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Quick Drive: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring


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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


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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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  • 2 weeks later...

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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      Considering the number of Lexus RC coupes I have driven over the years, there has been a significant hole - the V8 RC F. Whenever I have asked for one, the vehicle either wasn't in the press fleet or someone else was driving it during the dates I had available. But I was able to finally get my hands on one for a week in early fall. It was good timing as I was feeling the effects of being home for the past six months due to COVID-19. Maybe this coupe could give me a bit of joy.
      The RC F is not a shrinking violet. From its bright yellow paint, blacked-out 20-inch wheels, and optional carbon fiber package that includes a retractable rear spoiler, this coupe is very brash and proud of it. I'll admit that I was worried about scraping or cracking the carbon fiber front splitter if I took a steep entrance ramp or bump a bit too aggressively. It looks cool on the car, but the existential dread of an expensive repair bill does sour the appeal.  Not much changes on the inside for the RC F except for carbon fiber trim and a set of racing-style seats. Usually, I have a lot of trepidation on this type of seat because I don't fully fit in due to my slightly wide shoulders. But the seats conformed to my body within a day or so and I found them to offer the balance of support during hard-driving, and comfort for day-to-day - something I find to be hit and miss on seats from other automakers. Lexus Enform is still a frustrating infotainment system to use on daily basis. With a touchy control pad, it is easy to find yourself changing the song or end up in a different section of the system. This means you need to pay close attention to any change being made, which becomes a distraction hazard. Apple CarPlay is standard and does make using the system a bit more bearable. But I do wish Lexus would roll out their touchscreen system which makes it much more intuitive. Though, that likely will not come until a redesign, possibly in the next year or two. The main event for the RC F is under the hood. A 5.0L V8 engine with 467 horsepower and 389 pound-feet of torque - figures that slightly pale when compared to the BMW M4 or Mercedes-AMG C63. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic which routes the power to the rear wheels. The initial acceleration is a slight disappointment as the throttle response feels a bit sleepy. I'm not sure if this was due to improve fuel economy or throttle feel higher in the rev band. Thankfully, this sleepiness goes away as the car climbs up in speed and the V8 reveals its party trick. The noise that comes out of this engine sounds like a muscle car and you find yourself stepping the accelerator to enjoy it. Not much to say about the eight-speed automatic. It goes about its business smoothly and quickly. Fuel economy was surprising in the least, as I got an average of 18 mpg in mostly city and suburb driving. A set of adaptive dampers comes standard for the RC-F and gives it a split personality. Turn the drive mode knob to Sport+ and the dampers tighten up to make the coupe feel more agile than its weight of 4,017 pounds would suggest. Also helping in the handling are a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S summer tires, providing tenacious grip. But switch the drive mode into normal and RC F becomes a very comfortable and refined grand tourer. Ride quality is very good with only a few bumps making their way inside. A minimal amount of road and wind noise is present. One area where the RC F holds a distinct advantage over the completion is the base price of $65,925 - undercutting most by a few grand. The danger is going through the option list and deciding to go crazy, which explains the as-tested price of $89,654. You can chop off over $11,000 by skipping the Performance package which brings all of the carbon fiber bits. The RC F lacks the outright performance as those from Germany. But I'm willing to overlook it because sometimes you want a car that just shouts to the world and the RC F does that very well. During my week, I found myself reveling in the engine and the grand touring characteristics of the suspension. It brought me the joy which sometimes is all you need a car to do. Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the RC F, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Lexus
      Model: RC F
      Trim: -
      Engine: 5.0L DOHC 32-Valve V8
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 467 @ 7,100
      Torque @ RPM: 389 @ 4,800 - 5,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19
      Curb Weight: 3,958 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
      Base Price: $64,900
      As Tested Price: $89,654 (Includes $1,025.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Performance Package - $11,400.00
      Premium Package - $5,350.00
      Navigation System w/Mark Levinson Audio - $2,725.00
      Torque Vectoring Differential - $1,250.00
      Premium Triple Beam LED Headlamps - $1,160.00
      Flare Yellow Premium Paint - $595.00
      Intuitive Parking Assist - $500.00
      Illuminated Door Sills - $449.00
      Orange Metallic Brembo Brake Calipers - $300.00

      View full article
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