The CX-9 is powered by the same 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 that's also available in the Mazda6. In the CX-9 it doesn't quite yield the blistering, class-leading acceleration you find in the 6, but it's plenty quick (0-60 in less than 8 seconds) and has a nice, thick torque curve, allowing it to churn along without downshifting. The most disappointing element about the CX-9 is its transmission, which we found indecisive and hesitant to downshift, especially at low speeds and accelerating out of tight corners. Full throttle passes would require several clunky downshifts—instead of going directly from sixth to third at 50 mph, for example. You can control the shifts by sliding the shift lever over to the left and tipping forward or back, but even then downshifts were delayed longer than they should be.
Another downside to the CX-9 is fuel economy. The EPA ratings of 15 mpg city, 21 highway for our all-wheel-drive Grand Touring test vehicle certainly did not impress. We should add that in about a hundred miles of mostly city driving and short trips, we managed a slightly less distressing 17 mpg, according to the trip computer.
The other issue is price; with a navigation system, moonroof, and rear DVD entertainment system, plus the nifty blind-spot monitoring system, the price of the AWD Grand Touring nudges $40k. At that point, it's with a few thousand of the base Infiniti FX35, a vehicle that's even more fun to drive, though admittedly not nearly as spacious or comfortable. The soft stitched black leather in our Grand Touring model was about the best we've seen in a non luxury-brand vehicle, and the front seats in the CX-9 are excellent. Although at 6'-6" this editor tried to climb into the third row of the CX-9 and felt absolutely claustrophobic doing so, most owners will probably be happy having those seats available for occasional kid-toting and folding them flat to a rather vast cargo floor. The second-row seats are adult-sized and quite comfortable.
What we like about the CX-9 is that it's enjoyable to drive, roomy and, above all, tasteful, with no over-the-top groundwork or ridiculous wheels. It looks mature and responsible yet it feels much sportier inside, especially to the driver. In this case, the zoom-zoom is just fine being your little secret.