2009 CX-9 New Car Test Drive
The Mazda CX-9 is a swift and stylish alternative to a mid-size SUV or a minivan. It's called a crossover vehicle, meaning it combines the cargo capacity of an SUV with the fuel economy, ride quality, and handling of a car.
The CX-9 can carry seven six-footers, thanks to a third-row seat designed with adults in mind. The surroundings are handsome. We found it's easy for a 5-foot, 6-inch woman to climb into the CX-9. Yet the seating position is high enough that the driver looks over at, not up to, drivers in big SUVs. The CX-9 is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, providing a nice option for those who worry about snowy travel in hilly areas. Properly equipped, the CX-9 is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds.
What sets the CX-9 apart are its sporty looks and the road manners to back them up. The CX-9 responds quickly to driver input, feeling surprisingly enthusiastic about travel on a serpentine two-lane. Performance is provided by a 3.7-liter V6 engine delivering 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. This refined, 24-valve power plant was designed by Ford and is built in Ohio before being shipped to Japan where the CX-9 is assembled. It works with an impressive six-speed, Japanese-made automatic transmission that can be shifted manually if the driver is interested in some frisky motoring.
Safety has not been forgotten, either; in fact, kudos to Mazda for equipping even the least-expensive CX-9 model with electronic stability control (which help the driver maintain control on slippery surfaces), roll stability control, and air curtains, which provide head protection in a side-impact crash. The CX-9 has received the U.S. government's highest possible ratings (five stars) in frontal and side impact crashes, and four-star ratings for rollover resistance.
The Mazda CX-9 was introduced as a 2007 model. For 2009, the Blind Spot Monitoring system, which alerts the driver to vehicles lurking in those hard-to-see, over-the-shoulder locations, comes standard on CX-9 Grand Touring models. All 2009 models come with a trip computer and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free cell phone operation.
All Mazda vehicles come with a roadside assistance program, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, throughout the United States and Canada.
The 2009 Mazda CX-9 comes in three trim levels. Each is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($1,400).
The base-level Sport ($29,820) comes with three-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack, power windows, power door locks, remote/keyless entry, cruise control, telescope-tilt steering wheel, variable-speed wipers, rear-window wiper; cloth upholstery, six-way manual adjusting driver's seat, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. New for 2009 are a trip computer and Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones. Buyers can also now add a package ($490) that includes heated front seats and outside mirrors, plus power adjustment for the driver's seat.
Touring ($31,715) adds leather upholstery, power and heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, automatic headlamps, and storage and cupholders in the second-row center armrest. The Touring Assistance Package ($2,517) adds DVD navigation, Smart Card advanced entry and starting system, a rearview camera, a power liftgate, and, new for 2009, Bluetooth streaming audio.
Grand Touring ($33,805) adds more deluxe trim inside and out, plus turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, memory for the driver's seat, security system with advanced keyless entry Smart Card, and 20-inch aluminum wheels. An auto-dimming inside mirror with garage door opener has been added to the list for 2009. So has Blind Spot Monitoring. (Both were optional last year.) The Grand Touring Assistance Package ($2,300) adds navigation, a rearview camera, power liftgate, and Bluetooth streaming audio.
In order to buy either Assistance Package, buyers must also choose a rear-seat entertainment/Bose audio package ($2,760), which is available on Touring and Grand Touring only; or a moonroof/Bose audio package ($1,960) that is available on the Sport model as well. Both now include Sirius Satellite Radio with a six-month subscription. A towing package ($525) for Grand Touring FWD only boosts trailer capacity from 2,000 pounds to 3,500. For all models, Mazda lists more than a dozen dealer-installed accessories, including Sirius Satellite Radio ($430); remote-engine start ($350); and a retractable cargo cover ($205).
Standard safety features include electronic stability control with roll stability control and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, side air curtains, front-seat-mounted side-impact air bags, and of course the required dual frontal air bags. Air curtains are low-pressure airbags that come down from the ceiling to cover the side windows in all three rows. The idea is to provide head protection in a side-impact crash. Studies and crash tests have shown such head protection can significantly improve the chance of surviving side-impact crashes, which are particularly deadly because there is so little metal to protect the occupants of the vehicle being struck. The air bags mounted in the front seats are designed to provide chest protection in a side-impact crash. Optional all-wheel drive adds a measure of driving safety in slippery conditions.