By on May 23, 2016

2016 Mazda CX-9, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

When Mazda initially launched the CX-9, it aimed the crossover firmly at American buyers — 80 percent of CX-9 production came to the U.S., and exactly 0 percent stayed in Japan. It was an American under the sheetmetal, too, built on an older platform shared with Ford.

For 2016, Mazda completely redesigned its large, three-row crossover with an eye on improving dynamics, efficiency and giving the brand a near-luxury alternative. Yep, Mazda believes its new Signature trim — featuring such adornments as heads-up display, Nappa leather, and real wood trim — is an alternative to the Acura MDX.

Mazda hasn’t gone completely upscale, however. Most of the CX-9 lineup aims squarely at the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, and Chevrolet Traverse.

2016 Mazda CX-9, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Some corporate designs don’t work when scaled up and down the product line. (Look no further than Porsche.) Fortunately, Mazda’s so-called “Kodo” design doesn’t fall victim to the same limitations. Closer inspection of the CX-9 reveals its new nose isn’t just a 12/10ths rendition of the CX-3; the side profile highlights a more pronounced overbite and everything else is sharper and more dramatic.

Dominating the design is the CX-9’s long, flat hood. Parallels to the Volvo XC90 come to mind as both front ends were designed specifically for a four-cylinder turbo up front, and not a large V8 like we find in the Dodge Durango.

Trimming up its proportions, Mazda shortened the CX-9’s overall length by 1.5 inches and reduced its curb weight by nearly 200 pounds.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Interior, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Given Mazda’s track record, an exterior upgrade of the CX-9 was expected, but its interior transformation wasn’t on my radar. The CX-3, CX-5 and other Mazda models are far from low-rent, but neither are they best in class. The CX-9 is different and hopefully signals a new direction for the artist formerly known as Zoom-Zoom.

Its two-tier dashboard, found in Grand Touring and Signature trims (the only two we could test), is made of soft touch materials. You’ll find real wood and aluminum in the Signature trim. The dash-mounted infotainment screen grows to 8 inches for half the offered trims, and looks more at home in such a large crossover. Also more at home: an actual heads-up display that ditches the “jet inspired” flip-up plastic piece seen in other Mazdas. The new HUD is full color and enormous, easily rivaling BMW’s latest.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Rear Seats, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

The CX-9 falls on the large end of the spectrum with over 115 inches of combined legroom. That puts the Mazda ahead of the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave, but behind the externally smaller Honda Pilot. You can thank the CX-9’s long hood for its deceiving proportions. Still, the second row is one of the segment’s most generous.

Going back to the third row, the complaint isn’t legroom, but headroom. You’ll find one to two more inches of rear height in the Pathfinder or Pilot. This makes the CX-9 comfortable for a gaggle of children on long trips, but not so for adults who pull the short straw.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Front Seats, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Up front, most CX-9 trims come equipped with an eight-way power driver’s seat with two-way power lumbar support. Unfortunately, this is where adjustability for the driver seat stops. You won’t find four-way lumbar at any price, or extending thigh cushions like you do in luxury competitors — or even the Kia Sorento. The CX-9’s passenger seat is similarly limited, lacking even lumbar support and the range of motion featured in the driver seat.

The cargo area is where you see the biggest trade-off for the long hood. You can fit 14.4 cubic feet of widgets in the cargo hold with the third row in place, or 38.2 cubic feet with the third row folded. That’s more than offered by the Highlander, Sorento or MDX, but notably less than the Traverse and Enclave.

2016 Mazda CX-9 2.5-liter SkyActiv Turbo Engine, Image: Mazda

With the new CX-9, Mazda has become an all-four-cylinder company and finally cut its engine ties with Ford. The new 2.5-liter engine features direct injection, variable valve timing, and a turbocharger with selectable nozzles. In a nutshell, the exhaust flows to the turbine through three smaller diameter ports at low revs, while three larger ports are added at higher revs. The combination allows for 250 horsepower with premium gasoline or 227 ponies on regular, and a whopping 310 lbs-ft of twist.

Mazda loves high-compression engines. Although the engineers had to dial the compression back to 10.5:1 to turbocharge the 2.5-liter mill, high compression and high boost (17.4 psi) are an unusual combination in a mass market vehicle tuned to run safely on regular unleaded. Mazda manages this with a front-mounted intercooler and an expensive EGR cooler to produce a diesel-like torque and horsepower curve.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Driver's View, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Yep, the unusual thing about Mazda’s new SkyActiv engine is that all 310 lbs-ft of torque arrives at 2,000 rpm, and about 275 lbs-ft are available at just 1,500 rpm. That’s 1,000 rpm lower than the same 310 lbs-ft produced by the 2.3-liter Ecoboost engine in the new Explorer. Because of the way Mazda has tuned the engine, torque drops below 250 lbs-ft by 4,500 rpm and drops rapidly after 5,000 rpm. Meanwhile, Ford’s turbo keeps blowing 250 lbs-ft until around 5,750 rpm, and tapers off slowly beyond that.

