Leave it to Mazda, that "Zoom-Zoom" brand from Japan, steeped in the production of fun-to-drive cars like the MX-5 Miata roadster and slinky RX-8 coupe, to take a sporty approach to the seemingly mundane concept of a people-hauling three-row crossover.
|1. One engine is offered, a 3.7L V6 with an impressive 273 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Rear cargo room is rated at 17.2 cu.-ft. and grows to 100.7 cu.-ft. with both second and third row seats folded.
3. Fuel economy is rather dismal at 16/22-mpg (city/hwy) for FWD models and 15/21-mpg for AWD models.
4. Pricing starts at $28,805 for Sport FWD models, and tops out at $34,215 for Grand Touring AWD models.
ATHLETIC POWER SURPRISES
Our tester CX-9, in top-grade Grand Touring (GT) trim, feels spry and athletic in action with all of the engine’s power sent to the front wheels. And as a front-driver it’s quite agile and certainly predictable.
The rigid platform with a long wheelbase of 113.2-inches fosters the smooth ride quality while a generous wheel track of 65.1-inches in front and 64.7-inches in back bring stability for turning.
Also aiding the handling department is a fully independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front and coil springs in the rear. And to minimize intrusion of the cargo-bay area, those coil springs are located between the lower lateral member and the unibody frame.
For those who need (or want) added traction, the CX-9 offers an optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. With this electronically controlled system, various sensors at the wheels direct control modules to automatically distribute the engine’s torque to whichever wheels are most capable of achieving a good grip. The system can channel up to 50 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels, if pavement conditions warrant.
Mazda’s CUV also possesses nimble steering attributes from the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system.
Safety features include (ABS), plus electronic brake force distribution (EBD), a traction control system (TCS) and dynamic stability control (DSC) to check lateral skidding.
Passive safety systems are aboard including frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags above outboard seats in all rows. Mazda also provides a roll stability control (RSC) system.
POWERFUL ENGINE WRAPPED IN STYLE
Muscle for CX-9 is derived from a forceful V6 engine that displaces 3.7-liters and has a high compression ratio of 10.3:1. The aluminum plant employs electronic throttle control with chain-driven dual overhead camshafts, four valves-per-cylinder and variable intake valve timing. It develops 273-hp at 6250 rpm with the torque pushed up to 270 ft-lbs at 4250 rpm.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with a sport-shift manual mode.
This is really a sizable vehicle in all measures. The body stretches for 200.8-inches long and 76.2-inches wide by 68-inches high. Yet the package styling, with rippled skin stretched tautly like flexed muscles over the long and broad structure, seems to diminish the big-ness.
The design incorporates handsome curves with bulbous arched fenders that protrude laterally well beyond the hood to accentuate large low-profile tires on multi-spoke aluminum alloy wheels. Another prominent wheel arch appears on the rear quarter while above the beltline there’s a graceful stroke of the superstructure styled in the manner of a rakish GT coupe.
Up front the design stays dynamic with a severely canted windshield, while at the tail there’s a definite bulge in the top-hinged liftgate to carve out more storage space in the cargo bay.
PLENTY OF ROOM INSIDE FOR ALL
The layout of the CX-9’s cabin holds three rows of seats and the aft bay for cargo.
On the first row two bolstered bucket seats flank a floor console. On the second row a bench-style seat for three with five inches of fore-and-aft slide travel splits 60-40 and has reclining backrests. On the third row, a split bench makes room even for adults.
Both the second-row bench and the third bench fold flat to the floor to expand the wagon’s cargo capacity.
With the rear bench raised, the bay contains 17.2 cubic feet of stow room. With all rows folded down, the cavernous bay measures to 100.7 cubic feet.
Trims for CX-9 consist of Sport, Touring and Grand Touring, each available in FWD or AWD. Stock gear for all models ranges from air conditioning and power controls for windows and door locks, to a remote keyless entry device, cruise control, variable-speed front wipers plus a rear-window wiper, and Bluetooth phone connectivity for hands-free calling.
Standard on Touring are leather first and second row seats with power and heated front seats, heated outside mirrors and auto headlights. Grand Touring models then step it up a big notch with HID headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a driver’s seat memory, Mazda’s Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System, a Blind Spot Monitoring System and 20-inch wheels.
The 2010 Mazda CX-9 offers zoom-zoom performance for the whole family – and more. Roomy and fun to drive, it delivers sedan-like characteristics on the road without sacrificing utility. For a family on the go, it represents the perfect alternative to a minivan. Who said versatility has to be boring?