very well. There is, however, a certain price to pay for those nice 18 rims, in the sense that you do feel more of the road imperfections and potholes.
On summing up, I would say that Mazda has thrown a little sweetener into the Crossover mixture. Maybe sporty, load carrying, luxury car-like vehicles are the way to go, but Mazda’s CX-7 certainly say’s one thing “you don’t have to have a large V8 to make the recipe work”.
CX-7 is a clean break from the fleet of traditional SUVs currently offered. It is e ngineered with Mazda’s trademark, "Soul of a Sportscar" and built entirely on Mazda - derived platform architecture. Program manager Shunsuke Kawasaki shows his confidence by stating, "There is no doubt this SUV reflects Zoom-Zoom. CX-7 skillfully blends sports car verve with SUV practicality. It is a vehicle that brings together performance and design like never before and t his deviation from the crossover norm is inviting to look at, entertaining to drive, and fun to use." The CX-7 is just right for adventurous couples seeking a new challenge and driven by the urge for discovery.
DISTINCTIVE AND SOPHISTICATED EXTERIOR
Chief Designer Iwao Koizumi, whose previous works include the successful MAZDA 6 and the 1995 RX-01 showcar, names the design theme, "advanced frontier". CX-7 takes Mazda and its Zoom-Zoom image into an area it has never before ventured.
Notes Koizumi, "My idea for the CX-7 design was to combine dynamic movement, speedy shapes, and a bold presence in one passionate statement. Mazda has the sports car heritage to offer a crossover SUV with a strong and distinctive appearance."
The 66-degree windshield angle featured here is sleeker than many sportscars, let alone SUVs. Distinct character lines run through the A-pillars and along the edges of the hood to the front fascia. A five-pointed grille and prominent front fenders reveal a clear Mazda family identity.
The side profile sports an aggressively rising belt line, a curved roof and prominent fender arches, producing Mazda’s unique signature . A tapered cabin rests securely on the lower body’s broad shoulders. From the rear, the detailed r ound motif tail lamp and large dual exhaust outlets also emphasize the Zoom-Zoom sportscar feature.
This distinctive overall exterior design is well balanced with the aerodynamics of the vehicle. CX-7’s shape is aerodynamically efficient with best-in-class performance for coefficient of drag. Ribbed covers attached to the center under-floor area are especially helpful in optimizing aerodynamics .
While it provides outstanding aerodynamic performance, this exterior design does not compromise craftsmanship. Panel and component part-gaps are flush and tight. Wiper arms are configured to match the surrounding cowl design and minimize wind noise. Attention to detail makes this car what it is.
SPORTY AND HIGH QUALITY INTERIOR
An advanced and sporty image was pursued in designing the interior. The instrument panel consists of a unique ‘double-roof’ structure, in which a small ‘roof’ over the meter cluster is positioned just in front of a large ‘roof’ that extends across the entire instrument panel bringing together the driver and front passenger. To draw drivers inside, there’s a three-dial instrument cluster, a console supporting the shifter within close reach, three-spoke steering wheel and firmly contoured front bucket seats, all provided with a high quality feel .
Koizumi emphasizes that detailed attention is given to the entire interior, including the cargo area. For the two-tone trim, the side surface two-tone graphic reaching from the front doors all the way to the cargo space stylishly harmonizes with the kicked-up beltline of the exterior side view.
A high level of craftsmanship completes the interior design. For example, for the leather trim, the steering wheel and shift knob are covered by high quality leather specially contoured for optimum tactile feel. The ventilation dials, the glove box door knob and the door armrests were all tuned to provide a high quality look and feel. Soft-trim graining was engineered for perfect color match, minimal reflectivity and low gloss. Mazda’s attention to detail is visible upon first glance into the vehicle .
ZOOM-ZOOM WITH ROOM
Using the innovative MX-Crossport concept shown at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show for inspiration, the chief designer mapped out the CX-7 with ample space for five occupants.The rear seat not only carries three passengers in comfort, it also splits and folds 60:40 to increase cargo capacity and versatility .
To venture far beyond normal utility expectations, Mazda CX-7 has a cargo floor that is significantly longer than competitive models at approximately 70-inches with a flat load surface and a lip to prevent luggage from sliding forward. With the rear seats in use, the cargo length is an impressive 39-inches and can accommodate three full-size golf bags. Rear seatback releases are located in the side of the cargo area for easy fold down from the rear . One side of the reversible trunk board is made of plastic, enabling the owner to carry soiled items without staining the carpet.
Thorough r esearch aimed at determining what personal possessions young couples are most likely to carry resulted in glove box, floor console, and door pocket designs that accommodate life’s paraphernalia. For example, the lockable center console can swallow a compact laptop computer and space is provided for coins and sunglasses. Front door pockets are handy locations for beverage bottles. Two cup holders in the center console offer a stable place to carry large containers without interfering with shift lever operation. A pocket attached to the front seatback is ideal for maps and brochures.
BALANCE OF AMPLE POWER AND ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE - MZR 2.3L DISI TURBO ENGINE -
The heart of every Mazda is its spirited powertrain. Under the hood of the CX-7 is a version of the turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-liter four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine that powers the highly regarded MAZDASPEED 6 sport sedan. Engineered to deliver high performance at all speeds, along with low exhaust emissions and excellent fuel economy, Mazda’s MZR 2.3 DISI (Direct Injection Spark Ignition) turbo -charged engine produce s an enthusiastic 244 horsepower at 5, 000 rpm in the CX-7.
