Mazda, perhaps most renowned for building smaller, agile vehicles, is starting to expand its appeal by offering a new flagship, the seven passenger CX-9. The result is encouraging for SUV buyers as it combines a refined interior, good fuel mileage, and an abundance of safety features. Perhaps the most notable feature is that this well loaded, family oriented vehicle places the emphasis on utility and enhances it with the interior of a luxury vehicle. In fact, if you opt for the Signature edition no one is ever going to know you are not driving around in an upscale European model.
Adding to the uniqueness of the CX-9 is the fact it has a turbocharged four-cylinder engine while most competitors offer a six cylinder alternative. Don’t fret, the Mazda is plenty potent for two lane road passing or freeway merging thanks to its SkyActiv technology and smooth six-speed automatic transmission that keeps everything at peak efficiency. Even better gas mileage can be 22 to 28 mpg if you are careful. As an aside, four cylinder engines are becoming the engine of choice as manufactures work to meet ever increasing environmental standards. Such luxury brands as Audi, Lexus, and Cadillac now offer these hard working units to consumers.
Mom’s view: If looks matter, Mazda is going to sell a lot of Mazda CX-9s and the good news is that the beauty of this SUV goes beyond appearances. You can get it with a full range of safety options including blind-spot monitoring, radar-based cruise control, and lane-departure warning that activate the adjustable collision-warning system and uses the automatic emergency braking system to avoid problems. The interior is splendid and feels scrumptious using real rose wood and aluminum accents as well as leather seats, and the exterior is snappy looking as well. This is not your typical SUV appliance. The ergonomics are easy to master and visibility is good, the automatic rear hatch gentle to use, and interior lighting is excellent. Even with the base Sport model you get three zone climate control, rear view camera, and seven-inch monitor with Mazda Connect, Bluetooth, and inputs. The CX-9 height helps eliminate worry when entering or leaving the vehicle and the ancillary controls on the steering wheel can be used easily even with long nails. It took me a while to get used to the accelerator’s need for a gentle touch as I am a bit of a lead foot, but once mastered it was pleasant to drive at any speed.
Dad’s view: The big news is how responsive the new 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is thanks to some creative engineering to combat turbo lag. Mazda uses three values in the intake manifold that can close to force more pressure into the system creating more power at low rpms. The engineers have also devised a better way to harvest gases from the exhaust to keep the turbo on task consistently. The result is an engine that thrives while producing 227 horsepower and 310 lbs.-ft. of torque. The result is plenty of pep, even for mountain driving. You can order an optional all-wheel drive, but it was standard on our Signature model. The ride was similar to a much more expensive luxury vehicle and acceleration to 60 mph took around eight second seconds. Touch the accelerator and the CX-9 is ready to play right now with no noticeable turbo lag to hamper its class leading mpg rating. Steering is a bit light, but perfect for tight parking spots, and the overall feel is of a much smaller, lighter on its feet, SUV especially when in sport mode. The CX-9 is impressive, especially when given its pricing and features.
Young working male’s view: There is plenty of standard equipment, but Mazda does offer some interesting options. My suggestion is to go for the loaded versions such as the Signature or Grand Touring models, which feature a power front seat, power liftgate, eight inch monitor, navigation, 12 speaker Bose system, heated front seats and all types of safety equipment. The dash has a variety of analog dials that work well, but when the most startling is that one of them carries a color LCD screen that can display trip-computer information and a compass. The eight-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard was a long reach, but what I liked was the fact you didn’t have to use it to control functions as there was a large knob located near the console mounted gear shift that helped with imputing data. Mazda isn’t at the cutting edge of electronics, but its meat and potatoes approach should appease all but the most dedicated gadget break.
Young working woman’s view: There are several models of the CX-9 to choice from, but the Grand Touring and Signature are worth the extra cost because of the added features. Mazda’s price range is from just over $20,000 to over $40,000 for the loaded Signature model so do your homework. Inside, the second row has ample room and the seats slide and are foldable so there is easy access to the third row of seats, which are best used for children. Cargo space varies from 14 cubic feet of space to 38 to 71 depending on which seats are folded down. I greatly love the Mazda 6 and find it better looking, better handling then the competition. The same goes for this Mazda.
Family conference: The Mazda CX-9 is enjoyable, useful, and well-priced being a significant value over the more expensive seven seat models from Honda and Ford, among others. Just a fun family vehicle with a heaping helping of value over a topping of exceptional styling. It may not go Zoom Zoom so Mazda might change its theme to Room Room.
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Photo courtesy of Caricos