As the saying goes, it's all in the details, and that's where the Mazda CX-9's sporty personality shines. Slide behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and into the nicely bolstered bucket, and you're treated to one of the most comfortable, driver-focused seating positions available, not just in an SUV but in any vehicle.

The new-for-2008 3.7-liter V-6 is good for 273 horsepower, a 10-horse boost over the previous 3.5-liter. (If you're wondering why the CX-9 didn't play last year, the 2007 model went on sale after our cut-off date.) More important, torque has risen from 249 to 270 pound-feet, and, at 4250, is now realized 150 rpm earlier. While we still wouldn't mind a tad more low-end grunt, the 3.7 nonetheless behaves in a silky, refined manner, accentuated by a sporty growl from the dual exhaust.

The CX-9 was designed specifically for the North American market and it shows. - Ron Kiino