By on October 13, 2010

My youngest child, of three, turns eight next month. A few years ago, when it became clear that regularly working until 3 AM and then dealing with the children in the morning was not good for anyone’s sanity, we added an au pair. So there are six people in the house. Anyone with sense would have gotten a three-row something-or-other at least eight years ago. And probably when the first child was still in utero. Fool that I am, a decade on I’m still waiting for one to sweep me off my feet. I tend to have a thing for Mazdas. Mazda makes the three-row CX-9. So, why not the CX-9? In test drives back in 2007 and 2008, we didn’t quite hit it off. Perhaps we just needed more time together? Ever hopeful, I spent a week with the 2010.

Let’s face it: in automotive love, looks matter. Mazda had the right idea with the CX-9, giving it the lithe curves of a sporty car rather than the chunkiness of an SUV. But the execution doesn’t quite work, for two reasons. Wide black plastic wheel arch moldings, a stray SUV trope, make already overly large wheel openings (leaving room for something larger than the Grand Touring’s dubs?) appear even larger. Though this automotive equivalent of too much eyeliner likely provides much-needed rust protection, trimmer moldings would have achieved the same.

Second, taking a car-like front end with horizontally-oriented graphics and simply raising it a few inches visually accentuates the front overhang while giving the designers more lower fascia than they can handle. With the 2007-2009 CX-9 the designers essentially ignored the problem, leaving the vehicle with a weak chin. For the 2010 they butched it up, super-sizing and enchroming the smiley lower grille and foglamp surrounds. Then someone decided that the new lower grille was way too large, so they added a chrome strip (braces?) in a failed attempt to visually divide it. An improvement over the 2007-2009, but not enough of one.

Not that everyone agrees with my evaluation. The CX-9 certainly has its admirers. My family found it attractive, especially when clothed in “copper red mica.” Also, the CX-9’s curves and proportions successfully disguise its size (200 x 76 x 68 inches) and mass (4,550 lbs.). My wife has rejected SUVs as small as the Hyundai Tucson as “too big.” The CX-9 provoked no such objection. The styling might not be perfect, but it does successfully sell the CX-9 as the three-row vehicle for people who don’t really want one, but need one.

Inside the designers have been more successful, with a distinctively mod interior that’s both sharper and sportier than you’ll find in competitors. The downward sweeping “I can’t believe it’s not wood” trim that frames the center stack in the Grand Touring is mirrored in the door panels. Both this and the similarly mirrored horizontal bands of silver plastic trim (starting to look dated) work best in the black interior. The light gray interior in the tested car isn’t as striking, and would be harder to keep clean, but feels airier. In either interior the precisely tailored armrests lend a comfortable touch of class. The Mazda3-class switchgear: not so much. And what’s up with the manual height adjustment for the xenons? The previous tester (or perhaps the one before him?) left them in their lowest position, where in an unladen vehicle they essentially serve as really strong fog lights.

Between a steeply raked but not overly distant windshield and an unusually tall center console, the CX-9’s driving position is easily the most car-like among three-row people haulers. The downside: the CX-9’s cabin feels narrower and considerably less roomy than that of a Lambda, Flex, or large minivan. Both the second and third rows are mounted low to the floor and provide less legroom than you’ll find in the aforementioned competitors (if more than in the all-but-dead Hyundai Veracruz and Subaru Tribeca). Ditto the cargo area with the third row up; it wouldn’t have been enough for our road trip last summer.

Only putting kids in the back? Then no problem…except the only rear air vents are on the aft face of the center console. There are none in the rear walls or ceiling. Almost as bad: the controls for the rear HVAC are similarly located—only on/off can be performed from the driver’s seat. After tipping-and-sliding the second row to provide access to the third row, sometimes it returned to its previous position, other times it acquired amnesia. Back up front, various bits of the IP reflect in the windshield. Mazda offered the MPV for years before developing the CX-9, so why the rookie mistakes? One thing done right: large mirrors and an optional blind-spot warning system make for worry-free lane changes.

Rear seating is sometimes a place for love, but rarely an object of love. What I’ve been waiting for all these years, physics bedamned: a three-row vehicle that’s fun to drive. Ford didn’t lend its EcoBoost to the cause, yet the 273-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 (shared with the Lincoln MKS and MKT) would be gutsy enough if the Aisin six-speed automatic transmission were not so keen to lug it and so slow to respond to requests for more revs. Fuel economy is not a strength: 16.6 MPG in mildly aggressive driving, and 8.7 in full hoon mode. The much more powerful and heavier Ford Flex EcoBoost did a bit better. The 3.7 does at least sound better here than in Lincoln applications.

