The Mazda CX-9 is one of the oldest nameplates in three-row crossover marketplace and also happens to be one, if not the oldest model on sale. At one time, it was considered to be one of the best crossovers. But since then, a new generation of crossovers have gone on sale. Does the CX-9 still have a place?
Last year, Mazda gave the CX-9 a bit of a facelift with a new front end to bring it more in line with other models with the Kodo design language. The facelift hasn't worked out as the new front end seems very out of place to the rest of the vehicle. The remainder of the vehicle from the front doors on is still the same as the first CX-9 from 2007 and is still a very handsome vehicle.
Inside, the CX-9 is a mix of the old and new. Old is the seating arrangement which provides good head and legroom, though the seats are little bit stiff for long trips. Also staying the same is the minuscule amount of cargo space when all three rows are up. To get any cargo space, its recommended that you fold the third row down. New is a revised center stack with a new head unit. In my tester, it was the optional navigation system. The system is the same as the Mazda6 and CX-5, which means a somewhat dated interface, and long time for the system to find to connect my phone to the bluetooth system. I would just pass on the navigation.
Power still comes from 3.7L V6 with 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional all-wheel drive system. This engine really needs to worked around the 3,000 to 4,500 rpm area if you want to feel like your moving along. Anything below that and the engine feels very legarthic. On the plus side, the six-speed automatic is very smooth and the optional all-wheel drive was able to keep the vehicle on the road with plenty of traction. Fuel economy on the CX-9 is rated by the EPA at 16 City/22 Highway/18 Combined. In my week-long testing, I only got 17.6 MPG.
Being a Mazda, you would expect excellent driving characteristics. The CX-9 is almost no exception to that rule. The CX-9's suspension is on the firm side, which means the model doesn't show any lean and is fun to play around in the corners. That also means you'll be feeling a fair number of bumps and road imperfections. Steering is slow to respond at first turn, but once it catches up, it provides decent weight and feel. Wind and road noise were somewhat apparent when driving in the CX-9.
As I was driving around in the CX-9, I thought that if I have driven this before the Dodge Durango, I would like the CX-9 a bit more. The reason is the Dodge Durango takes the CX-9's recipe and improves on it with a better V6 engine, higher fuel economy numbers, and being a bit better to drive. The CX-9 is getting up there in age and I think needs to retire and let a new model take its place. When that will be is up in the air.
Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-9, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: Grand Touring
Engine: 3.7L MZR V6
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 273 @ 6,250
Torque @ RPM: 270 @ 4,250
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/22/18
Curb Weight: 4,552 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
Base Price: $36,625
As Tested Price: $39,855 (Includes $795 Destination Charge)
GT Tech Package - $2,435