You don’t need to possess a large brood to appreciate the plentiful offerings of a 3-row crossover and Mazda’s CX-9 has been giving its owners what they want since 2007. And now the long awaited redesign is here showcasing a more premium take on zoom zoom.
I was a big fan of the original CX-9. Having taken it on numerous road trips, it always left a very favorable impression on the driver and family alike. But that was born out of the old Ford Motor Company days.
This new CX-9 is all Mazda, featuring the company’s economy-minded SKYACTIV technology, eschewing V6 power for a 4-cylinder turbo leading to an over 25% increase in gas mileage without sacrificing Mazda ethos. It takes the lauded KODO Soul of Motion design to an even more expressive level with this flamboyant, sharply creased front fascia replete with a prominent new grille accented by LED lighting on this new range-topping Signature trim. And from the inside, there’s a marked turn upscale highlighted by the use of supple, Auburn-colored Nappa leather and rosewood trim from premium Japanese guitar maker Fujigen. Mazda developed this CX-9 for the satisfaction of families as well as couples, with easy to use 3rd row access, ample cubby space and a gratifying level of modern conveniences and high-tech safety features. It’s a great looking 3-row with an athletic stance, full LED lighting and 20” wheels fitted with specifically engineered Falken tires. There’s a new attention to detail and a noticeably quieter cabin.
Mazda calls their new Dynamic Pressure Turbo a world first in that it varies the degree of exhaust pressure to the turbine depending on engine speed. This allows the creation of instant boost giving the new 2.5-liter engine quicker responses at lower RPMs, such as when you’re taking off and in around the town driving. As speed picks up, secondary valves open to allow greater amounts of exhaust gas to pass through to the turbo. Torque output benefits, rising from 270 pound-feet in the old V6 to 310 here. And if you’re willing to use 93 octane this engine will produce 250 horsepower, otherwise it’ll net 227 on regular gas. A 6-speed auto with sport mode and Mazda’s i-Activ predictive all-wheel drive system are standard.
When you drive a Mazda there is an expectation for it to be sporty. No matter the model, Mazda infuses it with connected steering and deft handling. And though the CX-9 is the biggest vehicle they sell, it drives with the verve of one of their passenger cars. The new turbocharged engine and lightweight SKYACTIV chassis give it the uncanny ability to mask its 3-row size and cut up a country road without any slop. The $45k crowd may view the motor as a bit unrefined but drivers’ will appreciate its efforts.
The vehicle is lighter now by over 250 pounds and the CX-9’s sub 8.0-second 0-to-60mph time gives it a spunky feel but the sounds it generates are less than premium. The significant increase in sound deadening material keeps most of that unsavory sound at bay. Ride quality is infused with more feeling than is typically seen in this class but not to a detriment. The CX-9 drives much smaller than its size and had me occasionally checking over my shoulder in amazement that this wasn’t a CX-3. Towing still maxes out at 3,500 pounds and the EPA mileage is real – rated at 23mpg in combined driving on this all-wheel drive model.
Taking a page out of Nissan’s playbook, the passenger side’s 2nd row seat can tilt and slide with a child seat in place. Slide and recline apply to the 60/40 split fold with an elevated seating position kids will enjoy. There are manual sunshades, 2 USB ports and a 3rd zone for the climate control. Leg room has diminished slightly in all rows but the 3rd row is still acceptable for kid use but feels narrow otherwise due to the intrusion of the wheel wells. And it hardly seems possible but numbers don’t lie; there’s 30 cubic feet less cargo volume in total than before. That hurts the CX-9’s midsize CUV cause and puts it significantly behind the competition.
I’m not a big proponent of the Mazda Connect system mainly because its touchscreen functionality is disabled once the vehicle is moving but also because it doesn’t carry a high-res appearance nor does it have Apple CarPlay.
The heads-up display is a great new addition with its big, bright, colorful graphics. Other niceties include memory settings, a specifically tuned BOSE sound system, heated seats and a plethora of safety systems that’ll automatically brake the vehicle in case of an impending collision, warn you of forward obstructions, ease the CX-9 into turns if you start to stray, alert of vehicles coming up in your blind spot and guide the vehicle with radar cruise control. Unfortunately there’s no height control on the passenger seat. Everything here is standard and totals an MSRP of $45,215. That’s new territory for Mazda but they’ve backed it up with a highly competitive model that’ll attract and please a new audience.