And the handling? The CX-9’s moderately firm but indecisive steering requires frequent small corrections. Feedback is minimal; the head learns that there’s plenty of grip in sweeping curves, never mind the body roll, but the fingertips and seat of the pants haven’t a clue. Typical of the class, tight curves are a recipe for understeer. It’s easier to form a close connection with a Lambda—and GM isn’t normally the master of such things.

A strength that’s part of the problem: the CX-9 often feels like it’s moving much more slowly than it actually is. The body roll seems excessive partly because the minimal sensation of speed encourages taking curves more aggressively than one would in a minivan. Not that the ride is always smooth and quiet. The Grand Touring’s 245/50R20 treads aren’t a good match for the not-quite-sporty suspension tuning, and can get thumpy, especially over expansion joints.

If I’ve been overly critical of the CX-9, it’s because I so much want to love it, and instead merely like it, and not nearly all of it. The styling and driving position lay the groundwork for a driving experience that’s more sport sedan than minivan. And, objectively, the CX-9 performs and handles better than anything else in its class. But the subjective experience, while laudably car-like, is otherwise lacking. The Mazda CX-9 drives better than most, perhaps even all, competitors, but not by a large enough margin to inspire devotion and earn forgiveness for its shortcomings.

Mazda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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57 Comments on “Review: 2010 Mazda CX-9...”

  • avatar

    What is it with those C- and D-pillars? Call me old fashioned, but on a vehicle that is channeling the station wagons of yesteryear and the SUVs of today, why aren’t they close to vertical? And how about making the bottom and top of the greenhouse parallel to the ground? This thing probably has less interior room than a Volvo 240 wagon which is ten inches shorter. The turning radius is 5 feet wider than the Volvos.  And the visibiilty, please……
    Anyway, nice review.  I’m not in the market for something like this, and I have never been impressed by the pseudo-SUV category, but good to know this stuff is out there for those who want a 16MPG soccer hauler.

  • avatar

    If you really need a three row vehicle then your best bet is a minivan.  If you just absolutely don’t want a minivan or larger SUV, then I would recommend a Nissan Pathfinder.  You can get a great deal on them used, they have a lot of power, handling is great considering it’s size as is braking.  And they have optional rear A/C vents for all back seats with controls in the Front and Back.  With the three rows the cargo area is limited, but I get roughly 18mpg around Houston, and on long trips I have been as high as 24mpg with a tail wind.  That completely destroys what you were getting in this thing.   

  • avatar

    I looked at one of these, in fact the entire series at a local Mazda dealer and come away with the same concerns: Visibility and lack of roominess. There are entirely too many swoopy curves, bulges and unnecessary protuberances in these and other vehicles of its ilk. Minivans are suffering the same malediction. They are robbing themselves of the very utility they should provide. Designers are working overtime to go to great lengths to distinguish their products, but at the same time, make them less appealing and less useful.

  • avatar

    The maw on the front of these Mazdas looks like it came from Boeing’s  doomed Joint Strike Fighter entry.
    Otherwise, the car is very attractive. I love that interior  though. Looks better to me than any of the Ford interiors.   Almost Lexus-like.

    • 0 avatar

      Good analogy to the Boeing JSF look.  That product didn’t stand a chance just because of its front end.

    • 0 avatar

      The JSF was painfully unattractive:

      I think the lower grille on the Mazda might be larger.

    • 0 avatar


      I find it funny the Boeing entry failed because from what I’ve seen, the Boeing seemed to be the better VTOL aircraft. The F-35’s VTOL is a failure both economically and practically.  That plane can’t take off with a weapons load and I’m not sold on the Lift Fan because it has too many moving parts.   The Boeing however seemed to have better take off and landing performance.

      I think the powers that be were for whatever reason biased towards Lockheed Martin. The government said that the X32’s engine could overheat due to recirculated air on Vertical takeoffs. Thing is, the F-35 can’t do VTOL efficiently either.

      Afterall, the F22 is a FAILURE.  Runaway production costs on a plane we can’t use IN THE RAIN.
      As early as 4 years ago, the Pentagon was trying to figure out how to give it a ground attack role since THERE IS NO ONE TO FIGHT WITH IT.

    • 0 avatar

      “I find it funny the Boeing entry failed because from what I’ve seen, the Boeing seemed to be the better VTOL aircraft.”
      Boeing’s loss here is uncannily similar to another major Boeing loss 50 years ago – the TFX program that ultimately became the F-111.
      McNamara decided one program could cover both a Navy interceptor and a USAF medium range bomber.  Boeing realized this was asking for two very different airplanes, submitted same, and lost on commonality.  The winning submission by General Dynamics (which is now Lockheed) was so unsuited to either role that the Navy dropped out entirely, the Air Force got a marginal plane which was so late and problematic it never went to mass production, and as always the taxpayer got taken for a ride.

