You know, one of the reasons people buy so-called crossover vehicles is that they aren’t trucks and they aren’t station wagons. They haul the kids and groceries without beating you to death in a vehicle meant to tackle the Rocky Mountains, and they don’t make you look like the spiritual heir to Ward Cleaver. All you boomers out there explain to the kids who the heck Ward was, would you?

The Mazda CX–9 then, absolutely fits that bill. I have always had a soft spot for Mazda among the Japanese car companies. For years they made the most European-feeling cars to come out of an Asia, and I mean that in the Jaguar sense, not some sort of funky Renault rolling juke box. Mazdas look right, handle like a BMW and are screwed together like, well, a very quality Japanese car.

And the CX–9 is one of the most unique vehicles on the road. It just looks like nothing else. With room for 8 if need be, it has svelte lines that are simply sublime. The grill alone could have been the result of the Jaguar or Maserati design studios. It make all the competition look like Dodge Caravans, and the latest restyle has hit all the right notes.

The driving ain’t bad either.

Mazda is one of the few automakers I can think of recently who actually reduced the power plant in its flagship vehicle. Power used to come from a 3.7-liter, 24-valve V6 with 273 horsepower, but now there is a 2.5-liter, turbocharged four cylinder engine under the hood with 227 horsepower. And that translates into a 7- second 0 to 60 time, and real world economy of around 23 miles per gallon. I know, that’s not Prius territory, but this car/truck thingy is so good, so perfect, you’ll forgive and keep pumping.

The all-wheel-drive system is very good, but when you’re running beefy all-season radials, your off-roading abilities are going to be limited as I found when wheeling up on a snowy mountain. One tow truck later, I was driving again, and wary of anything slicker than a dirt road.

The CX-9 starts at just under $32,000 for a front-wheel-drive base model, and goes up from there. Our test vehicle was the all-wheel-drive, Grand Touring model with every bell and whistle and came to $43,600.

Let me put it bluntly, it’s a darned nice vehicle. If you’re shopping for a luxury crossover, and you don’t drive this…you’re nuts. Uh…sorry to be so blunt.