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  • Refreshed styling inside and out.
  • Improved technology and connectivity.
  • Newly available safety features.

Mazda chose a major Australian auto show to debut the latest iteration of its 7-passenger crossover. The 2013 Mazda CX-9 now shares some design elements with the upcoming 2014 Mazda6, especially in its reworked grille and headlights. Changes for the new model year are not limited to bodywork, though. The interior is sportier, too, and technology updates include improved connectivity and new safety systems.

But it's the refreshed exterior design that easily sets the 2013 CX-9 apart from its predecessor. Mazda's so-called Kodo design language--a curvy, flowing style intended to evoke motion--is obvious in the sportier grille and headlight treatment. The grille is lower and now includes Mazda's signature chrome wing detail. Headlights feature a halo of LED running lights on top-trim models. The shape of both the headlights and the new taillights are more aggressive, giving the CX-9 a sportier look overall.

That carries over to the interior, which now features an all-black dash and piano-black trim on the center stack. The previous two-tone scheme is gone; Mazda says the monotone treatment gives a feel of luxury and performance. Other updates to interior styling include new suede and contrasting stitching; high-gloss trim panels; updated leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; and perforated leather seats.

Other revisions for the 2013 Mazda CX-9 might be harder to spot, but perhaps more useful to shoppers. First, the latest model gets connectivity upgrades: a USB/iPod interface and more robust Bluetooth capability. The phone system can now handle up to 1,000 contacts, and voice commands for placing calls are simpler. The system's built-in microphone has been tweaked to deliver better sound quality.

Finally, new safety systems help 2013 CX-9 drivers avoid accidents. Three technologies, all of which are increasingly common on modern vehicles, are available. Forward collision warning alerts the driver of imminent danger in front of the vehicle. Lane departure warning monitors the vehicle's position in the lane, alerting the driver if he drifts out of the lane without the turn signal on. Blind spot monitoring electronically watches over blind spots on both sides of the vehicle, which is especially useful on bigger vehicles like the CX-9.

Mazda has not yet announced when the 2013 CX-9 will arrive on dealer lots, but we expect it soon. At its debut in Australia, Mazda said the 2013 model would land in that country before the end of the year. With the high popularity of 3-row crossovers in the US, Mazda is likely anxious to begin selling its latest iteration here as soon as possible too.

What it means to you: Mazda updated the CX-9, a 7-passenger crossover, with new styling, technology and safety equipment for the 2013 model year.

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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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