With a retooled engine for 2008, Mazda’s CX-9 adds horsepower to a vehicle already imbued with fine handling and, especially, direct steering.
The V-6 engine in the Mazda CX-9 has grown in displacement from 3.5 liters to 3.7 liters. Horsepower is up to 273, helping the CX-9 maintain its sporty edge. 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 is standard.
Car and Driver adds that torque “jumps 21 pound-feet to 270. The extra oomph is noticeable on the drag strip—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." Car and Driver notes that “observed mileage to date—18 mpg—has been just above the EPA combined estimate of 17 mpg.”
Car reviewers praise the handling of this Mazda; 2008’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." When test driving the 2008 Mazda CX-9, they go on to note that it "turns in nicely and remains flat when cornering"; however, there is "a little thrashiness under heavy acceleration from a standstill or at low speed."
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 2008 Mazda CX-9, reviewers at Kelley Blue Book found 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 bucks those opinions, saying the Mazda CX-9 exhibits "some body lean in fast turns" and describing the steering as "slightly numb on-center," though they did add that it "is nicely weighted while cornering."