There's just a single engine-transmission combo available with the 2011 Mazda CX-9, but it's a fine one, with strong acceleration and quick shifting.
The 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 outmuscles most of the engines in its rivals--and it doesn’t require premium fuel, unlike some of those vehicles. It's refined, almost butter-smooth at speed, and doesn't send vibration into the cabin. Could it use a little more low-end grunt? Sure, but the big six isn't slow off the line, by any means.
A smooth-shifting six-speed automatic is the only gearbox, though it can be coupled with a Haldex all-wheel-drive system. Shift quality is about the best you'll find--though the same engine in the Ford Flex comes with a turbocharging option and paddle shifters for a total of 360 hp.
The 2011 CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Mazda's reputation for sweet handling carries over to the CX-9, the largest vehicle it's ever built. Steering feel is crisp, with good weight and a good sense of on-center feel. The independent suspension delivers responsive handling for a vehicle of its size and weight; of course, it's not so nimble as the smaller CX-7, but it's considerably taller and heftier. If there's any complaint to be lodged, it's with the big wheel-and-tire package that comes on Grand Touring models; the treads can make the CX-9's ride seem overly firm for what's really a near-luxury vehicle.