2016 Mazda CX-9 Long-Term Review: Road Trip Edition

Jonathan Yarkony
by Jonathan Yarkony

It’s been a busy summer for our long-term Mazda crossover, racking up thousands of miles all around North America, making road trips with the Yarkony clan on our big camping adventure, and then serving as the chariot of choice for our former video producer Anthony Delacruz on a trip down to NYC.

Camping Adventure

The past two Yarkony summer road trips were in compact sedans, so I was really looking forward to the big, wide cargo hold of the CX-9 making the practical aspects of this camping trip much easier. It was also a chance to see how the Mazda fared during an extended highway drive. Our destination, Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, takes us through some pretty choice roads, so it was a chance to put the big Mazda’s driving chops to the test as well.

Every good road trip starts with a game of packing Tetris, and with just two adults and two kids, the third row was flattened and the hidden compartment cargo covers removed for maximum capacity. Despite the 38.2 cu-ft (1,082 L) of cargo space in five-seat setup, our tent, cooler, sleeping bags and gear filled up the cargo bay to the window line and above and left me wishing for a roof bag, with odds and ends tumbling out every time I opened the trunk.

Exhibit A:


Engine/transmission: 2.5L turbo four-cylinder, 6-speed automatic
Power: 227/250 hp, 310 lb-ft of torque
Curb Weight: 4,301 lb. (1,950 kg)
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 21 city, 27 hwy
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.2 city, 8.8 hwy
US Price: Starts at $32,420; $44,915 as tested (freight included)
CAN Price: Starts at $37,195; $51,995 as tested (freight included)

And why is it that despite eating most of our food and using up all the firewood we brought along, the trunk was even more stuffed to the gills on the return trip home?

The benefit of the jam-packed trunk was that all the gear and food was braced as well as the kids in their car seats, so when we hit those winding roads in Ontario’s Muskoka region, I wasn’t afraid to flip the Sport mode button, keeping the engine and transmission on high alert, and fling the CX-9 into curves for all it was worth. Turn-in is crisp, the compliant suspension gives, the body rolls, and comfort-first tires chirp delightedly, but the big SUV feels composed and balanced, the steering not exactly Miata-connected, but there’s enough chassis feel and steering precision to do it again, and again, and again… and again. (And again.) You get the picture. It may be a big, bloated crossover, but it is fun, and lives up to Mazda’s “Driving Matters” credo.

Catch Up on our Mazda CX-9 Long-term test: Intro, Update and Towing Test

While we love the fat torque curve of the new 2.5-liter turbo, Mazda also promised excellent real-world efficiency, which we had yet to see in our daily routine driving on congested highways and around the suburbs shuttling the kids around. Cruising a touch slower than usual on major highways and secondary roads, though not quite hypermiling, we finally saw some better numbers on the trip computer, clocking 25 mpg on the outbound leg, and finishing up at 23.4 mpg for the 500-mile round trip and campground errands. By the end of another week in the city, it was back to 22 and eventually settling back to 20.

Beyond fuel consumption, the road trip also showed off the CX-9’s accommodating interior, with seats that kept us fresh and comfortable for the entire day, and plenty of space and storage for phones, tablets, snacks, etc., and we appreciated the 2.1-amp charging ports in the rear armrest that quickly juiced up our devices.

One the negative side, I repeatedly discovered that the rear liftgate just doesn’t quite open high enough. Since we had some rain during our stay, we pulled the CX-9 up to the edge of our tarp and used the hatch to get us some extra cover (and channel rainflow), but at least half a dozen times I forgot to duck and dinged the corner of that hatch, and have done it again in my driveway since. At 5-foot-10-ish, I’m not the tallest guy out there, and anyone my height or taller will have to exercise caution when working around that tailgate.

The CX-9’s other big road trip was to New York City, and as Anthony prefers to speak with his lens, we thought we’d share some of his photos from the Big Apple.

Big Apple Photo Journal, Anthony Delacruz

W 27th Street, Chelsea

Because of the CX-9’s size, I was skeptical of finding decent parking in Chelsea, but it’s a lot smaller/shorter than it feels. She fit in every crack of the streets.

W 27th street, Chelsea

That stealth-like grey eventually grew on me, especially when I had to leave the car parked for hours. Not too fancy, not too boring.

Bedford & Broadway

The streets were empty here around 9 am, Saturday. I had to post up and snap a photo.

Java street (next to East River)

If I drove a smaller compact car on these brick road streets of Brooklyn, it wouldn’t have felt right. The CX-9 took on any uneven surface… which was almost every street in New York.

Washington & Front

Obligatory photo of the ride, while everyone took selfies.

Dat grille tho…

Jackson & Meeker (under Brooklyn Queens Expy)

Pit stop under the expressway. It’s super loud out here, with all the cars driving right above, but not if you’re inside the car. This car has one quiet cabin.

63rd & Roosevelt, Queens

Queens is always hectic, especially on Roosevelt, but it seemed everyone just cleared the way for this beauty.

Anthony wasn’t the only photographer taking advantage of the CX-9 for a big road trip, as our videographer Brett Colpitts also made a trip up to cottage country. #BrettLovesHashtags

Closer to home, features editor Sami Haj-Assaad needed a tire mule for his Cooper Tires Zeon RS3 review, so the CX-9 stepped up with more than enough cargo space:

This crossover may be perfect for families, but I've got a whole other reason to love it. Tire hauling abilities! pic.twitter.com/LTYvDopzmW

— Sami Haj-Assaad (@Sami_HA) September 7, 2016

We’ll be back in a couple weeks with the CX-9’s toughest challenge yet, a big AutoGuide.com SUV comparison with the latest and greatest crossovers that this segment offers.

Jonathan Yarkony
Jonathan Yarkony

Jonathan eats, sleeps, and breathes cars. A family man through and through, Jonathan brings over 10 years of experience evaluating cars with a focus on the details that parents will be grateful for, and cars that drivers will appreciate.

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