Channeling the power to the ground is a standard six-speed automatic with available all-wheel drive. In order to improve fuel economy, the transmission’s torque converter spends the majority of its time in lockup, making the CX-9 feel more like a car with a dual-clutch transmission. Mazda’s EPA numbers are tops in this segment, excluding hybrids, at 22/28/25 miles per gallon (city/highway/combined) in front-wheel-drive trim and 21/27/23 mpg when equipped with all-wheel drive.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Front Wheel, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

The diesel-like torque curve is immediately noticeable on the road. Mazda’s multi-port turbo doesn’t eliminate lag, but it blunts it severely. From a stop, torque comes on hard and fast for aggressive launches. However, this is still a gasoline engine with a 6,300 rpm redline. The redline, combined with the torque fall off over 4,500 rpm, is the exact opposite of most small turbos, which have a lull at low revs followed by a meaty powerband. The net result is acceleration on par with the 2.3-liter turbo in the Explorer at 7.97 seconds 0-60 (TTAC tested), but the feel of that acceleration is quite different.

On the down side, Mazda’s decision to make the 250/227 horsepower engine the sole powerplant means the CX-9 can’t compete with certain V6 entries. The Honda Pilot, Acura MDX or Dodge Durango will all be significantly faster in freeway merge or passing situations.

Also different is the way the CX-9 handles. Toss the 4,300-pound crossover into a corner and the chassis is surprisingly well balanced considering its transverse engine architecture, though it doesn’t feel as nimble as the Dodge Durango V6. The light engine design helps keep the CX-9 from feeling heavy up front like a Pathfinder or Traverse, and the standard 255 width tires deliver impressive grip even in base models. Mazda’s suspension design allows a hair of feedback from the front tires, but the massive low-end torque in front-wheel-drive trim can disrupt the experience. Thankfully, checking the all-wheel-drive option box eliminates such worries.

Thanks to a well-designed suspension, the CX-9’s ride is far from punishing. In fact, the CX-9 is actually more compliant than near luxury options like the MDX. Body roll and tip/dive are well controlled despite its more supple springs and gives the CX-9 both excellent corner carving ability for a 4,300-pound crossover and excellent highway ride. Also massively improved for 2016 is cabin noise, long a sore point for Mazda owners.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Rear 3/4 View, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Mazda’s incentives are much thinner on the ground than the American competition, but Mazda has priced the CX-9 aggressively despite that. Starting at $32,420 (after a $900 destination charge), the Mazda is less than a base Highlander V6. Although the Pilot, Explorer, and Traverse all undercut the base CX-9, the Mazda comes with a ton of standard equipment — LED headlamps, 18-inch alloy wheels, 255-width tires, three-zone auto climate control, a 7-inch LCD infotainment system, smartphone app integration and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Factoring in the value of the standard feature set, the Mazda ends up being within $100 of a base Honda, Ford, Chevy or Nissan. Of course, the Traverse is likely to have the most cash on the hood by the time you get to the dealer, but the CX-9 still ends up a better value in my calculations.

With excellent handling, a spacious and well put together interior, best looks in the segment and more standard features than the competition, the CX-9 looks like an excellent buy. The only real fly in the ointment is its engine. Mazda is quite correct that the engine’s torque curve is very drivable, it’s just not as powerful as the competition — and it shows. This isn’t too much an issue for the base CX-9, but the top-end Signature trim that Mazda aims at the MDX, QX60 and Enclave. The MDX is nearly two seconds faster to 60 than the Mazda and delivers a more refined engine note in the process.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Rear View, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Mazda is likely to have a hit with the excellent handling, sharp-looking and reasonably priced CX-9. When it comes to the new Signature model, as much as I would rather own a CX-9 than an MDX, I must admit that the traditional values of comfy seats and thrust are likely to outweigh the comparatively low price tag on the Mazda.

Let’s hope a Mazdaspeed CX-9 is in the works.

Specifications as tested

0-30 mph: 3.15 seconds

0-60 mph: 7.97 seconds

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117 Comments on “2016 Mazda CX-9 First Drive Review – Three Rows of Zoom-Zoom...”


  • avatar
    Shiv91

    Station wagon.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Like the shock you got when a kid came back from summer vacation with braces.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Sounds like I need to go test drive a Durango.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    CX-7 can’t come soon enough… unless they give us a CX-6 with this engine.

  • avatar

    Looks like it has a fantastic interior, and it looks good, too, and the MPG is great…

    But it’s out-handled by a Durango and isn’t as fast as its upper tier competition? I don’t know. Can we still call this a Mazda?

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Mazda products are kinda lackluster. It seems in some areas they meet expectations and in others they fall short. It also seems that those other areas are ones that are important to the buying public.

