The three-row crossover segment is always a competitive one, and while some automakers, like Subaru and Volkswagen, are bringing out whole new models, other companies find themselves refining and perfecting these family-friendly vehicles.
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Output: 250-hp, 310 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (MPG): 20 city, 26 highway, 23 combined
Fuel Economy (l/100kms): 11.6 city, 9.1 highway,10.5 combined
Price as tested (USD): $46,660
Price as tested (CAD): $53,695
Take Mazda, for example, the CX-9 was a very good crossover when it was introduced just a few years ago, with an all-new design language and powertrain for the Japanese automaker. But it’s not enough anymore to just present a pretty and powerful car to families anymore, you need to have more and more content. So Mazda pumped up the CX-9 with more stuff.
Maybe the most anticipated change in the new three-row is the addition of Android Auto and Apple Car Play. For a while, Mazda’s infotainment system has been feeling a bit dated. While it is easy to use thanks to a large rotary knob and touchscreen, the number of things you could do on the system was a bit limiting. Adding Android Auto and Apple Car Play should help empower drivers to do more during their drives.
Beyond that addition, the CX-9 also gets a new gauge display on high trim level vehicles, which augments the available head-up display as well. The big crossover also gets a handy 360-degree view monitor as well, which makes parking and low-speed maneuvering much easier.
These little refinements help showcase Mazda’s commitment to making a high-tech car with a lower than expected price tag. The feature list here is impressive, with the usual suspects like heated seats and steering wheel, three-zone climate control, joining new items like the ventilated front seats, extra USB ports (four total, including two fast charge ports) and the extra goodies found with the new Signature trim level, like additional LED accents, unique stitching and fancy interior trim.
Pretty but Flashy
The CX-9 is gorgeous for a three-row vehicle. The more you see it, the less impressive the competitor’s bloated looking rivals look. Compare the CX-9 to a Subaru Ascent, VW Atlas or Honda Pilot, and visually the Mazda comes away as a sleek, modern car with tidy proportions. I’ll admit that it took a while to grow accustomed to the LED grille accents found on the Signature Trim vehicle. It’s right on the cusp of being too gaudy. As nice as the CX-9 is, it doesn’t need to be flashy.
See Also: 2019 Subaru Ascent Review
The interior of the CX-9 has highlights but could be improved in some ways. It’s a beautiful design with fantastic materials, great fit, and finish and easy to use controls. Even the headliner and armrest feel good. The Signature trim is unique, with auburn colored leather seats, and special wood trim that’s delivered by the Japanese Guitar maker Fujigen. That’s worth talking about, but unfortunately, the cabin can get a bit noisy, especially under hard acceleration. That’s curious because Mazda says they’ve made some of the sound deadening in the car thicker, but it doesn’t seem like enough.
However, it could be a bit more practical. As a fashion-oriented cabin, it’s great, but some of the CX-9’s biggest rivals have more cubbies and storage nooks for the random items that families need to stash. The cargo room is ok with just 14.4 cubic feet (407 L) of storage with the rear seats upright. This is less than the new Subaru Ascent, and the Honda Pilot, but more than the Toyota Highlander. With the third-row folded, the CX-9 features 38.2 cubic feet (1,082 L), which is less than its rivals, and the same can be said about the 71.2 cubic feet (2,017 L) when the second row is folded.
Responsive and Agile
It may not be the biggest and most practical three-row, but it is quite good to drive. While the last CX-9 was also dubbed fun-to-drive, it could be a bit too stiff at times. Mazda has refined the suspension this year to make the vehicle a bit more natural feeling on the road. A rebound spring has been added for both the front and rear dampers to help in that regard. However, the CX-9 can still feel a bit jiggly feeling on imperfect roads, but it feels smooth on most highways. The steering is really well weighted and provides excellent control. It’s easily the benchmark in this class. That might have something to do with the G-Vectoring Control system, which uses a very subtle amount of torque vectoring on the front wheels to help improve steering response.
The powertrain is also quite good in the CX-9. There’s just one engine to choose from, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s been turbocharged to make 250 hp and a very impressive 310 lb-ft of torque. While the horsepower numbers aren’t much to get excited about, the feeling of torque is excellent and will put to rest any arguments of V6 engines being superior in this application. The power gets sent to a very clever all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed automatic transmission. The system uses 27 sensors to get a better understanding of the road surface and will adjust the power split between the front and rear wheels to prevent any loss of traction. It’s pretty impressive considering it adjusts this power split over 200 times a second.
See Also: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Finally Gets a Turbo
Adding to the confidence of this all-wheel-drive system, the CX-9 can come with a full suite of safety systems. Dubbed i-Activsense it covers a lot of situations on the road and will help provide assistance when needed. There’s radar cruise control that can bring the car to a stop and start it back up again when needed, as well as a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic warning. There’s a lane keep assist and lane departure warning and automatic high-beam activation as well. It’s hard to imagine being caught off guard while driving the CX-9, with so many warning systems and driver’s aids.
Earning 23 MPG combined, the all-wheel-drive Mazda CX-9 is just as good on fuel as its rivals. This Signature Trim model will cost at least $46,360 after delivery and before any additional extras.
The Verdict: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Review
The gorgeous CX-9 is an eye-catching vehicle that’s been refined and updated with new technology and features. It’s fun to drive, and for the price, it seems quite high-end. There are a few small drawbacks to consider, but the whole package is overall quite strong, which should keep the CX-9 in your shortlist for a future family vehicle.
Discuss this story on our Mazda Forum