Give peace a chance (to come on boost)

When turbo power brings serenity, rather than sizzle

TOBY HAGON

SERENITY is a good thing in a car. I say this with some authority, having driven everything from a Lotus Elise on a rainy freeway to a Toyota LandCruiser with kids and in-laws aboard on a long country Christmas run. Neither is much fun, although forced to choose the Elise would win out...

Those character-building experiences made me appreciate my last month in the CX-9 Azami that little bit more.

Sure, the kids were occasionally squawking and bickering, but otherwise peace prevailed.

The distinct lack of tyre noise on a country road is a welcome change for a Mazda. After all, serenity is something Mazda owners havenít always had, courtesy of an early- 2000s edict to strip weight (some of it sound deadening) and focus on dynamics.

Being designed primarily for those freewayloving Yanks, the CX-9 comes suitably attired for the 60mph cruise, ably hushing the hum from the 20-inch Bridgestones. Itís impressively quiet, making everything from a Sunday morning croissant run to a high-speed cruise that little more relaxed.

But itís the 2.5-litre turbo that contributes most to the peacefulness of the CX-9ís cabin.

Having a full 420Nm under your right hoof from 2000rpm means thereís rarely a need to delve beyond that beautiful bulge of torquey goodness. Gentle squeeze, turbo quickly wakes up and off you go, the six-speed auto swiftly slotting through its cogs to maintain that torque focus.

Sure, thereís more on tap if you tramp the throttle Ė enough to briefly spin the front wheels before the computer diverts drive rearward Ė but thatís only needed when you really want to smash the trafficlight grand prix.

It also makes the Sport button for the transmission largely redundant for all but a backroad fang. Sure, it sharpens responses, but the insistence of the transmission to drop down a ratio bypasses the torquey low to mid range in the hunt for high-rev power.

That relaxed, low-rev acceleration also helps with decent Ė rather than exceptional Ė economy. This monthís 12.2L/100km was slightly up on the 11.1L/100km average, but it was achieved in mostly suburban running.

Thirst could head north from here, though; Iíve ditched the 98-octane for regular unleaded to see what it does to real-world performance and consumption.

One thingís for sure: it wonít impact the serenity of what is a supremely relaxed and comfy family cruiser. And the quietest Mazda in decades.

Cruise missile

Three months in and Iím no closer to working out how to adjust the cruise control in single km/h increments. Once set, any press of the up/down switch on the steering wheel bangs it up or down to the nearest 10km/h. Given the few percent speedo error and the willingness of cops to turn a blind eye to those first few kays over the limit Iíll typically run it 6-8km/h over. So, itís cancel the cruise, bring it up to speed and reactivate it.

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