      I’m not sure that Mazda knows what it wants to be.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Depends on what you expect.

        Do you want something that shines on the stat sheet – i.e., fastest 0-60, most torque, highest MPG, lowest decibels? Then look elsewhere, because objectively speaking, many Mazdas DO lag behind the competition.

        But if you expect that your car connects with you, you won’t be disappointed in the least with any Mazda, because they have that subjective ability to “sync” with you as a driver. It’s hard to put this into objective terms, but if you love to drive, and drive one, you’ll get it.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          “Depends on what you expect.”

          We currently own a Mazda5 and a Toyota Sienna.

          The Sienna wins on the spec sheet. And I bet the Sienna would take the Mazda5 on the drag strip. I’ve taken the Sienna corner carving, and passed a lot of people in expensive cars — because the Sienna is competent at everything, but masters nothing.

          But the Mazda5 is way more fun to drive. It’s objectively slower, but it has what pilots call “control harmony”

          P.S. A minivan bakeoff may not be for everyone, but it is an apples to apples comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s sad, because I’ll freely admit I love Mazda, but you’re right–it’s like they’ve gone schizophrenic.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Mazda has always been about engagement and handling over outright speed. Jinba ittai and all that. Problem is, they are falling short on that front too. I am still reeling from the disappointment I felt after driving the Mazda3.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        My biggest issue with Mazda is they lack THAT feeling of solidarity. They handle well and are not outrageously fast, but quick enough. However, to me they just kind of feel “Thin” and “Light” not solid.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          See, to me, they feel lean, not thin. There’s a difference.

          But, yeah, everyone has his own priorities. Your results may vary, as they say.

          • 0 avatar
            Chocolatedeath

            I agree with you Mike. Many here complaining about Mazda not being what they want when, THEY will never buy one. The Pilot is faster and bigger but not as nice inside or out. If overall space is your thing then go for it. Folks complain of the reliability of the GM triplets but say they would rather have them over the CX9. Good for them.
            The CX9 has had better quality according to CR than both. Am I disappointed in the amount of HP, well I am But I know its more than that. I have owned a CX9 from new and I still love it. It has held up rather well with only AC going out twice.
            Somehow I get the impression that even if they made it the size of the Lambda platform and 700 lbs lighter than before with great build quality it wouldnt be enough for these folks. It will always be something.

          • 0 avatar
            PeriSoft

            “Many here complaining about Mazda not being what they want when, THEY will never buy one.”

            I tend to avoid buying cars that aren’t what I want, too. Call me crazy.

          • 0 avatar
            Mandalorian

            For me, I think it was many years of living in Wyoming and dealing with 20-30mph crosswinds on the highways. Heavier, more solid feeling vehicles tended not to get pushed around as much. Really made me appreciate having something very solid feeling.

            Not an issue where I live now, but it didn’t stop me from buying a Q7 with doors thick as vaults and an autobahn-grade suspension.

          • 0 avatar
            mazdaman007

            Mazda themselves freely admit they aren’t trying to sell to everybody but those of us who appreciate what they bring to the table REALLY love driving them.

            To each their own, choice is a good thing.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I would agree with this assessment RE: thin/light.

          And they refuse to give you enough engine – tiny turbo pulling 4300lb? That’s the job of an NA V6.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure if you’re addressing me, Chocolate, but I own a 2007 Mazda3s. 2.3, tons of fun, best car I’ve ever owned. That doesn’t mean I automatically give the brand a pass.

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        I owned that car. Fantastic, though not quite as fast as you’d expect. Probably should have kept it, but the road noise drove me batty. The German luxobarge that replaced it didn’t have that problem, but it had pretty much every other problem you can imagine, each one expensive. Now I’m in a Euro model Ford, which is a reasonable compromise between the two.

  • avatar
    benders

    Any word on when the new HUD will be introduced to the rest of the Mazda lineup?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “38.2 cubic feet with the third row folded. ”

    What’s the point of getting a midsize/large CUV when it has no more usable cargo room than a Rav4/CRV?

    Pilot/GM Lambdas make the most sense to me in this size range. You pay large-CUV prices and get large-CUV mpg, but at least you actually see the benefits in utility go along with that.

    • 0 avatar

      When we were looking for a vehicle suitable for two kids three years ago, the Lamda twins were in consideration. Were money no object, I would have totally snagged one. I was very impressed with the interior packaging in the Traverse.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        The Buick dealership I was looking at a 07′ Sequoia had an Enclave on the showroom floor. I guess it’s not terrible per se, but I thought it was a bit cramped in the second and third rows: Seats are pretty low to the floor and there’s no footspace for second row folks. Roof in third row is low, kneespace was moderately tight (but reasonable for a third row in a non-minivan). By back to back contrast the Sequoia’s second row was massively more comfortable with a higher up position, and most surprisingly the third row was better than the Lambda’s. And this is the old solid rear axle Sequoia, before it got bloated and gained IRS. With the third row up both vehicles had a comparable amount of room, with an edge to the big tree in vertical space. Apples to oranges I realize, but it further reinforces my skepticism of the whole “CUVS have better packaging than BOF” thing. It has to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Don’t forget that the Sequoia is four inches longer, an inch wider, and more importantly seven inches taller than the Enclave (too tall to fit in a few garages).

