May 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 10:09
Mazda was late to the big-car game, having spent most of its first 30 years in the U.S. market seeking a niche befitting its early, unconventional role as purveyor of cars powered by Wankel rotary engines. In 2007, Mazda joined the crossover crusade, introducing the compact CX-7 and the beefier CX-9.
Now in its fourth year, the CX-9 has undergone a modest redesign for 2010. The major difference is an exterior resculpting that gives the car a longer, lower, more graceful appearance. The front fascia features a wide, disarming smile with a chrome strip running horizontally down the middle, but don’t let the friendly face fool you. Although not designed for serious off-road driving, the CX-9, with eight inches of ground clearance, available all-wheel drive and stability control, is tough and versatile.Our test car was a top-of-the-line Grand Touring model with all-wheel drive. With options, including navigation, power rear hatch, power moon roof and satellite radio, the bottom line was $39,265.
The strength of the CX-9, compared with major competitors such as General Motors’ popular crossovers, is drivability. Cornering, throttle response, ride and transmission performance surpass the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. Where the GM crossovers excel is in fuel economy — they’re rated at 24 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive; we managed a little better than 20 while testing the Enclave — and interior room. By contrast, our all-wheel-drive CX-9 averaged 17.4 mpg.
After test-driving the 2008 CX-9, we observed: “It comes down to what you’d rather own and what you’d rather drive.” The GM crossovers are roomier and their handling has improved since then, but they’re still no match for the CX-9 for pure driving enjoyment.
The base CX-9 Sport starts at $28,635. All versions of the CX-9 are equipped with the same 3.7-liter, 273-horsepower, V-6 engine. A 6-speed automatic transmission also is standard in all models.
The front and middle seats are spacious and comfortable. The middle seat slides fore and aft, making it possible for adults to access the third seat and sit there in reasonable comfort. The third seat is included in all trim levels, endowing the CX-9 with sporty-SUV looks and minivan versatility to go along with its sport-sedan handling.
Behind the third seat is 17.2 cubic feet of luggage space. With the rear and middle seats lowered, cargo room expands to 101 cubic feet.
For those who like the Mazda crossover style but feel they can get by with something smaller, the five-passenger CX-7 starts at $21,550 and gets 28 mpg on the highway.
The CX-9 has average reliability, according to Consumer Reports magazine readers, and five-star ratings across the board in government crash tests.
All of the major Japanese, European and U.S. automakers offer crossovers across a wide price spectrum. Among the mid-priced models, the CX-9 stands out mainly for its sharp looks, exquisite handling and performance, and high marks for safety.
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6, 273 horsepower, 270 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,500 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Ground clearance: 8 inches
Wheels: 20-inch by 7.5-inch polished alloy
Tires: P245/50R20 102V all season
Seating capacity: 7
Luggage capacity: 17.2 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 101 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 20.1 gallons
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
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