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Mazda CX-9 test mules hit the trail

Mazda's venture into the world of the crossover SUV has already taken on a local flavour with extensive Australian testing of the new CX-9. The seven-seater, a big brother to the sporty CX-7 launched late last year, has been undergoing engineering evaluation in Victoria ahead of its local launch next January.

Mazda sent a prototype right-hand-drive engineering mule and a team of engineers to evaluate the V6-powered CX-9 under local conditions. The move was prompted in part by the decision to use Australia as the world launch market for right-hand-drive models.

To be offered in two grades, the Australian

CX-9s, which have been extensively modified for right-hand-drive use, are expected to be priced between $55,000 and $60,000.

Modifications include flipping the centre seat 60/40 split and middle row seatbelt mounting point to ensure the CX-9's interior works just as well in Australia as it does in North America, a market the cars were designed for.

On the evaluation drive, which focused on powertrain, suspension and steering calibration and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH), the right-hand-drive mule was driven alongside a left-hand-drive North American specification car to benchmark the results.

While final specifications have yet to be confirmed, the 186kW CX-9 will be generously equipped with a choice of 18-inch or 20-inch

alloy wheels, dual zone climate control airconditioning, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, six airbags and active safety features such as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Roll Stability Control (RSC).