2009 Mazda CX-9 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 4, 2008

Few seven-passenger vehicles are more road-friendly than the 2009 Mazda CX-9. Its looks and features list impress too.

TheCarConnection.com's editors read the latest reviews on the new 2009 Mazda CX-9 to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Mazda CX-9 to offer you a definitive opinion on this sporty, seven-passenger crossover. This review also compares the 2009 Mazda CX-9 with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

The seven-passenger CX-9 crossover was introduced in 2007 and is closely related to the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Crossover vehicles like the 2009 Mazda CX-9 are generally car-based vehicles that look and perform somewhat like SUVs. The CX-9 combines the space of a wagon with the ride height and utility of an SUV in a style that eschews the expected boxiness of both and delivers the sporty looks of Mazda's zoom-zoom heritage. The look is a bit more aggressive and overt than that of most other roomy crossover utes.

Simultaneously, the 2009 CX-9's styling avoids going in the false, “off-road-tough” direction of many SUVs. Unlike many high-horsepower V-6 engines out there, the 3.7-liter unit in the CX-9 does not require premium fuel, yet produces 273 horsepower. A smooth, six-speed automatic is standard and maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. The CX-9 has crisp, responsive handling for a vehicle of its size and weight, though it’s not as nimble as Mazda’s smaller CX-7. With an EPA city fuel economy estimate of 17 mpg city, fuel economy isn’t a strong point for the powertrain, though.

Though the 2009 Mazda CX-9 is not the biggest of the big crossovers, the front seats are comfortable, and three rows of seating make the 2009 Mazda CX-9 quite useful for soccer-mom duty. The second row is split 60/40, reclines, or folds flat for cargo duty. Overall, good ride comfort, pleasing interior materials, and impressive build quality give the CX-9 a feel that’s quite upscale.

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With top crash tests all around, along with all of the expected airbags, and active and passive safety features, the CX-9 ranks as one of the safest vehicles in its class and makes an ideal family conveyance for that reason.

Even in base model form—where it’s the best bargain, in TheCarConnection.com’s opinion—the 2009 Mazda CX-9 comes equipped as a luxury vehicle, with tri-zone climate control and a Bluetooth hands-free interface among the standard features that are sometimes optional in this class of vehicle. But in more expensive, leather-lined Touring and Grand Touring trims some of the top options such as surround-sound audio and the rear DVD entertainment system can drive the price toward $40,000—and the realm of true luxury marques.

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2009 Mazda CX-9

Styling

The 2009 Mazda CX-9 is an award-winning, stylish, sporty vehicle in a crowded field of full-size crossovers.

The 2009 Mazda CX-9 resembles a full-size wagon jacked up about a foot, riding on oversize wheels. Its carlike nose and steeply raked windshield give it a curvier look than other family-oriented crossovers.

Edmunds says, "Mazda has gotten this crossover thing right...without it looking like a minivan." Consumer Reports likens the CX-9 to "a longer version of the CX-7 but...much nicer," while Cars.com contends, "the CX-9 manages to avoid the chunkiness of many SUVs, in part because of its angular nose and car-like honeycomb grille." Motor Trend dissects the look and comments that "from the steeply angled windshield and sharp fender flares to the slanted headlamps and the distinct trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips, the CX-9 puts a spin on the traditional two-box sport 'ute and punts it into orbit." Automobile comments for such a large vehicle, it's "almost svelte, with a sleek windshield, a sinuous waistline, and buff haunches." Car and Driver notes its "handsome styling," and feels the Mazda CX-9, swathed in chrome and Copper Red paint, looks classy and expensive.

"The interior is beautifully designed, but there are some ergonomic oddities," reports Car and Driver. Edmunds feels that the Mazda CX-9 "offers one of, if not the best, interiors in its class in terms of styling, ergonomics, quality and space." Road and Track finds the Mazda CX-9 has an "equally appealing, if slightly less dynamic, interior design." Motor Trend reviewers are a bit more specific about what they enjoy in the 2009 Mazda CX-9, citing "metal-rimmed gauges and simple but elegant center stack, delights aesthetically and ergonomically." They note the effect on the 2009 CX-9 is brought together with "calming, indirect blue lighting and a pleasing mix of horizontal and vertical elements." ConsumerGuide states, "the navigation system...places some buttons and knobs out of easy reach for some of our testers."

