Short Take Road Test: 2008 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
Does big become more attractive when it gains a half-step in the 0-to-60-mph dash?
The question is pertinent because reducing that time-to-speed sprint is more than mere visceral gratification. When a vehicle is quicker to 60 mph, you can also expect it to be quicker through the quarter-mile and—of greater importance to most drivers—quicker in passing acceleration from 30 to 50 mph and 50 to 70 mph. Although few full-size-SUV drivers will engage in frequent stoplight drags, passing acceleration acquires real meaning when you pop out to pass on a two-lane and another car suddenly rolls from a hidden driveway into the oncoming lane, a.k.a. your lane.
Which brings us to the 2008 Mazda CX-9.
Agile for Its Size
The engineering work yielded a unibody that's arguably the best in its class for structural rigidity, which in turn yields benefits in ride and handling, two of several areas where the CX-9 gets high marks.
The parent company, of course, claims things like the "Soul of a Sports Car" and "Zoom-Zoom," the athletic dynamism that allegedly separates each Mazda product from its competitive herd. It's not untrue to say that the CX-9 is agile, especially when measured by the water buffalo standards of the full-size-crossover class.
We should also note that agility expectations in this growing class are escalating steadily, as exemplified by GM's new crossover trio—the GMC Acadia, the Saturn Outlook, and the Buick Enclave. And we'd say further that when it comes to fancy footwork, the CX-9 trumps them all, another plus on the active-safety score sheet.
Of course, fancy footwork is a relative term in vehicles that weigh more than two tons—4398 pounds in the case of our front-drive tester (add about 200 pounds for an all-wheel-drive model). And getting that much mass to move quickly takes muscle.
More Power, More Performance
We have to say that those are respectable numbers for this class. The all-wheel-drive GMC Acadia we tested earlier—curb weight 5052 pounds—needed 8.1 seconds to reach 60 mph and did the quarter-mile in 16.4 seconds at 85 mph.
Nevertheless, the CX-9's V-6 has expanded a bit to 3.7 liters for 2008, and that bumps output to 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. And this, in conjunction with the CX-9's outstandingly responsive six-speed automatic transmission, reduces its 0-to-60 time to 7.3 seconds and improves quarter-mile performance to 15.7 seconds at 91 mph.
The other good news here is that the more powerful beast also seems to be no thirstier in the fuel department, although this, like agility, is a relative matter. The '08 CX-9 carries EPA fuel-economy ratings of 16 mpg city and 22 highway, which are the same marks the '07 model would get with the 2008 EPA test method. In our hands, the 2007 model yielded a dismal average of 16 mpg. This time around we recorded 19 mpg—not exactly Toyota Prius territory, but a significant improvement.
Of course, there's more to like here than agility, increased hustle, and a potentially slight uptick in thrift. The CX-9 is tastefully furnished, attractively styled, and quiet at highway speeds, and it has the usual range of options such as a DVD entertainment system, premium audio (Bose), a DVD nav system, leather, and a power sunroof, to name a few.
Safety features include ABS, stability control with roll stability control, traction control, enough airbags to cushion a Mars lander, and a new camera-based blind-spot monitoring system that flashes a warning light in the mirrors when another vehicle is hovering in either of the CX-9's rear-quarter areas.
Not Many Demerits
As you'd expect, pricing is similar to that of competing vehicles. The CX-9 is a smidge higher than a Saturn Outlook, model for model, and a bit lower than a GMC Acadia. The base front-drive Sport version starts at $29,995. Our top-of-the-line Grand Touring begins at $33,950. Figure another $1300 if you want all-wheel drive, and be careful with the options packages: For example, our tester had the $2500 GT Assist package—DVD nav with voice command and touch screen, a rearview camera, a power liftgate—and a $1760 package that added a power sunroof, an in-dash six-D changer, and a Bose stereo.
Those two packages, plus pearlescent paint ($200) and Sirius satellite radio ($430), added up to a $38,840 front-drive CX-9, which begins to feel pretty expensive.
In closing, let's take another look at the thesis question: Is big more attractive when it's quicker? Hey, you still have to ask?
C/D TEST RESULTS: