The styling is intentionally aggressive, according to Mazda's chief of design, Moray Callum, with a windscreen as steeply raked as the RX-8 sports car.
"This is, to us," he says, "the four-wheel drive vehicle Mazda should have already had."
The CX-7 borrows elements of the sporty MazdaSpeed6 and the functional Mazda3.
Its turbo-charged and intercooled 2.3-litre four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine produces 182 kW, while offering good fuel economy.
It also features sport seats and a high-mount gearlever, emphasising its performance heritage.
The CX-7 was designed specifically for the US market, according to Callum, who adds that it is one of four new products Mazda will launch in 2006.
Chief designer Iwao Koizumi, whose previous works include the successful MAZDA6 and the 1995 RX-01 show car, names the design theme, "advanced frontier".
Distinct character lines run through the A-pillars and along the edges of the bonnet to the front fascia. A five-pointed grille and prominent front wheelarches reveal a clear Mazda family identity.
The side profile sports an aggressively rising belt line, a curved roof and prominent fender arches, producing Mazda?s unique signature.
A tapered cabin rests securely on the lower body?s broad shoulders.
From the rear, the detailed round motif tail lamp and large dual exhaust outlets also emphasise the Zoom-Zoom sports car feature.
This distinctive overall exterior design is well balanced with the aerodynamics of the vehicle. CX-7's shape is aerodynamically efficient with best-in-class performance for coefficient of drag.
Ribbed covers attached to the centre under-floor area are especially helpful in optimizing aerodynamics.
A sporty image was pursued in designing the interior.
The instrument panel consists of a unique "double-roof" structure, in which a small "roof" over the gauge cluster is positioned just in front of a large "roof" that extends across the entire instrument panel bringing together the driver and front passenger.
To draw drivers inside, there's a three-dial instrument cluster, a console supporting the shifter within close reach, three-spoke steering wheel and firmly contoured front bucket seats, all provided with a high quality feel.
Detailed attention is given to the entire interior, including the cargo area.
A high level of craftsmanship completes the interior design.
For example, for the leather trim, the steering wheel and shift knob are covered by high quality leather specially contoured for optimum tactile feel.
The ventilation dials, the glove box door knob and the door armrests were all tuned to provide a high quality look and feel.
Soft-trim graining was engineered for perfect color match, minimal reflectivity and low gloss. Mazda's attention to detail is visible upon first glance into the vehicle.
Using the innovative MX-Crossport concept shown at the 2005 Detroit Show for inspiration, the chief designer mapped out the CX-7 with ample space for five occupants.
The rear seat not only carries three passengers in comfort, it also splits and folds 60:40 to increase cargo capacity and versatility.
To venture far beyond normal utility expectations, CX-7 has a cargo floor that is significantly longer than competitive models at approximately 1.8 metres with a flat load surface and a lip to prevent luggage from sliding forward.
With the rear seats in use the cargo length is an impressive 990 mm and can accommodate three full-size golf bags.
Rear seatback releases are located in the side of the cargo area for easy fold down from the rear. One side of the reversible trunk board is made of plastic, enabling the owner to carry soiled items without staining the carpet.
The lockable centre console can swallow a compact laptop computer and space is provided for coins and sunglasses.
Front door pockets are handy locations for beverage bottles.
Two cup holders in the centre console offer a stable place to carry large containers without interfering with shift lever operation. A pocket attached to the front seatback is ideal for maps and brochures.
Advanced transmission and drive components pass the engine's power to the road.
The six-speed Sport AT automatic transmission provides the full manual control demanded by assertive drivers. Shifts are crisp, in keeping with CX-7?s sportscar character.
Two drivelines are offered: front-wheel drive or Mazda's active torque-split all-wheel drive.
The latter system uses a computer-controlled coupling integrated with the rear differential to deliver up to half the available torque to the rear wheels on demand.
Sensors monitor engine information, individual wheel speeds, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) operation, and the CX-7's standard Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system to optimize torque distribution.
A light, stiff unibody provides the foundation for CX-7's smooth ride and agile handling. Computer-Aided-Engineering analysis was used to optimize this structure, delivering high torsional and bending rigidity with minimal weight.
Coil springs and anti-roll bars are an integral part of both front and rear suspension systems. All-season P235/60R18 tyres mounted on aluminium wheels are standard.
The CX-7's four-wheel ventilated disc brake system integrates the Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Traction Control System (TCS), and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) functions. It also collaborates with the Active Torque Split All-Wheel Drive to prevent wheel spin on slippery surfaces.