MAZDA'S CX-9 SUV has won the coveted Wheels Car of the Year award for 2017.
The all-new seven-seat large family car was launched in its second-generation guise in July this year, and becomes only the second SUV to scoop the Wheels COTY honour. Ford's Territory was the first SUV to win the title back in 2004.
The CX-9 triumphed from a field of 28 cars, each rigorously tested by independent motoring journalists over three days at the Ford You Yangs Proving Ground in Victoria.
The panel of judges rated the contenders under five strict criteria: function, efficiency, value, technology and safety.
Mazda's CX-9 is priced from $42,490 (before on-road costs) in front wheel drive guise, and from $46,490 with all-wheel drive. Range topper is the CX-9 Azami for $63,390.
This was Mazda's eighth win in the Wheels Car of the Year's 54-year history, meaning the Japanese brand is now the second most successful marque in the awards, behind only Holden with its ten victories.
Mazda also scooped last year's title with its MX-5 roadster.
"The CX-9 is such a convincing blend of eye-catching design, genuine practicality and performance, all with a sprinkling of driver appeal," said Wheels acting editor Alex Inwood.
From the original field of 28 cars the testers whittled that number down to just six: the Mercedes-Benz E Class, Audi A4, Holden Astra, Subaru Impreza, Volkswagen Tiguan and the largest of the bunch, the Mazda CX-9.
Wheels senior journalist Nathan Ponchard wrote in the magazine's Car of the Year issue that: "The CX-9 blitzes the category for interior comfort and versatility. This seven-seat SUV is so vastly superior to the competition, you'd need to stretch to a premium SUV like Audi's superb Q7 to try and better it - for double the price..."
SO just how good is the new Mazda CX-9?
By Iain Curry
OUR three motoring writers have each tested the seven-seat SUV in varying conditions over recent months, and unsurprisingly, each found favour with the semi-premium large SUV and agreed with much of what our contemporaries at Wheels magazine said of its 2017 Car of the Year.
Grant Edwards covered the new CX-9's launch last July and was quickly enamoured, not least by how it had improved over its ageing predecessor.
"While the old model was too thirsty and outclassed in cabin dexterity, this CX-9 takes the fight up to all key players," he opined, also remarking how the 2.5-litre turbocharged engine "does an impressively smooth and strong job," despite having just four cylinders.
Our road tester mum-of-two Vani Naidoo then gave the near range-topping $61,390 all-wheel-drive CX-9 GT model an extended family-filled test and immediately declared it a "firm favourite".
"It is a hulking seven-seater but a nice looking one," she said, while remarking: "It is taller, wider, more stylish and better equipped...it is just more." It's one she really didn't want to give back.
Personally speaking I finally got behind the wheel of a CX-9 a few weeks ago, the big SUV having been extensively hyped by nearly every other motoring writer I spoke to.
I'm typically not the biggest fan of large SUVs (well, I love the Audi Q7 but get a bit grumpy I have no way of affording the $100,000 price tag), but there are some cars you feel just make sense within minutes of living with one.
For starters it looks superb: strikingly modern, sleek and even a bit funky despite its considerable size.
The cabin too offers a fine mix of unfussy layout, solid-feeling switchgear and touch points that are a cut above the majority of rivals in this price range.
With four adults on board the CX-9's 2.5-litre petrol engine shone - incredible torque (420Nm) showed why no diesel variant was required, and it happily purred along the highway is cosseting silence.
Fun? Not really, but that's not the point of this car.
Starting at just over $40,000, and with my family featuring growing kids, the CX-9 has immediately been added to my list of potentials when I next buy a new car.
Wheels Car of the Year winners through the years
2017 - Mazda CX-9
2016 - Mazda MX-5
2015 - (Temporal basis for award changed)
2014 - BMW i3
2013 - Volkswagen Golf Mk7
2012 - Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ
2011 - Honda CR-Z
2010 - Volkswagen Polo Mk5
2009 - Volkswagen Golf Mk6
2008 - Honda Accord Euro
2007 - Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W204)
2006 - Holden VE Calais
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