The Car Connection Mazda CX-9 Overview
The Mazda CX-9 is a seven-passenger crossover SUV. Introduced for the 2007 model year, the CX-9 is now in its second generation, with a new model that bowed for the 2016 model year.
Mazda markets the CX-9 as a sportier alternative to rivals like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Nissan Pathfinder. To be sure, its steering is sharper and its ride is firmer, but it doesn't quite come across as a three-row Miata.
For 2017, the CX-9 sees no changes after debuting last year.
MORE: Read our 2016 Mazda CX-9 review
The new Mazda CX-9
The 2016 model year marked the debut of the second-generation CX-9. The latest CX-9 gets a new exterior design incorporating the brand's "Kodo" 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 car-like, 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-deadening results in more interior isolation, but the 2016 CX-9 is up to 300 pounds lighter overall.
For its redesign, the CX-9 trades its 3.7-liter V-6 for a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-4. Paired with a 6-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 all-wheel-drive system can send up to 50 percent of engine power to the rear wheels.
New features include it comes Mazda's newest infotainment, with either a 7.0- or 8.0-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 adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and a forward-collision warning system.
Mazda CX-9 history
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 (frontal-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams).
The CX-9 utilized V-6 power in a Mazda lineup that otherwise shifted completely to four cylinders. Its size and capabilities now neatly complement the CX-5—which won rave reviews for being both practical and fun to drive—and offered an alternative for families who need more space but don't want to give up driving pleasure. The underpinnings of the CX-9 were 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 sheet metal and flared fenders, than the related Ford products. It maintains an overall look that makes no allusions to off-roading. Its strong, 273-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 feels more powerful than most engines in its class, and it's paired with a 6-speed automatic that does a great job on quick downshifts when needed. Buyers could 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 didn't that well when it comes to fuel economy. The front-drive model was rated at just 17 mpg city, 24 highway; with all-wheel drive, those figures dropped to 16/22 mpg, according to the EPA. 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 received a roof-strength score of "Marginal" from the IIHS. The NHTSA gave the CX-9 four of five stars for rollover.
A loaded Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring carried a sticker price north of $40,000, which brought it into competition with several luxury-brand models, including entry-level German makes. But the Grand Touring comes with some tempting features, including HID headlights, nice leather seating, and rain-sensing wipers. Top options include a DVD entertainment system, a navigation 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.