2011 CX-9 New Car Test Drive
The Mazda CX-9 is a midsize crossover utility vehicle. It combines the cargo capacity of an SUV with the fuel economy, ride quality, and handling of a car. It's a swift and stylish alternative to a mid-size SUV or a minivan.
The 2010 Mazda CX-9 gets some significant updates, including minor styling revisions: Exterior updates include the corporate five-pointed grille, side mirrors redesigned to be larger and more aerodynamic, taillights that feature a texture inspired by the Nagare concept car, an additional chrome trim piece above the license plate that echoes the chrome trim floating in the front grille, and two new wheel designs. The CX-9 was introduced as a 2007 model, so these changes represent mid-cycle updates to a proven product.
Inside, Mazda aimed for a more upscale look for the 2010 CX-9 by adding piano black insets on the steering wheel and radio display and chrome trim to the door handles, door trim, instrument panel and many controls. A double-lid center console design is also new, as is a 4.3-inch display screen on models without the larger navigation screen.
The Mazda CX-9 is a great people hauler. It can carry seven six-foot passengers, thanks to a third-row seat designed with adults in mind. It's easy for a 5-foot, 6-inch woman to climb into the CX-9 because there's no need to climb up into it. Yet the seating position is high enough that the driver looks over at, not up to, drivers in big SUVs. We found the cabin surroundings handsome.
The CX-9 is available with 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.
Electronic stability control, which helps the driver maintain control on slippery surfaces, comes standard on all models, along with 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. 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 2010 Mazda CX-9 comes in three trim levels. Each is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($1,400).
Mazda CX-9 Sport ($28,635) comes with cloth upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/CD audio with auxiliary input jack, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, remote/keyless entry, cruise control, leather-wrapped tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, six-way manual adjusting driver's seat, split-folding second- and third-row seats, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, rear spoiler, and P245/60R18 tires on aluminum wheels. Buyers can also add a package ($490) that includes heated front seats and outside mirrors, plus power adjustment for the driver's seat.
CX-9 Touring ($30,555) adds leather upholstery, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, and automatic-off headlamps. The Touring Liftgate Package ($617) adds Smart Card advanced entry and starting system and a power liftgate.
CX-9 Grand Touring ($32,645) adds more deluxe trim inside and out, including turn signals integrated into the side mirrors, automatic high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, memory for the driver's seat, security system with advanced keyless entry Smart Card, auto-dimming inside mirror with universal garage door opener and P245/50R20 tires. The Grand Touring Navigation Package ($2,300) adds a navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic information. Also exclusive to the Grand Touring is the Entertainment and Bose Package ($3,055) with a DVD entertainment system, Bose AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, and a 115-volt power outlet.
A Moonroof and Bose Package ($2,255) includes a sunroof, the Bose AM/FM radio with six-disc CD changer, Sirius satellite radio, and a rearview camera. A towing prep package ($100) for Grand Touring FWD only comes with a transmission oil cooler and a heavy duty radiator fan, boosts trailer capacity from 2,000 pounds to 3,500. A trailer hitch receiver and cover is available for all models ($425). Other options consist of Sirius satellite radio ($430), a rearview camera with an auto-dimming rearview mirror ($665), the auto-dimming rearview mirror ($275), a power liftgate ($400), remote-engine start ($350), a retractable cargo cover ($205), and roof rails ($250).
Safety features include electronic stability control with roll stability control and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, active front head restraints, tire-pressure monitor, side air curtains with rollover deployment, 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, a rearview camera provides a view of objects behind the vehicle, and Blind Spot Alert, which is standard on Grand Touring and optional otherwise, has lights in the side mirrors to tell drivers when vehicles are traveling in the CX-9's blind spot.