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2009 Mazda CX-9

Performance

The 2009 Mazda CX-9 combines carlike agility with the utility of a three-row crossover.

Though the powertrain has not changed for 2009, Mazda's CX-9 is still one of the fastest and best-handling large crossovers.

The V-6 engine in the Mazda CX-9 pumps out 273 horsepower and twists 270 pound-feet. Motor Trend reports, "While we still wouldn't mind a tad more low-end grunt, the 3.7 nonetheless behaves in a silky, refined manner." Unlike many high-horsepower V-6 engines out there, the Mazda's does not require premium fuel to hit its claimed power. A six-speed automatic that Motor Trend describes as "seamless as a rubber glove" is standard.

Car and Driver reports "a front-drive 2008 CX-9 we tested shaved 0.5 second off the 7.8-second time posted by a front-drive 2007 model." Motor Trend clocks in just slightly slower, at 7.8 seconds to 60 mph. Automobile says its normally cranky critics "have been moved to paroxysms of joy when discussing the CX-9. One called the V-6 engine charming, the six-speed manu-matic transmission silky." Road & Track agrees that the transmission "shifts quietly and smoothly." ConsumerGuide notes that "CX-9s with the 3.7-liter V-6 averaged 17.3-18.1 mpg with slightly more highway driving than city use." That about matches the government fuel economy ratings of 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway (2WD) and 15/21 mpg (AWD). Maximum towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the handling of this Mazda; 2009's CX-9 is "taut and agile," Consumer Reports says, "and the ride is firm and steady, yet comfortable," though it adds "braking distances are a bit long." Road & Track describes the steering as "satisfyingly firm with zero float." ConsumerGuide reports that "this crossover rides more firmly than others in this class."

The Mazda CX-9's steering feel and feedback are loved in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Car and Driver asks, "How does Mazda get such lively steering in each of its vehicles? It feels like the CX-9 wants to be a sports car." Motor Trend describes steering as exemplary for a minivan or an SUV, citing "a solid, on-center feel with zero play off-center and superb, linear response throughout the turning range." In other extensive road tests of the 2009 Mazda CX-9, reviewers at Kelley Blue Book find that it "acquits itself surprisingly well on curvy country roads." When traveling faster, the Mazda CX-9 "rides smoothly and quietly at freeway speeds." ConsumerGuide reports that "a tidy turning radius makes it easy to maneuver in tight spots, a surprise given this crossover's large overall size."

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2009 Mazda CX-9

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mazda CX-9 has room for seven or loads of stuff, and price-appropriate interior trim.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com find a lot to like in the comfort offered by the 2009 Mazda CX-9, though as with many crossovers, third-row adult passengers may deem it suitable only for short trips.

ConsumerGuide describes the 2009 Mazda CX-9 as having "ample legroom with chair-height seating [that] provides a commanding view forward and to the side."
Kelley Blue Book says seating is a high priority in this Mazda; the CX-9 blends "front bucket seats and two-tone trim [that says] 'sports car'" with the passenger comfort and cargo capacity of a minivan. Second-row seats can be folded down to afford extra legroom for adults in the third-row seats. Additionally, the second-row seat slides five inches and has "reclining backrests." Motor Trend cautions that "of course, the Mazda CX-9 isn't perfect, delivering the slightest first-row legroom of the other three-row crossovers in its class."

Edmunds says the "the 60/40-split second-row seat offers 5 inches of fore and aft travel for added comfort." They further describe the 2009 Mazda CX-9: "although the measurements for passenger accommodation are impressive, the CX-9 still seems a little tight to us (especially in headroom)." New for 2009, Mazda CX-9 Sport trims receive heated seats and outside mirrors in the Power Seat Package.