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Because neither the Rav4 or CRV have the interior space. They are not as wide or as much real world shoulder or knee space. THis is the reason why folks buy Murano/Edge and others. They are larger overall just not in cargo per say.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      My Saab 9-5 SportCombi has a similar 73 cu ft of cargo with seats down too. It see 38 mpg @ 60 mph on the highway.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Just another entry into the segment. Doesn’t strike me as either bad or great.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This new CX-9’s styling is delightfully crisp in a segment where cars tend to be overstyled (Explorer), unflatteringly styled (Traverse, Pathfinder) or just plain ugly (new Pilot). If it had a more-powerful engine, despite its transverse engine, it would be a great alternative to something like an X5.

  • avatar
    FOG

    I can’t past the ugly grill and what appears to extremely close quarters in any of the seats. The third row looks smaller than the third row in a Journey. The middle row, in the pictures looks like someone reclined the seats to give the impression that that is more room than there actually is. Finally, based on the photos, the cockpit is also very tight. Loved the Mazda I drove in college, but that was quite some time ago.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Actually watching Alex’s video it is clear the third row has good legroom, which is what he write. Headroom might be an issue for tall adults. So the pictures you are looking at do not give an accurate representation of the space.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I like it and I like the stats. Congrats Mazda, you are back on my radar again.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    So Mazda is willing to make a decent torque (and power) engine but only for soccer moms? Nothing decent at all for the family car (6) or compact car (3 – Mazdaspeed 3). What’s wrong, can’t deal with it? Or just an attitude problem? Really, do they not know how many sales they are turning away? Further proof of the attitude problem is almost every reviewer of the 3 or 6 consistently harps on about the poor NVH, but year after year they ignore.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      They have just developed this engine, after developing the base engines they need for the 3, 6 etc. Now they have a higher powered engine I am sure it will trickle down to at least the 6 in due course.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Expensive EGR cooler. That engine sounds like a nightmare at 80,000 miles. Good lease vehicle only.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    If I were a full-size SUV buyer I’d get the Pilot.

    But of course a minivan is where the real no-compromise comfort, space and utility can be found, so I’d wait for the 2017 Odyssey.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Honda looks to be the winner in the segment. It’s dorky as hell from the outside, but it is shaped to maximize interior volume and is surprisingly fast. The only two sources of joy really left in a 3-row CUV are acceleration and a large well-packaged interior. The Pilot delivers on both of those where most of the others seem to be lacking one or the other.

      Just don’t get the 9 speed auto.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        But if you dont get the 9speed it takes away from acceleration and mpg.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          By miniscule amounts. 1 mpg combined on the EPA scale and 0.1 seconds to 60 on C&D’s test procedure.

          If the 9 spd driveability is as bad as reviews state, it would be well worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            onyxtape

            We just got an MDX with the 9-speed. All the complaints were from units manufactured before Christmas 2015. They’ve had a software fix since then to address the shifting funky-ness. I have had zero issues with the 9-speed and find it butter smooth and responsive.

  • avatar
    madman2k

    I think they did a good job on the styling, but I still like the look of the Explorer better.

    Alex, how was the vibration at idle (or lack thereof) from the 4 cylinder engine? How about the noise level on cold start-up?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It was very smooth on idle, comparable to the Volvo XC90’s 4-cylinder lineup. However, there isn’t nearly as much sound deadening at the firewall so under load you hear more of the exhaust note.

      • 0 avatar
        Lex

        Alex, fantastic job on the reviews. Yours are the only ones of the few reviews actually watch (as compared to me test driving). Regarding the noise, is the exhaust note actually good? There was alot of word on noise insulation for this car, are there actual improvements? I have this car squared pegged as my next jalopy after my current 6 dies.

  • avatar
    CarGuruSteve

    “best looks in the segment” That’s subjective as Fuq.

    BTW. The Explorer is quite a bit heavier (300 pounds apples to apples)/longer/wider with a significantly larger cargo volume. It’s hardly impressive that it shares the same acceleration, especially considering you’re comparing an entry level engine with Mazda’s only engine. Although I question the acceleration times altogether seeing as how TAC always loves to bash Ford AKA “the manufacturer of doubt”.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    So you can get sound deadening and more than 185hp in a Mazda as long as you wrap it in 4300 lbs metal that can’t catch a Dodge Durango either in the straights or curves. Any chance of this engine making it into the 6?