      And commonality is why Boeing lost this contract.
      “As early as 4 years ago, the Pentagon was trying to figure out how to give it a ground attack role since THERE IS NO ONE TO FIGHT WITH IT.”
      And our bajillion dollar OMFGWTF superweapons are in large part why that is.

    • 0 avatar

      The Netherlands just bought a pair of F-35s, although the vast majority of the people were against it.
      Well I guess they might come in handy if Germany ever decides to give it another go sometime…or who knows, maybe Belgium is secretly working on some plans to take us down :). Since WWII there has been 1 Dutch F16 that took down another aircraft, a dodgy Mig-29, over Kosovo.
      In other words; completely useless gubment spending…But I’m sure it was well worth the occasional 2 minutes or prime minister gets to speak with Barack.

  • avatar

    I haven’t driven a Mazda5, but would it be fun to drive with a turbo and a stick?
    I’ll bet a lowered and supercharged 1st gen Highlander could be made fun.

    • 0 avatar

      A MazdaSpeed5 would be a lot of fun.
      My problem with the Mazda5 is they don’t offer a second-row bench. Can’t put both my family and their luggage in one.

    • 0 avatar

      My problem with the Mazda5 is they don’t offer a second-row bench. Can’t put both my family and their luggage in one.

      Even with a second-row bench (they have one in Europe) you’d still be hosed: it’s a very, very narrow vehicle.  You’d do better with a roof or tailgate box.

      I think C&D frankensteined a MS3’s powertrain into the 5 a fwe years back, so there is precedent.

    • 0 avatar

      So, you have a car that doesn’t handle as well as the Mazda5 and gets worse gas mileage, but has a 2nd-row bench, a bigger engine, and costs substantially more.  Sorry, I pass.
      I agree that the 5 is too narrow.  The 5 is visibly narrow than my 2003 BMW 3-series sitting next to it in the garage.

  • avatar

    We get 18.5 in mixed driving out of our new CX-9, with the air conditioners on full whack, which I think is fair.  My wife absolutely refuses to drive a minivan, the genre having been tainted in her mind by our locale’s preponderance of Odysseys with little stick-figure illustrations of the family on the back window, driven by pony-tailed mommies in velour track suits and oversized sunglasses.
    One grouse, the angle of the gas pedal is very steep, so it’s hard to drive for extended periods without giving yourself shinsplints.

  • avatar

    I’ve been reading (and enjoying) your reviews for a number of years now, first at and then here.  I’ve followed your quest for the perfect 3 row vehicle.  I think you’d have better luck looking for a heffalump or woozle.  My suggestion: get a used SOMETHING.  If you don’t pay top dollar, it doesn’t have to be perfect.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve thought about a used Freestyle or Taurus X. Prefer the styling of the former, but the powertrain and improved refinement of the latter.
      The reliability of these, and of the CX-9, has consistently been about average, with the CX-9 possible improving to better than average from 2009 on (need more data to be sure).
      To assist with the Car Reliability Survey, with just about any car:

      • 0 avatar

        Just chiming in to point out that the Freestyle and Taurus X are derived from the Volvo platform.
        Despite this fact, these boards appear to be hostile to Volvo.
        I would also point out that the new Ford Explorer has the same ancestor, and Ford even likes to claim safety features (like the new inflatable seatbelts) which they acquired from Volvo.

      • 0 avatar

        And while I’m on the topic of the new Ford Explorer, I will also point out to the Volvo naysayers that Volvo engineers fought to keep the roof strength materials in the XC90, while Ford (predictably) eliminated them. This is one of many reasons why I still support Volvo. Safety can be a priority for many makes, but it is a top-priority (and not a me-too feature) for Volvo.

  • avatar

    While I like its looks, it’s too expensive and too small.  I’ll stick with a red minivan without all the $$ bling.

  • avatar

    I’m not a Chrysler guy, but I did spot an early 2000’s Jeep Cherokee at a dealer recently.   Those things had so much more usable space than these new “CUVs”.  

    The interior on these CX’s are far too lumpy and the extra plastic takes up too much usable space.  Why?  Is it sound dampening materials under there that requires so much space be taken up by interior cladding?

  • avatar

    Like you, Michael, I really want to love one of these.  In the end, though, it lacks utility.  I have lived with 3 kids for a long time (I now have one in college and my youngest is 15) and there is simply no substitute for a van, either mini or otherwise. 

    2 kids and need the 3rd row occasionally?  Enjoy.  But 3 kids (which requires use of the 3rd row on every trip) and it just takes too doggoned long for everyone to line up and screw around with the folding seats.  And you lack cargo room in the back with the third seat in use.  This was always my problem with a Suburban as well.  Nobody likes to change diapers, attend teacher conferences or drive minivans.  But these things just have to be done.

