If you're a fan of rounded, worry-stone-smooth shapes, the 2011 Mazda CX-9 crossover is probably your best family-car bet.
It's the polar opposite of its Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT cousins. The CX-9 hides a lot of its bulk with subtle curves and well-honed surfaces. Rakish and sporty, it's completely without off-road pretension--more like the Audi Q7 in its mission to hide its bulk while still fitting in with the smaller cars in its brand. Last year's updates were minimal, just a few more chromed touches, and thankfully, they didn't introduce some of the happy-face front-end styling that's marred cars like the Mazda3.
The CX-9’s interior remains clean and stylish, but not always easy to process. The slimness of the dash and pillars feel more like a Mazda6 sedan than a seven-passenger crossover. And despite some hard-touch surfaces, the CX-9's cockpit is the nicest, richest-looking effort Mazda has in its lineup. There's nothing minivan or SUV in the looks, and touches like piano-black trim land like grace notes--even if the secondary buttons and controls sometimes seem like too far a reach, or too small to detect on first glance.