Test Drive Notes Library
- If you want to know how good the Mazda CX-9 is, it compares favorably to the Audi Q7, which is at least $20,000 more expensive.
- The CX-9 was a really pleasant surprise. Despite its four-cylinder engine, and mid-market brand, the CX-9 is a luxury, three-row SUV that rides and handles as well as anything on the market.
- Ride. The CX-9 provides a luxury car ride, quietly soaking up bumps and the occasional dead armadillo without disruption inside the cabin.
- Quiet. Mazda did a great job with sound insulation. While it’s not as silent as the applause after we finish a radio show, the CX-9 is quiet and peaceful at all speeds. The doors close with a solid whump, and the outside noise goes away. You can hear the engine working if you pay attention. But with the radio on, you don't notice it.
- Handling. What really makes us love the CX-9 is its handling. It’s a large vehicle. It’s got three rows of seats (well, two rows and a time-out section for the kids). But it drives like a much smaller car. It’s damn near agile. Big SUVs are often fatiguing to drive, with their bus-like body lean, and cumbersome size. The CX-9 suffered from none of that. The Audi Q7 and Mazda CX-9 are the two best handling three-row SUVs we’ve driven.
- Engine. Honestly, we expected the Mazda to be a bit of a wheezer, given its two-ton-plus weight, and its four-cylinder engine. But the CX-9 shocked us by how smooth and powerful it was. If no one had told us, we would’ve assumed it had a six-cylinder engine. It never lacked for power — at any speed. The 2.5 liter engine (227hp with 87 octane fuel, 250 with premium) worked well with a six speed automatic transmission.
- Seats. We took two very long drives in the CX-9, and arrived at both destinations without even a hint of buttlock. Now that’s comfort!
- Style. It’s a great looking vehicle. It was mistaken for an Infiniti on several occasions.
- Huge cargo compartment. If you’re not using the third row of seats. With the third row folded flat, the cargo area is enormous. A young mafioso would be impressed by the number of bodies he could put back there. “I could cover the NJ Pine Barrens this week in one trip!"
- Price. The two wheel drive, “Grand Touring" CX-9 goes out the door at just under $42,000. The all wheel drive version is a couple of thousand more. And both come loaded. Bose audio, three zone climate control, navigation, LED headlights, blind spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking. Load up an Audi Q7 like that, and you’re easily at $60K.
Test Drive Notes Library
- There’s not much to dislike about the CX-9.
- Third row is for kids. Some third rows are worse than others. And this one leans towards the bad end. It’s tiny back there. Kids will manage. Adults will be convinced you’re mad at them for something.
- Slow infotainment system. The Mazda’s software is pretty reasonably thought out. But it was painfully slow sometimes. It was especially slow getting started. No one would tolerate a computer that slow these days. If you had to wait that long for a web page to load, you’d give up and order your cherry-dog-bed pipe tobacco from someone else. The computer behind Mazda’s infotainment system needs an upgrade badly.
- Electrical gremlins. We've actually driven both the front-wheel-drive and all wheel drive versions of the CX-9. The backup camera on our AWD CX-9 failed to boot up on two occasions. A restart fixed it both times. And a couple of times, the blind spot monitor failed to light up when a car appeared to be in its zone. It did alert us if we then switched on the turn signal, and suggested we were about to merge into something.
- Mazda’s most advanced safety equipment in the CX-9 is also of an older generation. The adaptive cruise control (which shares technology with the automatic emergency braking) is radar based. That’s first generation. Most manufacturers have moved on to Lidar, which is a superior technology. Mazda’s latest new vehicle, in fact, the CX-5, has a Lidar based system. So one assumes that will make it’s way to the CX-9 at some point.
- Because it’s so agile to drive on the road, you can occasionally forget that it’s still a big vehicle. So maneuvering it in tight spots reminds you that it’s big. The turning circle will occasionally disappoint you.
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