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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

      ...the outlier in the full-size crossover class...

    Over a year ago, I pitted the Mazda CX-9 against the Volkswagen Atlas to find out which was the better three-row crossover. The CX-9 put up a good fight with a very luxurious interior and impressive driving dynamics. However, the Atlas took home the win as it proved to be the better carrier of passengers and cargo, along with providing a slightly smoother ride. A year on, the CX-9 makes a return to the C&G Detroit Garage to see if it could redeem itself. Spoiler alert: I still feel the same way as I did last year.

    • Going on three years, the CX-9 is still one of the best looking three-row crossovers on sale. Its graceful lines, tapered rear pillar, and slim lights make the crossover look more expensive than it actually is.
    • The Grand Touring may miss out on the Nappa leather for the seats and Rosewood trim found on the Signature, it is still a nice place to sit in. Bright metalwork contrasts nicely with soft-touch plastics and leather upholstery on the seats.
    • But the interior also houses some of the CX-9’s key flaws beginning with the seat arrangement. All 2019 CX-9s come with seating for seven people, there is no option for six with a set of captain chairs - that is being rectified for 2020.
    • Those sitting in the second-row will have no complaints about space, but anyone sitting in the third-row will bemoan the lack of legroom. This can improve if the second-row is slid forward.
    • Cargo space is another weak spot. The CX-9 only offers 14.4 cubic feet behind the third-row, 38.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and 71.2 cubic feet with both rows folded. To give some perspective, the Atlas offers 20.6, 55.5, and 96.8 cubic feet of space.
    • 2019 finally sees Mazda add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility to their MazdaConnect infotainment system. This is an improvement as MazdaConnect trails competitors in terms of graphics and a slightly confusing menu structure. At least the control knob and shortcut buttons make using the system less aggravating.
    • Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder with 227 horsepower (250 if you fill up with premium) and 310 pound-feet. This is channeled through a six-speed automatic and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive.
    • Putting a turbo-four into a three-row crossover seems like madness, but Mazda was able to make it work with no issue. Torque arrives at a low 2,000 rpm, allowing the CX-9 to leap away from any driving situation. Response from the transmission is excellent with snappy up and downshifts.
    • Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23, slightly better than the 22.5 mpg for the 2018 model.
    • The ace up the CX-9’s sleeve is the handling. No other crossover can close to matching the taut characteristics on offer with body motions kept in check and sharp steering. Though how many people consider a plus is likely very small.
    • Ride quality falls under supple with most bumps and imperfections being ironed out. Impressive when you consider this is riding 20-inch wheels.
    • The Mazda CX-9 is an outlier in the three-row crossover class as it focuses more on the driving experience and looks. That isn’t a bad thing as it gives Mazda a unique selling point. But a small space for passengers and cargo is the CX-9’s major downfall. 

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-9, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2019
    Make: Mazda
    Model: CX-9
    Trim: Grand Touring AWD
    Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L Skyactiv-G Inline-Four
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 227 or 250 @ 5,000 (Depending on the fuel)
    Torque @ RPM: 310 @ 2,000
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/23
    Curb Weight: 4,383 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
    Base Price: $42,640
    As Tested Price: $45,060 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Illuminated Door Sill Trim Plates - $575.00
    Front & Rear Bumper Trim - $550.00
    Snowflake White Pearl - $200.00
    Cargo Mat - $100.00

    Edited by William Maley


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    I am sure this will be a hit with Mazda fans and those 5'8" tall or shorter. I would be interested to know if they still limit the front passenger seat in range of movement compared to the drivers seat. That was a deal breaker for me on a 2 week rental as I could not let the wife drive as I could not fit in the front seat. Mazda focuses on short people and gets away with plenty of shortcuts in making it a truly usable auto.

    Seems like a year later you still have the same weaknesses. 

    Thank you Bill for taking it to task and writing it up, very interesting to read.

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    @dfeltHere we go again with 5'8" people.  I am 6'1" and had no issues with CX-9 driver seat.

    CX-9 indeed tighter on space than some other three row crossovers but it handles like a sports sedan and looks great compared to the rest of soap boxes in the segment.  

    Edited by ykX
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    1 hour ago, ykX said:

    @dfeltHere we go again with 5'8" people.  I am 6'1" and had no issues with CX-9 driver seat.

    CX-9 indeed tighter on space than some other three row crossovers but it handles like a sports sedan and looks great compared to the rest of soap boxes in the segment.  

    This was the current CX9?

    Yes I know some are longer body, shorter legs or long legs, shorter body. I actually am in the middle with body length equal to leg length and I guess my 5" extra height makes a big difference to me as I could not fit in the front passenger seat as it did not go back or go down as much as the drivers seat. I had to have the drivers seat all the way down and back to fit into the CX9. The racked windshield also makes it much hard to get into the auto as you have to bend the head down and put your butt in before pulling legs and head into the auto.

    Fact is we all have different body types and those that know me as a large body building 6'6" tall man knows pretty much all Asian auto's fit smaller people.

    Here is a picture of me and my family. Wife, daughter and Son all 5'8" and then me at 6'6". Except for my daughter, everyone has broad shoulders.

    9871.jpeg

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    On 12/6/2019 at 11:10 AM, dfelt said:

    This was the current CX9?

    Yes I know some are longer body, shorter legs or long legs, shorter body. I actually am in the middle with body length equal to leg length and I guess my 5" extra height makes a big difference to me as I could not fit in the front passenger seat as it did not go back or go down as much as the drivers seat. I had to have the drivers seat all the way down and back to fit into the CX9. The racked windshield also makes it much hard to get into the auto as you have to bend the head down and put your butt in before pulling legs and head into the auto.

    Fact is we all have different body types and those that know me as a large body building 6'6" tall man knows pretty much all Asian auto's fit smaller people.

    Here is a picture of me and my family. Wife, daughter and Son all 5'8" and then me at 6'6". Except for my daughter, everyone has broad shoulders.

    9871.jpeg

    Nice family picture!

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    CX-9 oozes luxury, polish, refinement and "I want to drive that".

    I enjoyed my 2011 back in the day with the 3.7L, and always thought even back then it was better built and more refined than things on the market like the MDX, etc. Now it really us.

    Having driven and ridden in them all, CX-9 is the most comfortable, best seats, etc. rolling down the road, but not the biggest, no. I'm 6'3" and interior comfort is 110% vital, wrap around seats, console, etc. included. Middle row in these is super comfy, too. It's bigger than a Jeep Grand Cherokee but shorter than a Durango, Explorer, etc., etc. so "just right" for many.

    What do you think of the 2.5T in real world day to day, use? Sound, feel, power, off the line, passing on highway...etc.?

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