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Mazda debuts sporty crossover

Mark Rechtin
Automotive News

LOS ANGELES -- Mazda executives have declared that the CX-7, unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show, has the "soul of a sports car."

Then again, they said the same thing about the middle-of-the-road Tribute crossover and MPV minivan. But there might be more truth to the declaration this time.

The CX-7 has the same turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine as the revvy MazdaSpeed6 -- although the CX-7 version is detuned to 244 hp. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard traction control and dynamic stability control systems keep the wheels from spinning. The CX-7 seats five; there is no third-row seat available.

Other shared parts in the CX-7 include the front suspension design from the Japan-market MPV and the rear suspension from the Mazda5 minivan. The rear differential, active torque coupling and prop-shaft components are similar to those from the MazdaSpeed6, although they are not the exact same design, said CX-7 program manager Shunsuke Kawasaki.

It took 17 months from program approval until Job 1, which Kawasaki says is a record development time for a Mazda vehicle done from scratch.

The CX-7 also features sportier styling than most SUVs. The windshield carries a 66-degree angle, more akin to coupes than trucks. Interesting touches include a reversible floor in the cargo area to place soiled items on plastic flooring, as well as a two-level dashboard, designed to hide the vast expanse of plastic that comes with a fast windshield.

Mazda expects to sell 40,000 units annually.

Pricing will be announced at the Detroit auto show. It is expected to compete with the Nissan Murano.

The 2007 CX-7 will go on sale in the spring.

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