    This Cx-9 is stylish and the interior looks great, but the best reason to shop in this segment is necessity. In which case the 38 cubic feet of cargo capacity would seem to be a demerit. Not a lot of space behind that c pillar.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      My Tribute has the Duratec 3.0 that made 200/200. Not that I use all those ponies most of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Any chance of this engine making it into the 6?”

      I honestly don’t think I’d be interested. The overall numbers are okay, but the power delivery doesn’t sound like much fun. Nice for people getting out of a Passat TDI though.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      If you bought a large crossover to try and catch people in the straights or corners then the choice of the CX-9 isn’t the mistake.
      I think they struck a great balance here between being a Mazda and being something that people actually want to buy. Most people shopping for this will likely never even rev it over 4000rpm, and the improvements to interior quality and sound deadening are way more important to people shopping for this.

      And an enthusiast might be able to hope for a power unleashing flash of some kind that may let the upper end off the leash a bit.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        This obsession with catching Durangos in the curves with a CX-9 is interesting. Is there a new racing series I haven’t heard about, or are we just imagining new ways to critique vehicles that have nothing to do with buyer needs?

        • 0 avatar
          cls12vg30

          I can only imagine it’s based on the historical baggage of the Durango name, which suggests that NOTHING should be slower in a curve than a Durango, unless it has “USS” or “HMS” before its name. Clearly this is not the case with the modern Durango, which I like quite a bit, but the baggage remains.

          Speaking of things nautical, am I the only one that looks at the front end of this Mazda and sees a prow to rival the USS Nimitz?

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          I’m really not concerned about how well it catches a Durango, I just found it interesting that the company who built its reputation on driver involvement is apparently outperformed by a Dodge that weighs 500 pounds more. If we want to strictly talk buyer needs, I’m not sure how the CX-9 wins against left-brain heavyweights like the Highlander.

          • 0 avatar
            a5ehren

            I mean, the MX-5 gets smoked in any objective measurement by a similarly priced Mustang, but people fall all over themselves to talk about how it feels better. Feel/involvement != performance

        • 0 avatar
          Chocolatedeath

          VoGo. I normally dont really agree with you however you are point on. I dont get it either.

        • 0 avatar
          legacygt

          I had a 2009 CX-9 Touring AWD. I now have a 2015 Durango Limited AWD. From behind the wheel, the only thing I like better about the Durango is the engine and the quiet cabin. Otherwise, it is entirely less engaging than the CX-9. The Durango handle nicely but there is absolutely zero steering feel and the suspension is easily upset by bumps when going around bends and corners. No, these aren’t sports cars so the Durango’s faults in this area aren’t deal-breakers (I bought one after all) but they make it less fun to drive and a little more tiring as well.

    • 0 avatar
      wrxtasy

      Sadly, the chances of this engine making its way into the current 6 is basically nil. Maz boss moro has already said pretty explicitly that there will be no mazdaspeed anything with the gen, so they can focus their resources on mainstream offering. I would accuse him of lying but sadly it makes too much sense for a company that just dropped serious cash to engineer their own drivetrains and chassis to break the ford ties for good.

      • 0 avatar
        a5ehren

        The previous-gen 6 had an ‘s’ version (with a really crappy V6, but still) but no Speed version.

        This engine wouldn’t merit a “Speed” badge in a 6, but it would make sense as a step-up ‘s’ version.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      If you really need the space then people should be buying minivans which are cheaper and more spacious. Typical large CUV buyers have 2 children so a family of 4 where the third row is rarely used. It explains why some midsize CUV like an Edge (between Escape and Explorer) sells well since those buyers don`t need a third row but want a bit more space and luxury.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I would say that Mazda hit a home run here but it will likely be a rather low volume model compared to other popular 3 row SUVs. Personally, I find the reviewer’s issues with the powerband rather useless. I currently have my wife in an Enclave and have been eying the new Mazda as my next vehicle as I feel it would be useful to have two vehicles capable of hauling my family of 5. I can probably count the times on one hand I have had to full throttle the big Buick in over two years of ownership. The 0-60 times thrown out by the author are sort of a non issue. The new CX-9 hits 60 in just under 8 seconds. The MDX used as the barometer is really an outlier in the comparable models he mentions, with the QX60, Enclave and V6 Durango easily within 1 second of the CX-9. Not sure how that makes or breaks a purchase decision and labels the new Mazda mill as underpowered.

    With the 3rd row more than adequate for children, a great standard equipment list and (relatively) low cost of higher trims, promise of great fuel economy for the segment…..I am not really sure where you can go wrong here with such a svelte looking tall wagon if your primary purpose is transporting kids, commuting, etc.

    The .5 to 1 second loss in a stoplight race to 60 vs major competitors is easily erased by its good looks, fuel economy, dynamics and price.

    A lot of great reviews came out on this today. Comparison tests will be useful, but unless you are towing, I am doubting that the Durango would hang with the CX-9 in many other comparos. Durango…really?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Mazda said they will sip 40,000 a year to North America, so they seem to be expecting around 3000 units a month sold in the US. They can obviously make money on that volume.

