Taking it to a higher level

by Andy Bryenton

The competition in the crossover and micro SUV section of the market is nothing short of intense, but elevate yourself into the upper echelons of size and luxury, and there are less of a bewildering array of options. Putting aside hyper-luxury name tags like Bentley and Lamborghini, both of whom now cater to the sports utility trend, a large, comfortable family orientated machine with plenty of space and four-wheel drive might seem to still mean going European.

Certainly, upscale Japanese marque Lexus has their LX on offer, but there’s also something available for half the price, which challenges you to find the need for spending that extra large sum of cash. It’s Mazda’s top of the range Takami CX-9, and it not only looks different from the bulk of the SUV crop, it’s also got a few neat tricks and design flourishes up its sleeve. Take for example the interior, with the obligatory seven seats to accommodate a large family or undertake the school run.

The first two rows come with built-in heating, and the whole cabin space is accented with nappa leather, rosewood and brushed aluminium. Yet everything still folds away when it’s time to move heavy cargo.

It’s the same story with the engine — there’s no massive V8 under the hood or even a turbo diesel. Instead, Mazda has deployed their extremely efficient, fuel-saving Skyactiv technology to coax 227hp and 430Nm of torque from a 2.5 litre four-cylinder. The use of light construction materials — we have no doubt that Mazda has learned a lot about lightweight construction from years of tuning MX-5s — means that this engine is easily up to the challenge of powering a seven-seater of this size.

The six-speed transmission comes with the option for manual control, but letting it do its thing in concert with Mazda’s i-Activ four-wheel drive system is simply easier and another weight off your mind.

The word ‘Takami’ means ‘an elevated place’ in Japanese, with the added connotation of that elevated place being one of nobility as well as of vantage. It’s a clever, double-edged meaning for a clever, multi-role machine — one which provides comfort and luxury in balance with practicality.