Review: 2008 Mazda CX-9
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
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?
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 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.