New & Used Mazda CX-9: In Depth
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When first introduced, the Mazda CX-9's styling was considered refreshingly edgier than its competition. Even now it remains handsome and just as pleasing to drive. The CX-9 is the pinnacle of the Japanese automaker's lineup and with three rows of seats, is one of just a few truly family-sized large crossovers with sporty driving and a usable third row.
The CX-9's first generation is likely coming to a close soon, although it isn't clear if 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.
For more information on the current model, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2016 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 2016 model year marks the debut of the second-generation CX-9. Set to go on sale in the Spring of 2016, the new CX-9 gets a new exterior design incorporating the brand's "Kodo, Soul of Motion" design language. The vehicle is 1.2 inches shorter, but the wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer, providing short front and rear overhangs and more interior space. Inside, the design is more carlike, with a low-set version of the horizontal, shelf-like dash that’s been used in Mazda’s other contemporary models. There’s a very warm look to the cabin appointments, with supple Nappa leather, Japanese rosewood, and available aluminum trim. Thinner seats offer more space, and Mazda provides two storage bins under the rearmost load floor. An additional 53 pounds of sound deadener result in more interior isolation, but the 2016 CX-9 is up to 300 pounds lighter overall.
For 2016, the CX-9 trades its 3.7-liter V-6 for a turbocharged 2.5-liter SkyActiv in-line four. Paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, it uses up to 17.4 psi of turbo boost to help make 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The platform offers front- and all-wheel drive, and the new i-Activ AWD system can send up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels.
New features include it comes Mazda Connect infotainment, with either a seven-inch or eight-inch display depending on the trim level, a 4.6-inch driver information screen, a color head-up display, white LED accent lighting up front, and an available 12-speaker Bose sound system. New safety features consist of radar cruise control, advanced blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, smart city brake support, and a forward obstruction warning system.