As motoring journalists, our family and friends think we live the high life. Champagne, business class flights, fancy food, fast cars, and travelling the wonders of the world. Sorry to say, but... well, okay, that isn't an entirely inaccurate depiction. But, a lot goes on behind the scenes that many don't see.
CarAdvice ran a competition in conjunction with Mazda, whereby five lucky readers got the chance to experience being a motoring journalist for two days to see what we actually do at a car launch. Entrants were tasked with writing an owner review and telling us in 100 words or less why they wanted to be a part of it.
The decision was hard, and after some very creative entries, the winners, Stuart, Dave, Pete, Michelle and Glen, jetted down to Hobart, Tasmania.
With myself and Trent Nikolic representing the CarAdvice team, and the Mazda crew led by former Supercars driver, Karl Reindler, the readers received a rundown of what to expect while driving the 2019 Mazda CX-9.
After loading up the boot with their suitcases, the readers partnered up in one of three cars and discovered a 'goodie box' full of snacks to keep them happy for the couple of hours of driving ahead of them. It seemed to go down a real treat.
Led by Karl, they all convoyed through some of Tasmania's best country roads following the MZD Connect satellite navigation. The CX-9 handled the winding dirt roads with ease while avoiding potholes and a lot of roadkill.
They stopped at the halfway point to swap drivers. As they neared the destination of the Piermont Retreat in Swansea, a beautiful coastal road was a perfect way to end the trip.
Before dinner, the CarAdvice podcast was recorded on-site, and Michelle and Stuart happily chatted with us about their car history and what they thought of the experience so far.
A quick glass of wine (or champagne) and our readers sat down to enjoy a six-course degustation. The topic of conversation? You guessed it. Cars. And that's the way it stayed for the rest of the night.
DRIVEN: 2019 Mazda CX-9 review
Trent explained to our winners that this time last night, he was in his hotel room madly writing up the CX-9 review as there was a deadline to meet. But with water views from their cottages, and incredible food and wine, they didn't quite believe him!
He took revenge and sent a shockwave through the readers before the night finished – "I want you to do a short introduction of the CX-9 to a camera tomorrow morning". Oh, the look of terror on their faces.
The next morning over breakfast, Stuart admitted he was kept awake during the night figuring out his lines for the video. I have a feeling he may not have been alone.
As each reader presented their piece to camera, we all stood from afar watching their every move. This probably didn't help their nerves. Some took creative direction and suggested different shots to the camera crew, some were happy to stand and deliver, and some took numerous takes, but we reminded them it's completely normal!
They were stars, and we were impressed at how different each video was.
With another rundown from Karl, the convoy took off to the airport taking another route this time, with a lot more dirt roads. Once again stopping halfway for about 15 minutes, we waited while the camera crew set up drones for the video, and Trent explained this is normal as well.
They were treated once again with fancy food at a winery for lunch. Seeing the grins on their faces, we knew they enjoyed every moment of their adventure.
We all bid farewell to our winners at the airport, and it was refreshing to see many adding each other on Facebook.
Our readers were impressed with the CX-9 in how sedan-like it felt. Some of them were looking for a new family car, whereas some who had small cars were interested to see how the large SUV stacked up.
We loved having Michelle, Glen, Pete, Stuart and Dave along to live the life of a motoring journalist. While they didn't have deadlines to meet over late nights, jet lag, or long video scripts to write, like on a typical launch, they all said it was an eye-opening experience. Some of them wrote of their adventure on the CarAdvice Squad DriveTribe, and we have included some below.
Michelle: "I must say I was a little sad to say goodbye to the CX-9. It was a car I didn’t expect I’d enjoy driving, but really it has a lot of great features and functionality that make it a very pleasant drive. It was also an amazing experience to see what it’s like to be a motoring journalist and doing what you love on a daily basis."
Dave: "Driving the Mazda CX-9 was a blast and far exceeded my expectations. I also loved the chance to present to the camera as part of a CarAdvice behind-the-scenes documentary, and the whole Mazda product launch itself was an eye-opening and absolutely priceless experience."
Thanks to Mazda for being a part of this project, and stay tuned to CarAdvice for more of these competitions.
DRIVEN: 2019 Mazda CX-9 review