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The 2012 Mazda CX-9 is a roomy, family-size crossover with three rows of seating, as well as a little more eagerness from the driver's seat compared to other vehicles in this vein.
The CX-9 starts with a close connection to the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers, but also follows a different direction design-wise to fit Mazda's distinctive 'zoom-zoom' ethos. Overall, we've found the CX-9's more carlike stance--and curvy, smoothed-over sheetmetal--to be among the better-looking in this class, even though it's been around essentially in the same form for several years. Inside, the CX-9 borrows some pieces from Ford (or vice versa), but it remains sporty, with a noticeably more cockpit-like instrument panel.
With a 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and smart six-speed automatic transmission, the CX-9 looks about par for today's class of premium-trim crossovers, but the key here is the way Mazda has tuned the setup. The whole dynamic setup feels responsive yet refined, with a somewhat firm ride, as well as good steering that has a quick ratio for such a large vehicle, making it somehow feel more maneuverable. The big 20-inch wheels are for looks only, as they seem to make the ride a little harsher with no improvement in handling.
On the outside, the CX-9 is only the length and width of one of the larger mid-size sedans--so it's quite manageable to drive--yet it also has three rows of seating. 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. Getting back to the third row is a little challenging, too, but It's a bit tough to climb over the second-row seats, too; but with the rear seatbacks folded you can fit both the back rows will fold down so the CX-9 can swallow a large load of groceries while you're carrying the kids in the second row. Interior appointments are pretty good--definitely not luxury-caliber, but nicely detailed.
The 2012 Mazda CX-9 has a pretty good safety record, but its 'marginal' IIHS roof-strength rating is a blemish to that. Otherwise, a blind-spot monitoring system and rear backup camera are optional, and leather-trimmed Touring and Grand Touring models bring on the luxury features, such as navigation with real-time traffic, a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system, and DVD entertainment. However, add those options, and the bottom-line price for the CX-9 can easily be over the $40k mark--luxury territory to most.