    Edit: And will somebody PLEASE tell Mazda that I don’t want a car with a creepy clown smile.

    • 0 avatar

      Which would be worse: A creepy clown smile or a creepy mime smile? I’d prefer neither, but that’s me!

      As I stated up above somewhere, too many lumps and bumps. I would like to see the return of the original, simple Chrysler minivan style – just make it nicer but maintain the usable interior volume and outward visibility. The Mazda impresses me with the exterior styling except for the grin, but the interior kills it.

  • avatar

    I’ve had Mopar mini-vans, Acura MDX’s and shopped the CX-9 and for my money nothing can top a 2008 Honda Pilot EX-L. Comfortable seating, visibility, unbelievable cargo and towing capacity, yet with acceleration and handling of a much smaller vehicle. And to top it off: bullet-proof. Plenty of cpo’s priced to go.

    The new Pilot is bigger, costlier and not as practical a hauler as its predecessor. Oh – anf too expensive.

  • avatar

    And, objectively, the CX-9 performs and handles better than anything else in its class. But the subjective experience, while laudably car-like, is otherwise lacking

    I’ve found that, to a fault, every single crossover suffers for being over-wheeled.  The Sienna and Oddy aren’t sportscars, but they feel much lighter on their feet because they wear 16″ or 17″ rims, rather than massive 20″ rims and accordingly huge tires.

    People make a big deal of weight and safety, but I’d really like to see what’s happened to unsprung mass in modern cars.

    • 0 avatar

      The 20s on this CX-9 couldn’t have weighed more than a few pounds, could they? The 18s on lesser trims don’t look as good, but are otherwise a much better fit.

    • 0 avatar

      If I recall, going from 16″ to 20″ doubles the mass at each wheel (~35/wheel to ~70/wheel or more), and is the equivalent, in terms of handling, braking and such, of several hundred to nearly a thousand pounds of sprung mass.
      You can get lightweight 20s, but they’re very fragile.  You can also get lightweight and very strong 20s, but they’re hideously expensive.  I’ll bet the OEMs are using superleggera rims in their crossovers, too.
      Big wheels are like thick pillars: a triumph of design over function.

    • 0 avatar

      The Odyssey has about 38 cubic feet behind the third row seat that should be more usable than the 20’ish cubic feet on a SUV with all the seats up.
      As a driver’s car,  there aren’t to many in this class.  Maybe Porsche should get in the game.

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t forget about tire weight, too (oh, and tire pricing!)
      I’ve gotta say I almost didn’t read past the words “Au Pair” in the review, since MK lost me there almost as readily as someone complaining about their investment banking bonus being too small this year :D
      But I think that’s just slang for “Foreign nanny who works for cheap and lives at my house”

    • 0 avatar

      That’s pretty much it.

    • 0 avatar

      You make an excellent point about over-wheeled cars, unsprung mass bloat, and [I’ll assume] cost.
      These vehicles look great in pictures and in person, until you’re spending over $1000 to re-tire them, not to mention the care and feeding an aluminum rim requires in the Salt Belt.

    • 0 avatar

      Per Bridgestone the Mazda’s OEM 245/50R20 tires are 33 lbs per corner.  The 245/60R18s on the smaller wheel option are 35 lbs.  2 more inches of aluminum wheel make that difference back and 5 or so more.

      That isn’t double.  It isn’t even 10%.  With the weight of brakes and suspension components it isn’t even 5%. It isn’t a thousand pounds of unsprung mass.  It isn’t hundreds. It might be 100, but more likely isn’t.

      If you put 5 pounds of wheelweights on the smaller wheel and kept the same sidewall you wouldn’t even be able to feel the difference on this kind of vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      “If I recall, going from 16″ to 20″ doubles the mass at each wheel (~35/wheel to ~70/wheel or more), and is the equivalent, in terms of handling, braking and such, of several hundred to nearly a thousand pounds of sprung mass.”

      Your recollections are off on this one!  The total inertia of a rolling mass is equivalent to 1.5 times its mass for a solid disc, or 2 times its mass for a thin ring.  Going from 245/70R16 to 245/50R20 would probably drop a pound or two from the tire weight and increase the wheel weight by about 8 pounds (I checked out some wheels for a Dodge Dakota on TR that are available in everything from 16 to 20 inches for the same model and width).  7 pounds per corner is a reasonable estimate of the weight increase.  So the equivalent additional mass is about 50 pounds total.  This is pretty much insignificant in terms of acceleration and braking.  The extra 28 pounds in unsprung weight will certainly be detrimental to ride quality and tire-road contact over small bumps, but there’s really no way to quantify that. The extra 14 pounds per axle is pretty minor compared to the unsprung weight that a live axle adds, for example. Steering feel shouldn’t be affected if the tire width and offset are the same, except that the 20″ wheels would feel more responsive due to less sidewall flex. The 20″ wheels would handle better, also due to reduced sidewall flex. Obviously the ride will be a bit harsher with less sidewall, but it may also be a bit less bouncy.