      As with Mazda’s positioning I recall an article Derek K wrote a couple of years ago about Mazda going more premium. It didn`t mean they were going to become Acura or Infiniti but it did mean better materials and just a more luxurious feel. They seem to have met that since Alex in his video mentioned Acura and Volvo a lot and the Mazda was not disgraced.

  • avatar
    Macca

    I’ll have to add this to our list of 3-row SUVs to test drive when the time comes. I’m a fan of Mazda and would love to own another, but as Alex mentioned, the interior noisiness has kept me away. I would gladly lay down the $30k-odd MSRP for a loaded new Mazda3 if there was a modicum of refinement.

    My previous experience with the CX-9 was disappointing – my brother and a friend both owned a first-gen. On both, the flowing trim pieces on the center stack and the center console creaked and rattled horribly. It completely ruined any perception of quality. With < 50k miles, both just felt worn out because of the creaky-old-boat interior ambiance coupled with excessive tire noise.

    If they've managed to put together a screwed-down interior that doesn't have early-90s econobox road noise levels, this might be a contender.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    That is one cool dash.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Hey, Alex, what about every Mazda`s Achilles – Road Noise? Are they making any progress on that?

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    To channel his Jezzaness, go ahead and call this the best looking CUV, “Not that that’s much to shout about. That’s like saying ‘Ooh good I’ve got syphilis, the BEST of the sexually transmitted diseases.”

    It’s a goofy looking segment made even worse by the pedestrian impact rules that are doing their part to ruin vehicular styling and aerodynamics. There are some attractive details thanks to Mazda’s Kodo being a generally attractive desing language, but I can’t get past that awful blocky nose. It’s a terrible affront to both good style and good science (aerodynamics). The fact that a big heavy vehicle has a city mpg so close to its highway rating is proof of that. If that engine is efficient enough to pull two tons of vehicle around the city at over 20 mpg (something my thousand pound lighter less powerful and far less torquey BMW 330i couldn’t do), it should easily do over 30 mpg on the highway were it not in such an aerodynamically offensive (blocky tough looking but easy on pedestrian styling and pointless ground clearance) package. Hopefully this engine is on it’s way to the Mazda 6 soon. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was minimal mpg penalty. Unfortunately, they probably aren’t likely to pair it with the stick.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      The city figure is quite impressive at 10-15% better than the competition. So the aerodynamics can`t be too bad. Seems like for highway most large vehicles get around 28 nowadays (minivans and large CUV’s).

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @mike978 – my understanding is that aerodynamics plays a much bigger role in highways than it does on the city cycle. That much improved city number is more due to the thermal efficiencies of the engine, good gearing and its low rpm torque helping it avoid high rpms and loads, and the (relative) low weight of the vehicle. I doubt aero plays much a role at all. Aero and gearing do play a huge role in the highway number, which is why it is less impressive on this car, and why most vans and SUVs seem to struggle to break much more than 30 mpg highway – they are all on the boxy side (I think the stick shift CX-5 may be the most fuel efficient “light truck” on the highway at 35 mpg). I did manage to see low 30s indicated from a Fiat 500X loaner I had, but I think that was mostly due to the 9 speed keeping the rpms extremely low.

  • avatar
    06V66speed

    That shade of brown makes me weak in the knees!

    Reminds me of the brown (almost orangish-brown) that I’ve seen BMW’s sport in their interiors. Jesus. Love that color.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Chrysler 300 also has real wood trim, not just the 200 and the JGC, like you mentioned in the video. Nice review.

  • avatar
    buzzyrpm

    It seems that Mazda’s design team has discovered Chrome. And they really really like it.

  • avatar
    theonlydt

    Far too many “spec-sheet warriors” here.

    I’m European, moved to Canada. I’ve experienced diesel torque (and economy), the generations of turbo-charged gasoline engines that have slowly made their way to North America, and I can categorically state that a 0-60 time of 8 seconds is MORE than fast enough.

    A good slug of low and mid-range torque creates a car that drives well in the real world. My car has broken 4000rpm exactly once in the 18 months I’ve had it (6500rpm redline). The rental car I drove all last week on business never broke 4000rpm (Chevrolet Cruze).

    I bet Mazda did their homework. I bet they looked at throttle position, acceleration and driving style of SUV drivers and discovered what’s important is a “waft” of torque to take you from 30mph to 60mph without feeling like you’re trying too hard.

    Unfortunately this car will be discounted time and time again by the spec-sheet warriors. Who gives a fcuk if the Durango is faster? These vehicles are SUVs and 0-60 in 8 seconds is more than fast enough. Infact, I hate to break it to everyone, 0-60 in 10 or 11 seconds doesn’t create a car that’s challenging to merge on the freeway. If you want to get to 60mph in 6 seconds buy a Mustang or something.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “I can categorically state that a 0-60 time of 8 seconds is MORE than fast enough”

      It’s fast enough for you, so it must be for everyone else.

