While the traditional station wagon is virtually extinct (save for the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350), there is no shortage of 3-row crossover SUVs to choose from if you are in the market for a family hauler and are sort of over the minivan or the full-size truck-based SUV thing.

The 2014 Mazda CX-9 is the antidote for those wanting the room of a big SUV or minivan and the surefootedness of all-wheel-drive in a stylish package that packs plenty of power and driving thrills. While there is some criticism that the CX-9 is getting a bit long in the tooth, its modern, flowing exterior still manages to look fresh. And the interior is well-appointed and crisply designed, but appears a bit more dated than the sheetmetal would suggest.

But even that isn't enough to say that you should wait for the next redesign which is still a little more than a year away. There's plenty of passenger room inside the CX-9 (though cargo space is a bit compromised when the third row is up). The second row has plenty of legroom and the advantage of fore/aft adjustment depending on whether you need space for third row passengers.

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The 2014 Mazda CX-9 has plenty of power from its 3.7-liter V6 which produces 273 horsepower. I did find, however, that the throttle is touchy and takes time to adapt to in order to launch the vehicle smoothly. Equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the CX-9 has the same lively feel consistent with all Mazda products. The supple ride is complemented by a sure feel to the steering and brakes and the vehicle handles more like the Mazda6 sedan than a large crossover.

With a base price of $36,625, there are plenty of goodies in the CX-9 including things like heated front seats, 7-passenger seating, center screen with backup camera, keyless entry and start, 20-inch wheels, 3-zone climate control and power rear liftgate. Our test vehicle had an optional GT Tech package that included a Bose sound system, full-color touchscreen with navigation and a power moonroof that contributed to a final sticker of $40,430 including destination.

With plenty of room, good looks and a lively feel, the 2014 Mazda CX-9 does everything that a traditional station wagon could do as a family hauler, but with a lot more style.

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