    • 0 avatar

      From my own experience, increased unsprung weight is a big deal.  It slows acceleration (flywheel inertia), slows braking (flywheel inertia), and negatively impacts ride and handling (unsprung mass).  I used to have an Infiniti G20.  I put Pirrelli p190 snow tires on the stock wheels (195/60×14 on 14×6)  and bought a set of BBS Moda wheels with Dunlop SP8000 (205/50×15 on 15×7).  Out of curiosity, I weighed them one time.  From my foggy memory the smaller set weighed in the low 20s, and the larger wheels and tires weighed around 30lbs.
      Even more important is that I could definitely feel it while driving.  The car felt sloggy when I changed over to the summer tires in the spring, and spritely when I changed to the winter tires around Thanksgiving.  Sure, the narrower winter tires had less grip on a smooth surface, but the car nonetheless felt less sporty with the bigger and heavier tire/wheel combo.
      Granted, my example was proportionately a much larger change then the above examples for the CX-9.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect that the increased offset (outset) and width of the aftermarket wheels had a much bigger effect on the feel of the car than the increased mass which, apart from the slight inertial increase affecting acceleration and braking feel, should only be noticed as increased vibrations or loss of road contact when cornering over sharp bumps.  Moving the wheel center line out further from the ball joint center does terrible things.  It makes the steering slower and causes imbalanced road forces to be transmitted through to the steering wheel, so it requires more effort to control while the more subtle feedback that you actually want is harder to feel.  It also brings the weight further out from the suspension pivot, which reduces the effective damping because there is an increase in wheel travel relative to shock travel.

    • 0 avatar

      The wheels were from The Tire Rack, so they were the correct offset.  The only additional offset would have been from going +1 in size.
      My hunch (and I could be wrong) is that the offset wouldn’t explain the feeling of greater inertia under acceleration  (especially when slipping the clutch) and braking.  Also, where lived at the time (Champaign IL for part of the car’s life), other than the highway on-ramp, didn’t have any curves to speak of.   It did have really crappy roads, which is where (in a straight line) it felt as if the suspension couldn’t control the heavy tire/wheels compared to the lighter set.

    • 0 avatar

      Tirerack sells many different wheels with a wide variety of offsets for every vehicle.  Few, if any, retain the factory offset and they almost always increase outset.
      I don’t doubt your observations, or that the increased unsprung mass had noticeable negative effects.  I’m just adding another variable in the mix that can potentially contribute a lot to the change in steering and suspension feel.

  • avatar

    I presume you don’t get the Flex because your wife would surely consider this thing large looking, right?
    Even though, like yourself, I tend to like Mazda, the 9 seemed underpowered.
    But then again, I like fast.
    The ecoboost is the closest things have come to an Enterprise with warp speed!
    I would get the Flex, but my wife…infact my entire family…hates the box look.
    I think it looks retro. Sort of and old 1950’s brought up to date.

    Everybody seems to give the Buick great marks.
    Have you thought of buying this?

    • 0 avatar

      My wife HATES the look of the Flex, and it seems huge to her. I rented one for two weeks, then had the EcoBoost for a week. She refused to even drive both of them.
      I’m not crazy about the seating and the cargo space in the Lambdas. I wish the seats were higher and more comfortable and the cargo floor behind the third row was lower, like in the Flex.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    Michael, all due respect to you, but I think you are being incredibly harsh on this car.  My wife and I chose this car (in Grand Touring form) over about a dozen direct competitors.  I defy you to find a 3 row SUV that has as much size/room, drives as well and performs as well for the same money.  The Lambdas are nice but don’t match up in the ride/handling department, and every new one I tested had some interior bit rattling ot falling off.  The Enclave is about the only one that could best the CX9 (and was the runner up for us), but with a loaded CX9 at $41k and an Enclave equipped more-or-less similarly pushing the high $40’s, the cost premium just wasn’t worth it.  The BMW X5 drove better but had less room and a joke of a 3rd row.  The XC90 is totally outclassed by the CX9 in 3.2l I6 form, and loses big on value-for-money in V8 form.  The MDX is probably the closest match, in my view, with good handling and a stout engine, but is let down by awkward seating options (like only being able to fold the rear seat from one side of the car).  The Benz ML and GL score poorly on value for money and simply scare the bejeezus out of me from a reliability standpoint.  The Highlander is too small, the Pilot too truck-like and cheap feeling.
    The Flex was something I had interest in but this was pre-Ecoboost availability and Ford was not discounting the Flex.  With Ecoboost the Flex still commands a premium that may be close enough to justify the extra cost, but then you also lose a little ground clearance (important for those of us in states like Colorado who see heavy snow or who venture into less than ideal dirt roads).
    In short, while I understand personal preference often factors in, the CX9 is, at worst, a top 3 contender in its market.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I admit to being overly critical of the CX-9 in the review, and to comparing it to the car I want, which doesn’t exist. But should.

