2012 Mazda CX-9

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Review: 2008 Mazda CX-9

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Good follow-up vehicle to Mazda's smaller CX-7.
Pros:
  • Sleek styling
  • Utilitarian
  • Car-like
Cons:
  • High cargo opening
  • Sunlight washes out gauges
  • Average fuel economy

Mazda has become especially good at making "zoom-zoom" vehicles, even if they happen to be SUVs.

The latest such Mazda SUV is the sleek midsize CX-9, which is a larger, more powerful 7-passenger companion to Mazda's fairly new 5-passenger CX-7 SUV.

The CX-9 is Mazda's first 7-passenger vehicle, thanks to a third-row seat roomy enough for two adults to ride comfortably for more than short distances. Many midsize SUV builders can't make the same claim for third-row seating comfort.

Some vehicles call for awkward moves to reach the third seat, but the CX-9 has large openings to it. A sliding second-row seat and wide door openings also facilitate third-seat entry or exit.

Too Many SUVs?
Are there too many Mazda SUVs for a fading SUV market? The automaker doesn't think so. It says its research shows there is a "distinct difference between customers shopping for two- and three-row SUVs."

Actually, the CX-7 and CX-9 arguably could be considered members of the growing crossover vehicle market, if only because of their slick styling and car-like manners.

The CX-9 is not just a longer version of the CX-7. Each model has different body structures, chassis systems and powertrains.

Designed For America
The CX-9 was designed specifically for North America and is aimed mainly at well-educated, nicely-paid folks with two younger kids, although Mazda says it's also for couples with grown children but active lifestyles.

The CX-9 has front- or all-wheel drive and comes in Sport, Touring and top-line Grand Touring trim levels. Prices range from $29,035 for the entry front-wheel drive Sport to $33,875 for the Grand Touring all-wheel drive version I drove.

Lots of Safety Items
Being a family vehicle, the CX-9 has plenty of safety equipment. All trim levels come with standard anti-lock brakes, roll stability control, dynamic stability control and traction control systems, besides front-seat side and side-curtain airbags.

And let's not forget the comfort and convenience features. Also standard are a three-zone automatic climate control system that provides independent temperature settings for the driver zone, front passenger zone and rear passenger's zone.

There's also a tilt-telescopic wheel with radio controls, AM/FM/CD player, height-adjustable driver's seat, power windows and locks with remote entry and cruise control.

Added Features
The Touring adds leather upholstery and heated power front seats, and the Grand Touring adds keyless access and starting, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. The Sport and Touring have 18-inch tires, while the Grand Touring has 20-inch wheels and wider tires for sharper handling.

The navigation system is bundled in a $2,500-$2,717 (depending on trim level) Touring option package that also contains a power tailgate and rearview camera. A power sunroof is in a $1,760 package. A DVD entertainment package costs $2,560.

Front bucket seats are comfortable and supportive in curves, and there is a reclining 60/40 split second-row seat that slides fore and aft a few inches and a 50/50 split third-row seat.

Shares Ford Components
With Ford owning a good chunk of Mazda, the CX-9 shares components with the new Ford Edge SUV/crossover. For instance, the CX-9 has the same 3.5-liter V6 used in the smaller Edge. (The CX-7 has a turbocharged 2.3-liter 4-cylinder with 244 horsepower.)

The CX-9 V6 is sophisticated, with chain-driven dual overhead camshafts for easier maintenance (compared with belt-drive overhead cams), four valves per cylinder and variable intake valve timing. The electronically controlled throttle helps provide instantaneous response.

The 263-horsepower V6 is mounted transversely for allow more interior space. Mazda has modified the intake and exhaust systems to provide better response at lower speeds— something especially appreciated in slow traffic.

Quick on Heavy Feet
The CX-9 isn't light at 4,312-4,546 pounds, but provides fast merges and brisk 65-75 mph passing. The 0-60 mph run takes 7.8 seconds.

Fuel economy is par for the course for a heavy vehicle: 18 mpg in the city and 24 on highways with front-wheel drive and 16 and 22 with all-wheel drive. Only 87-octane gasoline is needed, and the fuel tank holds 20.1 gallons.

The CX-9 has a 6-speed Aisin automatic transmission with a manual shift mode that works better than the Edge's 6-speed automatic.

The Edge transmission was jointly developed by Ford and General Motors. So shame on Ford and GM here. The CX-9 transmission's top two gears have overdrive ratios for the best highway economy.

Car-like Feel
The precise, speed-sensitive power steering contributes to the car-like feel. So does the agile handling. An all-independent suspension helps provide a pleasant ride, and the brakes have brake assist and electronic brake force distribution systems.

The quiet interior has upscale materials. Controls are easy to use, but gauges wash out in bright sunlight. The glove compartment is small, but there's a deep center console bin and conveniently placed cupholders. Sun visor mirrors are lit and have sliding covers.

Roomy Cargo Area
The cargo opening is rather high, but there's a decent 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third seat when its seatbacks are upright, which often isn't the case with third-row midsize vehicles. Even more cargo room is available with the third seat folded flat and the space becomes cavernous with the second seat folded.

It's not easy making a midsize SUV a "zoom-zoom" vehicle unless you're an outfit such as BMW or Porsche, but the CX-9 stands out.

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BB04 - 9/2/2014 4:52:24 PM