With 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the second- and third-rows folded flat, the Mazda CX-9 is perfect for weekend trips to IKEA. Cars.com points out that cargo room is decent in the Mazda; 2009's CX-9 has "17.2 cubic feet of cargo room behind the 50/50-split third-row seat, which can also fold flat." ConsumerGuide notes that "the center console looks large but doesn't have much volume."

J.D. Power predicts the Mazda CX-9 reliability score as 9.0 out of 10. The build quality is as sturdy as you might expect from Mazda. Car and Driver notes the "top-notch interior," and figures "the [Mazda 2009] CX-9 should enjoy an impressive resale value." Consumer Reports says, though, "first year reliability has been below average." ConsumerGuide remarks, "some materials feel hard to the touch and sound hollow, cheapening the atmosphere a bit" and "coarse-surface tire thrum is intrusive, particularly in the Grand Touring." They also dislike the instrument panel lighting, pointing out there are only two settings: day (which is too bright) and night (which is too dim).

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2009 Mazda CX-9

Safety

Safety was clearly a top priority in the family-friendly design of the 2009 Mazda CX-9.

Even with a full complement of standard crash-avoidance technologies, the 2009 Mazda CX-9 performs well in crash testing. It scores five stars in all crash tests by NHTSA and earns the IIHS's "good" rating.

Motor Trend appreciates that the 2009 Mazda CX-9 "comes standard with an anti-lock brake system, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, dynamic-stability control, and roll-stability control." An additional safety feature option is a blind-spot monitoring system, which Car and Driver describes as putting "clear yet unobtrusive light-up icons on the side mirrors."

The base-model 2009 Mazda CX-9 comes with front-wheel drive and 18-inch all-weather tires. However, for about $1,300, one may upgrade to 20-inch tires and the advanced "Active Torque Split all-wheel-drive system" glowingly described by Motor Trend. They add, "the CX-9 offers ample protection in the form of front, side, and side-curtain airbags as well as seatbelt pretensioners and load limiters." Furthermore, Mazda offers a rearview camera that Jalopnik says alerts drivers to obstacles behind the vehicle via a "high-res 2.4[-inch] LCD display housed inside an automatic-dimming rear view mirror."

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2009 Mazda CX-9

Features

While the base Sport trim is well equipped, to fully experience the luxurious features offered in the 2009 Mazda CX-9, be prepared to spend about $40 large.

With three trims to choose from—Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring—the 2009 Mazda CX-9 comes well equipped in any trim.

Besides its standard V-6, six-speed manu-matic, and traction control, a full complement of safety features, and power everything, the 2009 Mazda CX-9’s standard equipment includes "three-zone automatic climate with rear seat controls, tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, cloth upholstery, front bucket seats, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD player, digital-media player connection, wireless cell phone link, theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels," according to ConsumerGuide. For 2009, CX-9s receive a trip computer standard on all models; Bluetooth capability for Sport trims; Sirius Satellite Radio is added to the Moonroof, Bose Audio Package, and Rear Seat Entertainment System Package; auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink is added to the Grand Touring trim; and trailer tow preparation is now standard on AWD models.

Options include a third-row entertainment system with DVD playback on a 9-inch seat-mounted LCD screen, a sunroof, and a moonroof. Motor Trend says the rear-seat entertainment system "that features a nine-inch LCD and 5.1 surround sound with 11 speakers" is "not available with a moonroof." However, Car and Driver finds "the rear-seat DVD system is a delight and is as intuitive as one might hope: Pop in the disc, hit the power button on the wireless headphones, and enjoy." Considering the moonroof eats into the CX-9's limited headroom, opting for the DVD system is a no-brainer.

Other options include all-wheel drive, satellite radio, a navigation system, a power tailgate, and a Bose audio system. Car and Driver tested a fully loaded model: "With a final sticker price of $41,855, that agreeable bottom line turned a bit pricey."

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May 23, 2015
2009 Mazda CX-9 AWD 4-Door Sport

Nice looking vehicle to the eye with design flaws that bite your pockets down the line.

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Styling 9.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
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