Mazda’s CX-9, the automaker’s largest crossover SUV, has a multitude of virtues and hardly any shortcomings. The Mazda brand isn’t as well known as Toyota, Honda, Ford, or Subaru, but its cars and SUVs don’t take a backseat to any of those marques. The CX-9 was fully redesigned for 2016 and has been updated slightly each year since (for example, improvements to noise reduction and infotainment, and more standard safety features).
For starters, if the CX-9’s looks don’t knock you over at first glance, you’d better check yourself for a pulse. No slab-sided SUV, its lines are at once bold, dynamic, understated, and refined. Stellar design elements extend to the tasteful, well-appointed interior, with its good-looking, functional controls. The cabin has a rich feel, approaching entry-level luxury status on the upper trim levels.
Mazda’s attention to detail verges on obsessive: Examples include nickel-plated covers on the driver’s power-seat controls, which provide a satiny feel, and 53 pounds of extra under-carpet insulation plus a dual-pane windshield and front windows to reduce cabin noise. Backseat room is ample, though third-row seating and cargo and towing capacity (maximum 71 cubic feet and 3,500 pounds, respectively) lag behind the competition (note: Those are the only shortcomings).
Just one engine is available, but it’s a winner: a 2.5-liter turbo 4 that produces 250 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque for plenty of low-end grunt. Fuel economy is decent, too: 24 mpg in combined city/highway driving for the FWD version and 23 mpg for AWD. Low-speed forward automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, and rear cross-traffic warning are standard on all CX-9s; higher trims levels are equipped with additional advanced safety features.
“Driving Matters,” goes the Mazda credo, and the CX-9 proves itself here, too. The steering is quick and precise, and the ride feels solid, smooth, quiet, and composed, finding a nice balance between responsiveness and comfort.
Summing up, the CX-9 delivers what most driving enthusiasts want—and few SUVs deliver—good looks, plenty of power, drivability, enough cargo space, commendable fuel economy, and high value.
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Model years: 2016–2019
Vehicle layout: Midsize three-row SUV, 2.5-liter turbo inline 4 (227 hp), 6-speed automatic, FWD/AWD
MSRP: $33,275 (base), $47,845 (well equipped)
MPG, city/hwy/combined: 22/28/24 (FWD), 20/26/23 (AWD)
Crash-test ratings: Top Safety Pick for 2018–2019
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Spare tire: Temporary spare
Final assembly: Japan