SAN FRANCISCO, October 22, 2016 – The Mazda CX-9 has been one of my favorite crossover SUVs for the past few years and this 2017 model looks to continue that praise. Mazda’s current design language certainly makes the CX-9 one of the subjectively better-looking SUVs on the road today and the improvements don’t stop there. Let’s check out what’s going on under the surface.
There’s no more V6 option, however the standard turbo, 2.5-liter, “SkyActive”, 4-cylinder powers the vehicle just fine by our standards under normal conditions. While it’s only rated at 250 horsepower, it has 310 lb-ft of torque that kicks in at only 2000 rpm. The issue is the amount of weight that this engine is tasked of propelling which is just over 4300 pounds on the all-wheel-drive model and 4,054 pounds for the front-wheel-drive model. No matter how you slice it, there isn’t a great deal of headroom of having ample power while hauling at capacity loads, in this case, 3,500 pounds for towing.
Mazda has pulled out most all of the stops when it comes to making an inviting, sporty, interior that frankly is near the best we’ve seen in this class and price-range of vehicles. The auburn-colored Nappa leather and aluminum accents do a lot to make the CX-9 “feel” a great deal more expensive than it is.
We first saw Mazda’s current infotainment setup a couple of model years ago and it’s still serving Mazda well. Like past years, Mazda again partners with Bose audio for the higher-end audio system that does a good job of giving occupants decent sound quality thought out the cabin space. It’s still not has good as others out there, however, it’s a huge setup-over over the stock system in the CX-9.
While the navigation system looks decent, and has both a 2D and 3D mode, it’s a far cry from Google Earth, however it’s easy to use, thanks to the center-console control knob that lets you easily navigate the screen.
Front seat comfort is superb, providing a balance of comfort and support — even for those long distance trips. Second row passengers also have ample leg room as well, even for adults. However, the third row gets much more limited in regards to its comfort levels – you’ll want to consider this the “child row”, if you know what I mean.
Ride quality matches seat comfort with a good amount of bump dampening but not so stiff that it feels like a sports car. It feels more nimble than perhaps it really is. The steering has minimal under steer and gives the driver a good sense of tactical feel. Mazda prides itself on building cars that have “spirited” driving experiences and the CX-9 – as much as it can be – offers that. At least as far as Japanese-built cars go. It’s still not up to par with the way a German-produced vehicle “feel” on the road but that’s okay.
There’s not much to really dislike about this vehicle, except for maybe that it could use another 50 horsepower or so, especially under load. It offers great aesthetics, good handling and a decently capable all-wheel-drive system that should be more than adequate for trips in inclement weather around town or over a snowy mountain pass.
If you’re looking into the crossover SUV segment and want one with a third row, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value than the 2016 CX-9.