It's the answer to the question that every car enthusiast with a family has ever asked: The Mazda CX-9 is a truly polished, fun-to-drive crossover capable of seating six in comfort or seven in a pinch.
Sure, this isn't the first go-around for the CX-9, which was genuinely enjoyable to hustle through its paces on its first outing. But that was all the way back in 2006, when it launched as a 2007. A decade later, we finally have the company's follow-up act, and it shares nothing more than a badge with its predecessor.
This latest CX-9 sheds around 250 pounds compared to the outgoing model, which helps justify the fact that it loses 23 horsepower (to 250 hp on premium fuel or 227 hp on regular unleaded), but there's more to the story than just ponies. The CX-9 sees its torque boosted from 270 to 310 hp, which is now available from just 2,00 rpm thanks to a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine.
Moreover, the turbo makes the CX-9 a lot more fuel thrifty, checking in at up to 28 mpg on the highway, a big improvement from last year's 24 mpg.
The CX-9 remains available with either front- or all-wheel drive, and all models use a slick-shifting 6-speed automatic.
Though it's not going to win a drag race, the CX-9 impresses the most when it is tossed around on a winding road. Its suspension is firm, but hardly punishing even with the optional 20-inch alloy wheels, and its steering could have been pulled from the automaker's dynamically-capable Mazda 6 sedan.
2016 Mazda CX-9
Enthusiasts will be happy, but what about the rest of the family? The CX-9 is spacious enough, but the CX-9 is just shy of the class-best Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander in terms of space and utility. It carries seven passengers at most, while those other SUVs can tote 8. It has slightly less interior leg room, too.
Still, those are edge cases, and for what drivers use these big crossovers for on a daily basis, the CX-9 is as good as they get.
But is it good enough to become The Car Connection's Best Car to Buy 2017? We'll know soon enough.