MAZDA’S CX-9 REMAINS A MAJOR MID SIZE SUV COMPETITOR

Mazda CX-9

By Tom Crosby

Mazda’s mid-size sports utility vehicle, the CX-9, is the largest vehicle Mazda makes and since it was first introduced in 2008, it has remained basically unchanged with only minor upgrades and tweaks.

It has received numerous awards for its comfortable seating in all three rows, ease of entry and handling prowess. For 2015, a new color is available (Titanium Flash Mica) and an optional recreational package. There are three trims – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

All use Ford’s V-6, 3.7-liter engine, the only six-cylinder engine Mazda uses, and an Aisin-supplied 6-speed Sport AT automatic transmission with manual-mode that together muscle the more than two-ton 7-seater vehicle smoothly. Handling is aided by the independent front suspension system – coil springs in the front and multi-link in the rear. After all, Mazda’s slogan is Zoom-Zoom, and that means the CX-9 has been built with Mazda’s stated corporate goal of infusing all its vehicles with the soul of a sports car.

Our test-drive was the Grand Touring with all-wheel drive and a $2,435 Technology Package that included the new recreational accessories (roof rails, cargo net and stainless steel rear bumper) along with Bose Audio, power sunroof, full-color touch screen and navigation by Tom-Tom. The 5.8-inch screen seems way too small for this size crossover SUV with some information reoriented to a narrow cowled horizontal inset above the screen.

Along with plenty of seating room, the cabin includes standard two-stage heated front seats, smooth inset leather stitching and climate controls for rear seat passengers. The Grand Touring maintains a great profile, with a sharply slanted windshield, recessed fog lights, smooth chrome-less sides (only doors handles display chrome) and muscular fenders sitting above 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels sporting all-season tires.

The CX-9 receives mid-range safety scores in government crash tests, a potential concern for parents who use SUV’s for hauling children. However, blind spot monitoring, back-up sensors and rear traffic alerts arm the on-screen backup camera and come standard. Versatility remains a strong point with the third row seat folding 50-50 flat to nearly triple cargo space to 47.5 cubic feet, even before dropping the 60/40-split second row seats.

Gauges are easily read, even in sunlight, and audio/climate dials are easy to reach and manipulate. Visibility to the rear is hindered with third-row seats and headrests up. A Bluetooth hands-free phone connection is standard. Climate controls are robust, quickly cooling or heating even in extreme temperatures.

LIKES: Versatility, spaciousness comfort, handling
DISLIKES: Rear visibility, small dashboard screen, safety
BOTTOM LINE: Successful SUV for Mazda in tough market segment

FACT FILE: MAZDA CX-9 GRAND TOURING AWD

  • Base price w/destination fee $37,445 (as tested $39,890)
  • Curb weight 4,559 lbs.
  • Wheelbase 113.2 inches
  • Length 200.6 inches
  • Width 76.2 inches
  • Engine 3.7-liter, DOHC, V6
  • Horsepower 273-hp at 6,250 rpm
  • Torque 270 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic w/overdrive
  • EPA Rating 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway
  • Range 20.1-gallon tank, regular unleaded fuel
  • Performance 0-60 in just under 9 seconds