      “My car has broken 4000rpm exactly once in the 18 months I’ve had it”

      You never break 4000 rpm, so no one else will either.

      “If you want to get to 60mph in 6 seconds buy a Mustang or something.”

      You don’t believe anyone may want their vehicle to occupy the space between 8 seconds and pony car, so no one else does either.

      Got it, your priorities are everyone’s. Thanks for chiming in and setting this spec sheet warrior straight. FWIW, I agree that 8 seconds with good driveability from low range grunt is certainly adequate. My car is an 8 second car and has that characteristic, but there are plenty of times I’d like more and that wouldn’t change if I was in a 3 row CUV.

      My primary beef is not the stupid Durango comparison, but the small cargo hold on this family hauler and that Mazda reserves its only powerful engine and sound insulation for a heavy CUV rather than putting it in the 6 to make it a car I’d actually quite like. But you and a few others have seized on the Durango thing rather than the other points, and now I’m too irritated and obstinate to back away from it.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @30-mile fetch – actually, theonlydt is correct about Mazda doing their homework. This is from C/D:

        http://www.caranddriver.com/news/2016-mazda-cx-9-official-photos-and-info-news

        “As it has for past models like the MX-5 Miata and the 6 sedan, Mazda decided to focus on real-world drivability rather than an impressive spec sheet. This meant the company conducted research into how its customers actually use three-row SUVs, including taking a CX-9 mule and tucking in behind such vehicles in order to study their drivers’ throttle usage and driving patterns. What Mazda discovered was that these folks typically don’t spin their tachometers past 3000 rpm or so, and so an onus was put on immediate torque production rather than high horsepower for the CX-9’s new engine.”

        FWIW, Mazda’s zoom zoom has never been based on straight line speed. The Miata, RX-7, RX-8, Protege, 3, 6, etc were never really high hp blazing fast cars in a straightline compared to the competition. The only two models that standout as legitimately fast for their category that Mazda has made were the Mazdaspeed 3s and 6s, and I’d argue that Mazda’s sporty brand image is more a result of having a lineup of every day cars that are fun to drive vs two halo models (and let’s not forget that the Miata is really the brand icon, and it’s never been known for speed). The reality is Mazda needs this car to be able to survive financially and keep making brilliant 3’s, 6’s, and Miatas for the rest of us. They also need to keep their CAFE numbers up. If that means that they have to build a few CUVs that have it doors blown off by mainstream Honda Civics, so be it. An Escape with a 2.0t EB will run away from a CX-5 (with the bigger optional engine), but no one seems to question the CX-5’s fun to drive credentials (on the basis of acceleration at least; I’ll be the first to question them based on it being a CUV).

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Yes, I read that article but that is barely tangential to my response because I didn’t write that Mazda failed to do their homework, I wrote that theonlydt’s preferences do not speak for everyone else’s. It’s that simple, don’t read too far into it.

      • 0 avatar
        theonlydt

        Well I’m glad I’ve made an impact on you at least ;)

        On the “It’s fast enough for you, so it must be for everyone else.” piece, the comment was that to stay with the flow of traffic, to merge on to freeways, to drive like 99% of people drive 99% of the time then 0-60 of 8 seconds is more than enough. That doesn’t mean that people can’t choose more power as a preference, just that it’s not required.

        My frustration is that the car will be discounted by many as it doesn’t stack up on HP to its competitors, yet sounds as thought it’s a perfectly capable vehicle.

        Is the trunk really that small? It doesn’t look it to me… but I’m used to space for a newspaper behind the 3rd row and that’s about it.

        I collect my car from servicing today, just for you I’m going to try and break 4000rpm somewhere on the grind back in to the city ;)

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Don’t just break 4000 rpm, brake-torque it from launch and bounce it off the rev limiter, man!

          Honestly, this CX-9 looks great in most aspects and I would probably be satisfied with the engine in it. It’s probably a better power curve than the peaky Pentastar V6 trying to move the fat Durango at low engine speeds. My main point is not that this is underpowered, but that it would be nice if the zoom-zoom company would put it in the 6 sedan as well so those of us who would appreciate the extra power with that car’s dynamic capabilities could have it. It’s ironic that a car company with driver-focused marketing has a stout engine but won’t put it in a vehicle light enough to be quick.

          I don’t think the hp rating will limit CX-9 sales because I don’t think customers shop by hp numbers. I think what will limit CX-9 sales are the same factors that limit all Mazda sales. Some weird combination of brand recognition & loyalty, small dealer network, less incentives on pricing, and a focus on driver involvement that doesn’t resonate with a lot of non-car people but creates compromises they notice.

          But maybe this one will buck the trend, CUVs are big right now and this one looks good. The CX-5 does a better job competing for sales in its segment than the poor 6, so that may bode well for the CX-9. Cheers.