Key building blocks are aluminum block and head construction with forged internal components — crankshaft and connecting rods — for long-lasting durability. Balance shafts curb noise and vibration. A large air-to-air intercooler and direct fuel injection cool temperature inside the cylinder. Shifting gasoline’s change in state from liquid to vapor from the intake manifold to the cylinder provides the substantial cooling effect. The low charge temperature permits use of high compression ratio — 9.5:1 — which bo o sts low- and mid-range torque by approximately 10-percent over conventional turbo engines .
A notable change from the MAZDASPEED 6 engine is a new turbocharger . The refined area of the turbine inlet port enhances throttle response a t low rpm and diminishes boost lag. When the driver nudges the throttle, acceleration is reminiscent of a much large r displacement engine, one approaching twice the size of the 2.3-liter MZR engine, but without the extra weight that hampers agility and the extra consumption that boosts emissions and operating costs.
The MZR 2.3 DISI turbo engine ’s torque peaks at a low 2, 5 00 rpm when 258 lb-ft of torque is available. It is tuned so that muscular feel begins at 2,000 rpm, and maintains at least 9 9 -percent of th e maximum torque all the way to 5,000 rpm, where peak horsepower is delivered.
Low exhaust emissions are achieved by connecting the catalytic converter directly to the turbocharger to shorten the time required for the catalyst to become effective. The CX-7 targets stringent federal Bin 5 and California LEV - II emissions standards.
Advanced transmission and drive components pass the engine’s power cleanly to the pavement. The six-speed Sport AT automatic transmission provides the full manual control demanded by assertive drivers. Shifts are crisp, in keeping with CX-7’s sportscar character.
Two drivelines are offered: Front-Wheel Drive or Mazda’s Active Torque-Split All Wheel Drive. The latter system uses a computer-controlled coupling integrated with the rear differential to deliver up to half the available torque to the rear wheels on demand. Sensors monitor engine information, individual wheel speeds, A nti-lock Brake System ( ABS ) operation, and the CX-7’s standard Dynamic Stability Control (DSC ) system to optimize torque distribution. Whether the driving conditions are dry and fast or slippery and moderately paced, exceptional handling is assured.
CRAFTY CHASSIS WITH MAZDA SPORTSCAR DNA
A light, stiff unibody provides the sound foundation for CX-7’s smooth ride and agile handling. Computer-Aided-Engineering analysis was used to optimize this structure, delivering high torsional and bending rigidity with minimal weight.
In front, a perimeter frame mounted to the unibody through six rubber isolators supports the powertrain, the engine-speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion power steering and a low friction MacPherson strut suspension system. The multilink rear suspension consists of one trailing arm and two lateral locating members per side. To minimize cargo-compartment intrusion, the rear spring is positioned between the lower lateral member and the cross member that anchors rear chassis hardware to the unibody. The damper is located between the wheel hub and the unibody to provide excellent motion control with minimal friction. Coil springs and anti-roll bars are an integral part of both suspension systems. All-season P 235/60R18 tires mounted on stylish aluminum wheels are standard.
CX-7’s four-wheel ventilated disc brake system integrates the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) functions. It also collaborates with the Active Torque Split All-Wheel Drive to prevent wheel spin on slippery surfaces.
CX-7’s rigid unibody uses the Mazda Advanced Impact energy Distribution and Absorption System to realize high levels of collision safety and helps to protect occupants i n various accident situations, including front, side and rear impacts. The body’s frame sections are large in size and as straight as possible, high-strength steel is used where it’s effective, and subframe connections help absorb collision energy. Stamping the side frame from a single tailored blank minimizes center pillar deformation during a side impact.
The fuel tank is surrounded by substantial members to guard against leakage in a major rear collision. Six air bags (frontal and side for front occupants, side curtain for all outboard occupants) are standard. A special sensor anticipates a roll-over and inflates the side-curtain air bags early to guard against injury, maintaining inflation for approximately six seconds helps keep limbs out of harm’s way. Front occupant restraints have pretensioner and load-limiter mechanisms to maximize their effectiveness.
To delight, the Mazda CX-7 offers a wealth of entertainment gear. The CX-7 offers AM, FM, and CD play capability as standard . Sirius satellite radio is available as an option. To further support driving pleasure and convenience, a touch-screen D VD -based n avigation system with voice commands and a rear-view camera system are available to select as an option . In addition, buyers may choose a BOSE ® premium sound system package that includes n ine speakers, approximately 240 watts of amplification, a six-CD changer and CENTERPOINT ® surround-sound system that offers five-channel digital imaging, to create a true premium audio entertainment.
Another convenient feature is the Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System. Without removing the card-shaped device from one’s pocket, doors can be unlocked and the engine can be started (or stopped) . Also, the front-seat power windows can be operated from outside the car, and the optional moonroof can be opened and closed. To maximize security, a n automatic break-in alarm is available as an option .
THREE EDITIONS – VARIATION FOR CUSTOMERS
CX-7 is offered in three trim levels. Some of the highlights of the s tandard features are manual air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, retractable key, cruise control, and six air bags. Also standard on all CX-7s is an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and a Traction Control System (TCS).
The Touring edition adds leather trim (seats, steering wheel, shift knob), power adjustment of the driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a retractable cargo cover. In top-line Grand Touring trim, CX-7 is equipped with features such as leather with a black sport seat stripe, high intensity discharge ( HID ) headlamps, fog lamps, body-color mirrors, chrome door handles and automatic interior climate control.
Mazda’s CX-7 arrives in the North American market in the spring of 2006 as a 2007 model.
Mazda North American Operations is responsible for the sales and marketing, customer parts and service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., MNAO has more than 700 dealerships nationwide.