Mazda CX 9: Revamped SUV leads field for team spirit
Mazda's seven-seater crossover is packed with new features
A colleague is the transport manager for her son's cricket team and the beginning of each season she laments the lack of room in her hatchback for the weekend trips around Auckland's grounds.
"I need a vehicle that can fit about five teenagers and all their gear bags," she told me.
And as those gear bags are about the size of a body bag - and just as heavy - her runabout would never cut it.
But I reckoned Mazda's luxury seven-seater crossover, the CX-9, would be player of the match for her son's team.
The revamped version of the CX-9 was launched this week and not only gained so many safety features that it'll have the average driver yelling "how's that", and the interior would bowl any passenger over.
Globally the large crossover was launched five years ago, though New Zealand didn't get the CX-9 until 2011. Since then there have been more new vehicles in the segment than there are teams in the Indian Twenty20 tournament so Mazda New Zealand was happy to take the model's mid-life facelift 14 months after the vehicle first arrived.
Mazda NZ has stuck to one new model only, the All-Wheel-Drive luxury Limited, with a price increase of $5500 to $65,490 over the outgoing version. While it retained its 3.7-litre V6 engine (offering 367Nm and maximum power of 204kW) and six-speed automatic transmission, the vehicle has an interior and exterior overhaul.
The CX-9 now modelled Mazda's Kodo (translation: Soul of Motion) design ... or as I like to call it, Mazda's smiley face front grille.
The look included redesigned lights, LED daytime running lights field for team spirit with a halo ring light and the large front grille that flowed into the lights.
The Kodo look also incorporated sculptured side panels and a refined rear bumper with the rear tailgate now operating electronically. Inside, the CX-9 was spruced up with Bordeaux-coloured panels highlighting the front console with suede inserts in the doors.
The CX-9 could carry seven adults, with the third row - accessed via fold-down middle row seats - having enough leg room for your average-size teen cricketer.
For those long trips to cricket grounds, the Infotainment System was upgraded with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, 10 speaker and 6-disc audio and to help find your way to the field there was a TomTom satellite navigation with a speech-recognition system.
Built into the touch-screen was the reverse camera display - one of many safety features of the vehicle including my favourite, Blind Spot Monitoring (also found in the Mazda CX-5).
It used radar to monitor and alert you to vehicles approaching from behind on either side of the vehicle, ideal for navigating Auckland's frantic motorways.
Also new to the vehicle was Lane Departure Warning that used a camera to "see" lane markings and alerted you with a beep if you made an unintentional lane departure, plus Forward Obstruction Warning that detected vehicles ahead of us.
Added to those safety features were ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assistance, Dynamic Stability Control System, Traction Control System and Roll Stability Control plus front, side and curtain airbags.
With all of those safety features all my friend would need to worry about would be her son's team performance on the cricket wicket.