Ever since Ford parted ways with Mazda, it was for the better as Mazda’s’ independence has allowed them to make some dandy cars and crossovers, and for this review, Mazda’s CX-9 midsize three-row, 7-passenger crossover.
In its first two model years, CX-9 has amassed a list of accolades including Car & Driver’s “10 Best” winner in its trucks and SUVs competition; North American Utility of the Year finalist; World Car of the Year; World Car Design of the Year finalist and WardsAuto “10 Best Interiors” and “10 Best Engines” awards.
And their 2018 CX-9 has a long list of attributes that new car buyers need to consider. For example, Mazda made as standard Smart City Brake w/automatic braking; G-Vectoring Control that helps cornering control; Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert; iACTIVESENSE that includes high beam control, lane departure warning, land keeping assist, radar cruise control with Stop/Go function; and Smart Brake Support.
CX-9 is offered in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature that was tested. The other three are available in FWD or AWD whereas the Signature comes standard with AWD.
As Mazda’s largest vehicle, it’s also most appealing with its suave styling. Smooth, slippery lines from nose to tail make it a handsome crossover. And its beauty continues into the cabin with posh, heavily padded, stylish, two-tone, perforated Nappa leather seats with both fronts and backs being heated.
Rosewood trim adorns console and doors and a vertical stack has thoughtfully padded sides for us knee resters. The stack houses the 8-inch display that serves audio, rearview camera, and app systems, transmission shifter, rotary dial for the infotainment display and auxiliary controls. Included too is a heads-up-display (HID). But the CX-9’s cockpit has one missing feature. A smartphone charger could have nicely resided in the bottom of the stack and in front of the shifter, or, in the huge console box that uses clam shell lids.
Upon walking away from the car with keyfob in your pocket, the doors lock automatically. A thoughtful feature.
CX-9 gets its power from a 2.5-liter, 227-hp turbocharged inline-4. While this doesn’t sound very potent, consider it puts out an impressive 310 lb/ft of torque giving it V6 feel. Both dead stop and passing acceleration are strong. When coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, EPA rates the mileage combination at 20 city, 26-highway mpg. This is impressive grunt for high-speed merging and spirited driving despite CX-9’s 4,361-pound curb weight. And to make the 2.5 even spunkier, a “Sport” mode switch next to the trans shifter allows better response and acceleration for making quick maneuvers be it during lane changing or merging.
CX-9 has a tow capacity of 3,500 pounds, enough for towing a small utility trailer, 14-foot aluminum boat or ATV trailer.
Back seat comfort is excellent providing seating capacity for two large and one slim adult after a low 19-inch step-in height. The second row seats slide well forward for easy ingress/egress into the third row seats. The third row, has decent legroom but is really only suitable for three children.
Behind the third row, the cargo area is rated at 14.4 cubic feet of space. More meaningful, it measures 21 inches deep, 43 wide and 29 high. Flip the third row seats and space extends to 38.2 cubic feet for a depth of 50 inches. Flip the second row and capacity increases to 71.2 cubes for a full 84 inches (7-feet) of cargo depth. There’s also a 4-inch deep cargo underfloor compartment to stow small items out of sight. And if you have heavy items to load, the load height is a low 31 inches.
Shod with Falken 20-inch tires, CX-9 offers a smooth, quiet ride. Its electric power assisted steering is responsive and the crossover parks easily, boasting a tight 19.4-inch turning circle. And with G-Vectoring Control, the suspension holds tight with nary any body lean in sharp turns.
With an extremely long list of standard features including the ones previously mentioned, the only extra charge items were for a cargo mat ($100) and beautiful White Pearl Mica paint ($200) that took the base price of $44,315 to $45,555 with delivery. A base model can be had for a starting price of $33,070.
As the top level model, the Signature goes up against a long list of competitors in this hot crossover market. But if considering the overall features in relation to its price, CX-9 offers more bang for your buck. And it’s a crossover that can ease the pain of a long trip with the kids to Disney in Orlando or a hunting/fishing trip to Canada.