    • 0 avatar

      Larry it seems that we have had similar buying experiences.  I have tested at least as many competitors as you have and came the same conclusions. Also with me the MDX and Flex were next up on my list. The Enclave transmission didnt seem to want to shift.  The Highlander too small and Pilot to truck like. Mike you stated that this performed and handled better than anything in its class and i couldnt agree more. I have averaged about 19mpg overall and I drive pretty hard most of the time.

    • 0 avatar

      Michael. i understand your criticism, i love the CX9, and cant help but acknowledge that the Traverse is a worthy competitor. but forgetting the price, the Q7 should be the car for you no? as it takes everything a 7 seater Crossover to the next level on every level… or would you have to send the Au Pair home to afford it?

  • avatar

    Don’t dis on the headlight aimer.  This is pretty common on cars in Europe, in order to adjust for the very sharp e code lights.
    OK, BMW and others have a bulletproof leveler for xenons, but that takes two servos and wiring, not just one inexpensive control in the dash.
    It is like the “rear fog light”-tends to confuse Americans.

    • 0 avatar

      The lights do have a very sharp cutoff at the top. If it saves a couple hundred, then I suppose it makes sense. I didn’t make it 100 yards before realizing the problem, and how to fix it. I do wonder how many people before me drove the car that way without realizing it.

  • avatar

    The great looking, sporty handling, comfortably roomy, 3 row family hauler is like the the legendary El Dorado or Great White Whale of yore, leading otherwise rational people to cast the good ship Sanity on to the jagged reef of Despair.  Buy a pair of his and her Miatas for you and the wife,  and get a gently used minivan for the au pair to haul around your offspring with their Cheetos, gummy bears, and other carpet-enhancing accessories.  The first time one of them pukes all over the back seat that you’re not making $600-bucks-a-months payments on, you’ll thank me.

  • avatar

    Sure would like to see a TTAC comparison between the last Mazda MPV sold in the states and the current CX-9. Although it’s not really stated, it’s alluded that the CX-9 seems to be the main replacement for the MPV (although an argument can also be made for the smaller Mazda5). From what I can gather, the MPV minivan was a whole lot more useful and practical than either (but a lot less ‘sporty’).

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    and to comparing it to the car I want, which doesn’t exist. But should.

    LMAO.  The Hyundai isn’t in the running?  MDX?  Personally I loved the upgraded powertrain of the Taurus X, and felt the front end improved too.  There’s very few of them out there though.

    And about those 20″ wheels on a lot of ridesters….that may be why I am underimpressed with my wife’s Edge…it drives so heavy.  She’s going to stroke out when the tire bill comes in….
    Unfortunately everything comes in packages…so to get the roof and nav, the wheels came too.

  • avatar

    Real world experiences with this car seem to vary wrt mileage.
    I know one person who has one of these, and they recently took it to Montreal from Toronto.  On the highway it was alright, but they found the mileage they got driving and site seeing was atrocious.  They didn’t calculate their mileage, but they did say ‘I was constantly stopping at gas stations’.  Not a good sign.

  • avatar


    As the very satisfied owner of a 2007 CX-9 Grand Touring, I would like to both offer responses to a few of your statements as well as the perspective of long term ownership.

    We bought our CX-9 about 18 months ago from the used car chain CarSense. It had about 24,000 miles on it and I feel we paid a fair price. To date the only issue we’ve had with was a blower control module that developed a mind of its own and needed to be replaced (a common ailment with these cars from what the message boards state).

    In the time that we’ve owned this car we have found it to be reliable, comfortable, fun to drive and completely capable of meeting the needs of our small family. The major complaints are: gas mileage (we have averaged 15.97 over the last 12 months high 28.28, low 9.41) and the accessibility of the latch for the middle seat seat-belt in the second row. When one has a booster seat in that space, the receiver for the seat belt is under the base of the booster seat and is very hard to hold in place while latching everything up. The nav system could be more intuitive and automatic climate control never seems to be totally off as it does in a manual system.

