Mazda makes popular CX-7 more appealing
When the Mazda CX-7 arrived in 2006, I compared it to my first attempt to bake bread, a loaf with a perfectly browned crust but a doughy, undercooked interior.
I liked the CX-7 concept: a fun, turbocharged engine from a sports hatchback in a midsize SUV wrapped in the best-looking sheet metal of any crossover.
On the other hand, the CX-7 was just too raw.
Mazda apparently heard these comments from others and made significant changes to the CX-7 for 2010. Now it’s softer and more pleasant to drive, a more fully realized vehicle.
I should mention that thousands of others did not share my initial half-baked reaction. The CX-7 has been a brisk seller, especially in Austin, one of Mazda’s best markets.
The revised CX-7 is pretty much the same lively vehicle with key upgrades, including a new dashboard and instrument panel of more upscale materials.
Sound insulation has been added (though still not enough), the frame has been stiffened with additional welds and gussets, and the irritating jitteriness has been tuned out of the suspension and ride with no apparent handling penalty.
The 2.3-liter turbocharged four has been retained. Mazda is still asking owners to use premium fuel in the CX-7 for maximum performance, although the company says regular grade will not harm the engine.
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Power is abundant: 244 horsepower, 258 pounds of torque. In this class of crossovers, only the Ford Edge, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota RAV4 V-6s offer more horsepower.
Recognizing drivers who can’t afford or don’t want the premium turbo engine, or all-wheel drive, Mazda is now offering the nonturbo, 161-horsepower, 2.5-liter four that serves as base engine in its Mazda6 sedan. In the CX-7, this front-wheel-drive-only base model with five-speed automatic transmission has better Environmental Protection Agency mileage ratings than the turbo but, of course, tamer performance.
I didn’t get a chance to drive the new engine — Mazda instead sent a Grand Touring allwheel drive, 2.3-liter turbo CX-7 listed at $33,900, a bold price for this class of SUV but far from the most expensive. Base CX-7 2.5i begins at $22,450.
EPA estimates for the new engine are 20 city, 28 highway. My average for a week in the turbo was 21.4 mpg, mostly on the highway.
Few, if any, crossovers move with the eagerness and balance of the turbo CX-7, which uses a nicely integrated six-speed automatic transmission and appropriately quick steering inputs. Just a touch of turbo lag is evident when the CX-7’s gas pedal is punched to slingshot the car up a freeway ramp or dart away from a traffic light.
The engine sounds raspy when working hard, with rapid power delivery and acceleration as the payoff. (I think a torquey, direct-injection V-6 would work even better in the CX-7 than the turbo, but that would violate its image as the class iconoclast.)
The CX-7’s fairly compact length and width make it an almost perfect city car, small enough to conveniently maneuver and park, and large
Three other vehicles in the Mazda CX-7’s class.
The 2010 Mazda CX-7 has better sound insulation and more upscale interior materials.