          • 0 avatar
            theonlydt

            I took it to my kids’ daycare then the garage for its service. There was a point I *almost* broke 4000rpm; accelerating up a steep hill in 1st gear, and I thought of you, but changed up anyway ;)

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            It’s ok, you need to take these things one step at a time. I’ll be dropping my own kids off soon and in your honor I may try short shifting at 2500.

          • 0 avatar
            theonlydt

            2500rpm is short-shifting? :/

            I aim for between 1500rpm and 2000rpm unless there’s a gradient (I find the 2.5 in my Mazda5 is pretty torquey low down with the manual transmission (and a dog with the auto))

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Well depending on my mood, short shifting is either anything below 3000rpm or shifting before I’ve put traffic in the other lane behind me. My standards are all messed up.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Okey dokey, I did it. Shifted at 2000 or below, whether on the move or from a stop. I am now one of the people I would reflexively switch lanes to get around.

            I have much to learn. The space between lugging and 2000rpm is so narrow I spent as much time transitioning between gears as I did in them. Felt like manually replicating a CVT.

            If I have the patience I may try a whole tank of gas with this method to see if it improves on the EPA fuel economy I already get driving assertively. If the mpg bump is big, it could be a whole new era for me. If not, it’s back to shifting in the upper midrange!

          • 0 avatar
            theonlydt

            Well done! I got 36mpg from my Cruze rental last week (1.8 auto) and average 31.5mpg in my standard Mazda5.

            If gas were expensive it’d be worth it ;)

            I promise post service, where safe, I’ll redline it. To, um, clean out the injectors, or de-carb the cylinders or something.

  • avatar
    ajla

    If nothing else, this comment thread has taught me that I drive *much* more aggressively than I thought.

    4000RPM or above is a common (at least 2x a day) occurrence for my fleet.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Except when I’m pressed for time, I’ll drive like an old man to get to that magic 23 MPG. Never above 2500 RPM, not in this car! We’ll get to 72 when we get there!

      Not that I begrudge anybody who wants to go 85. You take the left lane and I’ll take the right lane.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The other day I was driving home from the grocery store. I actually looked at the revs as I was going uphill and thought “I should keep them at 1500 for this hill.”

        I’m not sure -why- particularly, but now I feel like an old man. At least my other car doesn’t have a rev counter, so you have no idea what’s going on.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @CoreyDL, you are reminding me of my Dad’s old B-body work vehicles. Even without a tachometer I would be loafing along at 65 mph on a flat Midwestern highway with the automatic in overdrive thinking: “I bet I’m not turning more than 1800 rpm.”

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think my Cadillac manual sez if you can hear it being rumbly you’re pressing the pedal too hard – ease off and lower those revs.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            That sounds like my car. I dunno if there was some black magic going on or what, but if the numbers were to be believed, I once achieved 27 MPG by staying in OD going about 60-65 for several hours along MN Hwy 23. I don’t see how that was physically possible.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    Now hurry up and put that engine into the 6!

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I hit ctrl+f and didnt find what I was looking for.

    Can this thing tow? I wouldn’t even if they said it could.

    • 0 avatar
      Chocolatedeath

      Yep up to 3500 lbs just like the last one.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Lawl, 7900lbs and 2.5L (no people or cargo). Okies.

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          Doesn`t the Explorer have a 2.0 turbo? 2.5 is on the large side for a turbo engine nowadays.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Surely not, at least the 2.4? Or the 3.7/3.5EB?

          • 0 avatar
            mike978

            Corey – you were right in part. It is a 2.3L 4 cylinder, with more horsepower but the same torque at 1000rpm higher though.

          • 0 avatar
            legacygt

            The first ecoboost explorer had a 2.0L turbo. It was woefully inadequate, was only available with FWD and didn’t come close to it’s window sticker MPG. Now the Explorer comes with a 2.3L Turbo that might be adequate and a 3.5L Turbo that may be the most exciting engine in the segment (other than maybe the V8 option in the Durango). Still the naturally aspirated V6 may be the most appropriate engine in the Explorer.

  • avatar
    davebucyrus

    Go for the AWD model. The third row seat is cramped for headroom but overall a very impressive vehicle for around $35k base. Funny, the Mazda site lists it as a “Future Vehicle” as of today. Come on Mazda, get your site updated and fix that potentially nasty stalling issue. You have a real winner here.

  • avatar
    lot9

    Mazda lost it mojo long ago. Tried them and would not buy one. This review confirms my decision, still today.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    I love the look inside and out. Sadly as a current CX9 owner I am disappointed about the reduction in engine and overall size. It seems to be they could have just bought Hondas V6 and tranny. Also I didnt want a smaller CX9 I wanted one that was Pilot sized. No I dont want a Pilot> I have driven one of the new ones and it only drives a little better than the old one.


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