- Sporty handling
- Spacious front and middle-row seats
- Smooth, honed exterior
- Cabin walks fine near-luxury line
- Firm ride, especially with 20-inch wheels
- Cargo space thin behind third-row seat
- Nav system can befuddle first-timers
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 can carry seven in comfort, but it loves curves more than almost any other roomy crossover.
With a family connection to Ford's crossovers--everything from the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, to the bigger Flex and MKT--the Mazda CX-9 veers off into its own distinctive niche. It's comfortable for five or seven people, some younger and smaller, but it's also a touch more involving to drive than the usual big ute.
The CX-9 has been around since 2007, and last year, it received a mild touch-up. It didn't need much to please our editors: the SUV-less looks embrace a car vocabulary, all curvy and smoothed over, more like an Audi Q7 than anything else. It's not quite that nuanced, but the CX-9 delivers a lot of finesse for its size.
Performance is the CX-9's trump card. A 273-horsepower V-6 and a common-sense six-speed automatic push the crossover around with little effort and lots of refinement. Steering's pretty charming for such a large Mazda--one with all-wheel drive as an option--and the ride's not too overbearing, unless you opt into the somewhat silly 20-inch wheels.
Five adults will still be friends after a stint in the first and second rows, but you won't be putting anyone fully-grown in the third row unless they're under five feet tall. It's a bit tough to climb over the second-row seats, too, but both the back rows will fold down so the CX-9 can swallow a hundred cubic feet of stuff.
Its safety record is strong, and the CX-9 is pretty well equipped without adding cost. For navigation and other high-end features, you'll have to spend up to the Grand Touring model, but the base Sport is a good value for drivers who want a few more signs of life than the ordinary crossover can deliver.