Mazda CX-7s Auburn WA
2008 Mazda CX-7 Sport SUV
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If ever a car deserved the "soul of a sports car" label, this is it.
What Was Tested: 2008 Mazda CX-7 Sport ($24,310). Price as tested: $24,310
Pros: If you care about driving satisfaction, it's the best SUV for the money, hands down. It feels like the Miata after visiting BALCO.
Cons: It only seats five people and gives Mazda another reason to run its gosh-awful "soul of a sports car" ads.
It makes 244 horsepower and still gets 23 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
I was beginning to think Mazda's sales pitch was wearing thin.
Can every Mazda have the soul of a sports car? Really? When I saw the company touting the Tribute, a fairly run-of-the-mill SUV, as sporty enough to race, I suspected things had gone too far. And when I saw them introducing their dull-as-grits minivan at the Laguna Seca raceway, I knew the whole marketing department needed psychological help.
If Mazda sold a dump truck, you can bet they'd call it the "dump truck with the soul of a sports car" and show it on TV zipping through the Utah desert beside a topless MX-5.
When I saw Mazda's same cheesy ads for the CX-7 SUV, I took them with a giant-economy-size dose of skepticism. Mid-size SUVs and true sports cars go together like Heather Mills and Paul McCartney. You can combine the two if you have enough money -- as with the Porsche Cayenne Turbo -- but if you cut cash out of the equation you can't possibly stay happy.
It has big fender flares and sweeping curves more evocative of a sexy coupe than a typical boxy SUV, making it look better than many more expensive vehicles.
Then I drove the CX-7 and threw that whole theory out the window.
If ever a car deserved the "soul of a sports car" label, this is it. In the past few months I've driven several SUVs their makers are trying to sell as "sporty" -- the Honda CRV, Acura RDX, Pontiac Torrent and a few others -- but none of them came close to driving like a real sports car. This one did.
This is the kind of vehicle that telegraphs its intentions through your underpants. It's very predictable, very responsive, very fun. As soon as you drive this thing...