    While the CX-9 is no autocrosser I find the handling to be more than acceptable, especially when compared to the Hondas, Toyotas, Fords, Nissan and GM products I’ve driven in the last few years. I’ve activated the handling nannies more than once and always felt the chassis had more to give.

    Last summer we took our CX-9 on a 5,000 mile 30 state road trip. The seats were supremely comfortable even after 18 hour driving stints and by using a roof-box we had plenty of room for our luggage and equipment. The 3.5L V6 had plenty of punch for the interstate and conquered 11,000 foot mountain passes without breaking a sweat. We drove on some pretty hairy roads and always felt completely in control – the CX-9 inspires confidence, handles better than a vehicle its size should, dealt with dirt roads on BLM land just fine and always looked good doing it.
    To address some of your points directly:

    – You state that you have six people in your household that you need to carry around. Michael, you need a van if you are going to take 6 people and their luggage; embrace that fact and get a full-size Ford or Chevy.

    – I agree that there is too much front overhang. Everything past the front wheels is a bit of a letdown especially considering how strong the rest of the design is. Also, get the roof-rack rails put it. It finishes the look of the car and adds some needed visual weight to the top.

    – “And what’s up with the manual height adjustment for the xenons?”: I agree – this seems silly and cheap when most other manufacturers use auto-leveling systems.

    – “Both the second and third rows are mounted low to the floor and provide less legroom than you’ll find in the aforementioned competitors.”: This may be true from an empirical standpoint, but in practical terms, the legroom has never been an issue. I’ve carried a mix of adults in the second and third rows and no one has complained about legroom. The biggest issue with the rear seats is access to the third row when you have car seats in the second. They have to either come out or be pushed to the side to facilitate the movement needed to get the second row open.

    – “Ditto the cargo area with the third row up; it wouldn’t have been enough for our road trip last summer.”: Again, I don’t think you are going to find anything large enough other than a full-size van to carry 6 people and luggage on a trip. This is why the roof box is useful. It is only there when you need it and you don’t have to lug too much extra car around with you when you don’t need the space.

    – “…except the only rear air vents are on the aft face of the center console.”: I agree that it seems Mazda could have included additional vents, but in our experience this has not been an issue, even with adults in the 3rd row on beach vacations.

    – “…only (HV/AC) on/off can be performed from the driver’s seat.”: This is not strictly true. Rear seat passengers can turn the fan dial in the back to off.

    – “…Aisin six-speed automatic transmission were not so keen to lug it and so slow to respond to requests for more revs. “ This has not been our experience – kick-down happens when you want it, sometimes too eagerly. Could this be a difference between the 3.5L and 3.7L engines?

    – “Fuel economy is not strength”: I completely agree with you here.

    – “The CX-9’s moderately firm but indecisive steering requires frequent small corrections.” Off-center feel could be better. I find it to be very sensitive to the crown of the road (which can be very annoying on long stretches of interstate), but the CX-9 is nothing like steering a Toyota Highlander where you are constantly making little corrections to maintain a straight line.

    – “(steering) Feedback is minimal” What tires were on your tester? Ours came with Goodyear Eagle RS-A’s, which may have been non-OEM replacements.

    – “The Grand Touring’s 245/50R20 treads aren’t a good match for the not-quite-sporty suspension tuning, and can get thumpy, especially over expansion joints.” I Agree – higher profile tires would be more appropriate for this car and improve the ride. I don’t understand the trend towards 20” wheels in general actually.

    When stacked against other large three row vehicles, this one will continue to make you smile when you see it in the driveway long after others have become just a means of lugging people and things around. We are very happy to have it as a member of our family.

  • avatar

    Have to agree with several other comments – this review was just overly picky.  My wife did not want a minivan, and wanted AWD.  We own a 2008 CX-9, which we bought new, and have just passed 60,000 miles.  Most of these miles are from my wife either drivng carpool to and from school, drving to after school activities, or her commuting about 15 highway miles each way to and from her job.  The CX-9 has also taken us on several long vacations.

     We have not had to make one repair, in or out of warranty.  We replaced the first set of OEM tires at 54,000 miles – they were 18″ Bridgestones (not the 20’s as I did not want the 20’s due to cost and harsher ride), and replaced the brakes at the same time.  The CX-9 has far surpassed our expectations, and cost us thousands less than similar “import” vehicles with three rows of seats.  The 6 speed transmission is perhaps the best I’ve ever owned – shifts are almost imperceptible.  Accleration, braking and handling are far better than one would expect in a family vehicle this large, and probably equal to many sedans.  And the interior is extremely comfortable.  In daily use the third row is incredibly easy to access from either side of the vehicle, and folds down or flips up with only one hand.  With both 2nd and 3rd rows folded totally flat the storage area is very large – easily moved my daughter in and out of college with room to spare.  The interior materials show very little wear at this point, even with our 130 lb Great Dane routinely jumping in and out of the back.  Finally, while totally stopped my wife was rear ended by a sliding Mercedes during a snow storm last year – the 2002 S Class was totalled, but the rear of the CX-9 needed only $4500 in repair, which included a new exhaust system and replacing the factory trailer hitch. Thankfully, my wife did not even need an Advil . . . although she was upset her CX-9 was no longer perfect.

