SEATTLE, September 8, 2017 — It’s been great to watch Mazda’s CX-9 evolve over the years as it’s been a crossover SUV that this reviewer has always enjoyed. This 2017 model is, without question, Mazda’s finest iteration yet as it packs a lot of quality and features into a very competitive price point.
One change that Mazda has implemented is the lack of a V6 option – the only engine available is its 2.5-liter, turbo-charged, SkyActiv 4-cylinder motor. It packs 250 horsepower at 5000rpm and 310 lb-ft of torque at only 2000rpm. Mazda claims that its “dynamic pressure turbo” virtually eliminates turbo-lag.
The only transmission option is a very responsive six-speed automatic transmission that’s as smooth as glass between the shits when in “normal” (non-sport) mode. This combination in the all-wheel-drive model we tested will get you 20mpg around town and up to 26mpg on the highway – not too shabby for a vehicle that tips the scales at 4327lbs.
Mazda’s decision to move away from a V6 engine is clearly steeped in its desire to present better fuel economy and the 2.5-liter does a decent job of propelling the CX-9, however, it’s relatively low torque means you’ll be somewhat limited in the weight you can pull with it – should you opt for a boat or trailer. Mazda rates for up to 3500lbs.
The premium audio option is still a Bose solution and one we’d love to see improved on, down the road. Sure, it sounds good but not nearly as great as what we’ve seen from KIA/Hyundai’s use of Harman/Kardon/Infinity. What we like is the well-positioned screen in the middle of the dash and its easy-to-use control knob mounted on the center column that’s augmented with a few key buttons.
The screen is bright, easy to read and is one of the better options we’ve seen in any vehicle from Mazda’s competitors.
There’s little doubt about it – Mazda clearly has the best-looking interiors by any Asian automaker. The degree of fit and finished used – along with the very ‘high-end” looking design cues make one feel as if they’re in an ultra-premium automobile. Whoever works at Mazda, doing the interior design needs a massive raise, STAT!
Both front and second row seats are ultra-comfortable, providing a good combination of softness and firmness – in the right areas – for extended comfort on longer rides. We took our test model on a 600-mile round-trip and can attest to its ability to get you to your destination, feeling good and not “worn out from the drive”.
Driving aids include, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure assist technology which helps keep the vehicle in the lane by using an active monitoring system that sends optical data to a computer that, in-turn, will position the steering in such a way to keep the car centered. Note, this technology isn’t perfected yet, so it won’t work on roads that don’t have proper lane markings.
On the road, the CX-9 handles itself remarkably well – it’s nimble for such a larger vehicle with notable handling that gives the driver assurance around corners and enough straight-line “get-up-and-go” to make it feel as if the engine is more powerful than it really is. Mazda’s continuous all-wheel-drive system does a superb job of actively monitoring wheel sleep and adjusting power accordingly to the other wheels. While we didn’t have the opportunity to test it in snow, we did on gravel and loose dirt – at no time, did the CX-9 deliver less then extraordinary grip and handling when you’re not on pavement.
As a passenger vehicle, the CX-9 absolutely rocks – in fact, one of the finest you can find for the money. Is it perfect? No. It does have a couple of minor things we take issue with. First is, the amount of chromed edged inside the main cabin area which horribly reflect incoming sunlight right into your eyes. Secondly, we’d like to see a more powerful engine option available – whether or not that’s a V6 is a moot point – we want well over 300 horsepower and closer to 400lb-ft of torque so it has more flexibility to tow things.
Our Grand Touring test model has a price-tag of just over $42,000 with the all-wheel-drive. When you contrast everything it brings to the table for that, you’re likely to see the incredible value it offers. Excellent to drive, ample interior space and great technology make the 2017 CX-9’s Mazda’s best version of this vehicle, ever.