New & Used Mazda CX-9: In Depth
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The Mazda CX-9 is one of just a few truly family-sized large crossovers that have both sporty driving dynamics and a usable third row. When it was first introduced, the CX-9 brought a design and style that was a little edgier than the crossover norm at the time. It remains handsome today and just as pleasing to drive. The CX-9 tops Mazda's crossover lineup,which also includes the CX-5 and the new subcompact CX-3.
For more information on the current model, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2014 Mazda CX-9.
The Mazda CX-9 was launched as a 2007 model and received a substantial update for 2013 to make its lines more similar to those of the compact CX-5 crossover. That significant 2013 refresh gave the CX-9 new front and rear styling, as well as new interior appointments, all influenced by the automaker's Kodo design language pioneered by the smaller CX-5. The 2013 CX-9 also brought significant upgrades to audio and navigation, as well as new active safety features (Forward Obstruction Warning System, Lane Departure Warning System, and High Beam Control System).
The CX-9 retains V-6 power in a Mazda lineup that has otherwise shifted completely to four-cylinders. Its size and capabilities now neatly complement the CX-5--which itself wins rave reviews for being both practical and fun to drive--offering an alternative for families who need more space but don't want to give up driving pleasure. The underpinnings of the CX-9 are related to those of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, but Mazda has produced a very different look and a far sportier driving feel than either of those models.
The styling of the Mazda CX-9 is curvier, with more aggressive sheetmetal and flared fenders, than the related Ford products. It maintains an overall look that makes no allusions to off-roading. Its strong, 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 feels more powerful than most engines in its class, and it's paired with a six-speed automatic that does a great job on quick downshifts when needed. Buyers can opt for front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Rated towing capacity is up to 3,500 pounds.
Because of its relatively old powertrain, the CX-9 doesn't do that well when it comes to fuel economy. The front-drive model is rated at just 17 mpg in the EPA's city test, 24 on the highway; with all-wheel drive, those figures drop to 16 and 22 mpg. The engine is at least up to the task of moving the crossover around; that was even the case of 2007 models, which used a 263-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. The CX-9 handles very well for something of its size, striking a nice balance between driver control and passenger comfort.
With three rows of seating and a third row that folds flat easily for cargo duty, the CX-9 has an especially handy layout for larger families and those who occasionally need some extra spots for the kids’ team members. The second and third rows can be folded flat together to open up 101 cubic feet of cargo space. First and second rows have plenty of room for adults, even remaining comfy on long trips, while the CX-9’s interior appointments, overall, do not disappoint.
The CX-9 is well built and offers a strong list of standard safety items, as well as options like a rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring, which are helpful for family vehicles of this size. It should be noted, however, that the CX-9 receives a roof-strength score of 'Marginal' from the IIHS. To balance that somewhat, the NHTSA gives the CX-9 four of five stars for rollover.
A loaded Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring will carry a sticker price north of $40,000, which brings it into competition with several luxury-brand models, including entry-level German makes. But the Grand Touring comes with some tempting features, including HID headlamps, nice leather seating, and rain-sensing wipers. Top options include a DVD entertainment system, a nav system with real-time traffic, and a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system.
Mazda made some minor changes to options packaging for 2015. The base Sport model now includes power lumbar adjustment for the driver's seat, and the two available packages now come bundled with roof rails, crossbars, a cargo net, and a rear-bumper pad. Other than that, the CX-9 is much the same as it has been since its 2013 refresh. Even getting on in years, it manages to outdo many of its competitors, especially when it comes to driver enjoyment.
The Mazda CX-9's first generation is likely coming to a close soon, although it is not clear whether Mazda will replace it or discontinue the model outright. It will soon be the only model not based around the brand's SkyActiv design principles, and is now the only model that does not use four-cylinder power.