Mazda, the small Japanese underdog car company from Hiroshima, is on a roll. All us auto journalists have been waxing lyrical about the latest crop of cars and crossovers for the past three years, and we’re not done yet.

The next vehicle to receive praise from us will be the all-new CX-9, first revealed as the Koeru concept at September’s Frankfurt Auto Show and soon, in its production form, at next week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. Once I’ve admired the final product, I’ll actually get to drive it only a day later.

To many, the very existence of the CX-9 is somewhat of a mystery: Isn’t Mazda a small car company?

Essentially, yes. However, those of us who enjoy driving and are in the market for a larger crossover should take a moment and thank Mazda for this vehicle. Why? Simple: Mazda knows how to design, engineer, and build a vehicle that is rewarding to drive. They always have, and given what I saw and heard while in Japan recently, that’s not about to change.

The large CUV segment is packed with options. From the latest Honda Pilot to the now-aging Chevrolet Traverse, the selection is vast but these vehicles are not all equal. For one, all of them are designed with hauling in mind, and opinions on how to approach the task vary from one make to another.

The last few years have seen the CX-9 all but disappear, while others like the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder and Hyundai Santa Fe XL have been revamped or completely reinvented. With the demise of the minivan, vehicles such as these have proven to be popular and versatile alternatives. Sadly though, few are much fun to drive.

In the past, the Mazda CX-9 scored beyond expectations in a comparison test we completed. In fact, we were surprised that the CX-9 scores as high as it did. Even we pros discounted Mazda, thinking that they’d do well but never beat pros likes Ford, Dodge, and GMC at building a 3-row large CUV. But they did.

Mazda makes great cars. The vast majority of auto critics always walk away from a drive with a satisfactory smirk or, in the case of the MX-5, a stupid grin. From a styling standpoint, the Koeru concept is very telling, but then again all of the Japanese brand’s latest cars have been nothing short of gorgeous.

The most important aspect, however, will be SKYACTIV everything. From the chassis to the powertrain, the CX-9 is expected to drive better than ever, and that its fuel-thirsty 3.7L V6 will be replaced by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. On a side note, this turbo 4 makes me giddy… Could it be the powerplant for a future Mazdaspeed3 perhaps? Please, please, pleeeeeaaaase! Or… Maybe a Mazdaspeed CX-5!!

As I write these words, no extra info has officially been made available so I leave you with the story I wrote two weeks ago on the concept.

Stay tuned for pictures and a first drive review of the all-new 2017 (2016?) Mazda CX-9.