Exterior & Styling

Compared with its competitors, the CX-9 is pretty sleek-looking for a large crossover. Most crossovers are more streamlined than Ford's boxy Flex, but even those cars have vestigial characteristics from the SUVs from which they evolved — sort of the way some people have a prominent brow ridge from Neanderthals past. (Or so it seems, depending on whom you hang out with.)

For 2010, the CX-9 has joined its happy Mazda brethren by adding a larger, smiling grille, as well as restyled headlight clusters and fog lamps. There are a few changes to match around back, but the most functional change comes in the form of larger side mirrors, which Mazda says are also more aerodynamic. Oddly, only on the Grand Touring trim level do the side mirrors have turn-signal lights. The Grand Touring has xenon headlights, chrome rather than body-colored door handles and 20- rather than 18-inch alloy wheels. Frankly, I think automakers have gone overboard with the giant wheels, though they make more sense on a vehicle this large than they do on cars. Owners might throw themselves overboard when they find out how much it costs to replace large wheels and tires, though: According to TireRack.com, the standard 20-inch tires cost $217 apiece; the 18s are $182 each. (You can get different brands for less, but this gives you an idea of the original-equipment price span.)

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