Saturday, November 8, 2014


The Mazda CX-9 is a full-size crossover SUV manufactured by Mazda at the Ujina 1 plant in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan.

The CX-9 is built on the Ford CD3 Platform that is shared with the Ford Edge, and it uses the same 3.7 L V6 engine used in the Ford lineup. Although outwardly similar, the CX-9 and Mazda CX-7 do not share platforms.

The Mazda CX-9 is one of just a few truly family-sized large crossovers that have both sportier driving dynamics and a usable third row. It's also been one that carries a design and style that's a little edgier than the crossover norm -- especially when it was originally introduced. 

The CX-9 is the largest vehicle wearing a Mazda badge, with generously sized front buckets and a three-person 60/40-split bench seat in the second row that features up to five inches of fore-and-aft adjustability. Wide-opening rear doors are great for access to the second and third rows but are slightly unwieldy in tight parking spaces. As in most seven-passenger crossovers, the third row is for preteens old enough not to need a booster seat and young enough to consider the trek back there an adventure. For adults, the way back is short on leg- and headroom, although sliding the second row forward can increase knee space in a pinch. 

The second- and third-row seats fold seamlessly with easy-to-use handles and straps. When down, the seats create a nearly flat floor. There’s a hidden storage compartment under the cargo floor large enough to stash a laptop case and camera or a couple of purses. Overall, stowage space is greater than in the Pilot and Explorer but less than in GM’s offerings. A power liftgate is standard on the Grand Touring and optional on the Touring as part of the Touring Technology package.

The CX-9 retains V-6 power and its size and capabilities now neatly complement the CX-5--which itself wins rave reviews for being both practical and fun to drive--for families who need more space but don't want to give up driving pleasure. The underpinnings of the CX-9 are related to those of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, but Mazda has produced a very different look and a far sportier driving feel than either of those models.

In appearance, the Mazda CX-9 is curvier, with more aggressive sheetmetal and flared fenders, than its siblings under the skin. But it maintains an overall look that makes no allusions to off-roading. Its strong, 273-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 feels more powerful than most engines in its class, and it's paired with a six-speed automatic that does a great job on quick downshifts when needed. Buyers can opt for front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Rated towing capacity is up to 3,500 pounds.

The three-row CX-9 is agile, comfortable, quiet, and nicely finished. Power comes from a smooth and refined 3.7-liter V6, but its 16 mpg overall is not stellar by today's standards. Handling is taut and agile, and the ride is firm and steady, yet comfortable. 

The cabin is quiet and interior trim is attractive and well assembled. As in many SUVs, the 60/40-split second-row seats slide fore and aft for greater second- or third-row leg room. The third-row seat is relatively hospitable and easy to access. The optional blind-spot detection system works well. Reliability has been above average. We can no longer recommend the CX-9 because it scored a Poor in the IIHS small-overlap crash test. 

The CX-9 is just what you imagine would happen if you cut loose the folks who created the Miata, RX-7, and 3 to design and engineer a Zoom-Zoom-worthy family hauler. Here at Car and Driver, the CX-9 has been at or near the top of our drop-down menu of favorite three-row crossovers since its 2007 introduction. 

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