    In short, this is an EXCELLENT family hauler, selling for a very fair price.  When we bought ours we rarely saw another one on the road . . . now we see them every day.  Thats said, I am not a fan of the “Mazda Smile” grill, and am glad our 2008 is missing that front fascia.

    If you are in the market for a family vehicle, don’t pay too much attention to the negatives in this review (Sorry Michael).  This is not about buying a Porsche – its picking a vehicle that will move and protect your family and stuff reliably, for a fair price, effortlessly without causing any stress, with hopefully some degree of style and fun mixed in. That is the CX-9.  We do love the CX-9 and hope to keep it for many more years. If its big enough for your family, and you don’t care about the status associated with names like Acura, Infiniti, Mercedes, BMW or Audi, then I highly recommend it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jonah S.

      Adding to the list of current CX-9 owners, we purchased a new 2008 CX-9 GT closeout in early 2009.  I drove the competitors, Toyota (boring), Acura (way overpriced for such a downscaled/plasticy interior), and Honda Pilot (same comments as Acura with an odd shape).  We didn’t drive the Lambdas. 

      That said, we are a family of four (two small kids), and drive 99% of the time with the third row folded flat.  I wanted a third row for the cargo room, and the occasional extra person or two.  We live in Colorado at about 6500 feet, so the car’s power in muted some, but floor it and the car will still plant you in your seat with very good engine sounds.

      The CX-9 was, hands-down, the most fun to drive.  The Acura had power, too, but a poorly designed interior and, for me, an odd driver position.  Plus, we paid $20K less for the closeout Mazda.  Still, the CX-9 is the sportiest driver of the lot (as indicated in the above review; gotta love that small, meaty steering wheel).  The weakest interior link would be the faux silver door trim pieces in the Mazda.  Those should have been real aluminum. Otherwise, a smart, Euro-layout.

      However, the biggest weakest of this car would have to be those awful Bridgestone Dueler tires (in 20″).  They’re loud on the freeway, are jolting over bumps, and suck in snow (all season, I know, but tires should drift at 10 MPH while coasting straight).  We recently tossed those tires (right at the paltry 26K warranty) and purchased the most popular replacement for this vehicle, four Yokohama Prada Spec-Xs.  WOW!! What a difference!  The car handle so differently.  It tracks perfectly, feels more confident in turns, they’re quieter, and eliminate the harsh ride.  And, they simply look better.  I no longer wish I had 18″ wheels (I originally blamed the 20s for all the cars harsh riding faults).  I will be driving in snow soon, and I expect, given their great tread design, the Prada Spec-X tires to stick much better to the ground than those lousy 20″ Dueler ever could.

      Anyhow, as new CUV designs keep trending toward the ugly side, we will be driving our Circa 2008 Galaxy Grey / plush Black-interior (holds up to kids excellent btw), CX-9 for years to come.  Its a perfect fit.

  • avatar

    I must add my experiences as well.  I bought new in Oct 08.  A very nice price.  Thought about a Flex but since they were new at the time there were no discounts.  I drove the typical peers.  MDX, Pilot, the only Lambda I considered was the Buick, Highlander even a Murano.  The CX drove better than them all and had a comparable interior.  I have only one issue with the rear passenger door lock at 33k miles other than that the silver trim on door was replaced nothing else. I have replace my tires (20’s) however the OME was not available so I ended up with Bridestones, kind of a bouncy ride not as firm as the others.
    The steering is good and does have communication. The breaks  are good as well. Mileage is about 19 most of the time but  does suck when you stick it too it. The seats are too low in back but sitting in back of the Buick,Toyota or the Highlander the CX is as much space or more.  It only suffers in the third row and this is due to lack of height in the ceiling and low seat combined.
    I am hoping that in the next redesign they make it about 800lbs lighter and with a diesel hybrid combo.  I like  some of the others who owns one didnt see that many when I got it but now they are everywhere.  Neighbor from three  streets over just got one in Dolphin Grey. I was told they dont make the Black Cherry anymore so I hardly see that at all.
    The CX9 is hardly perfect and  there are several things I would like to see improve however overall its a better package overall than everything in its class.

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