Road test: 2008 Mazda CX-9

By KEVIN ADAMS
Assistant Managing Editor

Let’s be honest: Most of us male golfers don’t consider ourselves to be minivan types, no matter how useful these vehicles can be in toting our clubs, kids or the other three members of our weekly foursome. It’s just not cool to pull up to the bag drop in a Dodge Caravan when your fellow midlifers are zipping up in sleek sports cars, intimidating SUVs or even a testosterone-laden quad-cab pickup.

These days, however, crossovers are definitely cool – about 70 of these utility vehicles are expected on the market by 2009 – and give golfers the room and convenience of the minivan without the stigma.

If you’re ready to cross over, Mazda’s CX-9 is one of the sportiest, roomiest models out there, featuring seven seats and enough rear-cargo room for four golf bags. (Try that in your Corvette.)

Mazda hawks its CX-9 – voted MotorTrend’s 2008 Sport/Utility of the Year – as the “Zoom-Zoom with the Most Room,” and after a golf road trip with three colleagues from Orlando to Pinehurst, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. This is a responsive, lively ride, and despite its 4,400 or so pounds the CX-9’s 3.7-liter, 273-horsepower engine leaps from 0 to 60 in 7.3 seconds, excellent for this category, and all at a respectable mpg estimate of 16 city/22 highway.

The front and middle seats offer plenty of legroom and comfort for adult passengers, though as with most other crossovers the third-row seats are snug at best (the second row is adjustable). The tradeoff is more storage than most seven-passenger vehicles (17.2 cubic feet, which expands to 47.5 cubic feet with the third row folded).

Wood-trimmed interior, leather seats and keyless ignition make this feel like a higher-end luxury model despite a relatively low base price of $33,365. When loaded with such features as a navigation system, rear camera (almost necessary because of the narrow slit of a back window), Sirius satellite radio, DVD entertainment system and 11-speaker Bose surround sound, the CX-9 tops out at $39,440.

But there’s no questioning the sportiness of a vehicle that draws plenty of attention on the roadway and at times even appears as if it’s going much faster than it actually is. I discovered that the hard way after being pulled over on I-95 on the way to Pinehurst by one of the Florida Department of Transportation’s finest, who claimed to have visually clocked me at 94 mph when, in reality, I had the cruise set on 78. (Honest, Mom, I have three witnesses.)

Never would’ve happened in a minivan.

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Kevin Adams is Golfweek’s assistant managing editor. To reach him e-mail kadams@golfweek.com.

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