2017 CX-9 New Car Test Drive
The Mazda CX-9 is a stylish three-row crossover sport-utility whose emphasis on sport compromises the family a bit, so its functionality will depend on its intended use. If you always want sharp handling on a firm ride and only occasionally need that third row of seats, it works.
It uses one engine, introduced in 2016, a 2.5-liter turbo making 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, when premium gas is used; however it drops to 227 hp on regular. The engine has already been named one of Wards “10 Best Engines” for 2017. An SUV the size of the CX-9 could use more power. In the CX-9 it still accelerates quickly enough, helped along by a quick six-speed automatic that's smoother than rivals having eight, nine, or ten speeds; but given the CX-9's sporty personality, there should be paddle shifters. The omission is curiously out of character for Mazda.
With a long wheelbase of 115.3 inches and overall length of 199.4 inches, it's bigger on the outside than the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander, but those inches mostly vanish on the inside, where the Pilot and Highlander win with more space for passengers and cargo. The CX-9 wins on cabin beauty and luxury feel, but loses again on tech, with mediocre connectivity and an infotainment system that doesn't keep up with rivals.
With standard front-wheel drive it gets 22 miles per gallon city, 28 highway and 24 combined, and one less combined mpg with all-wheel drive, according to the EPA.
For 2017, the biggest change is automatic emergency braking at low speeds, called Smart City Brake Support, standard on all models but the entry-level Sport. This feature joins blind spot monitors and rear cross-traffic alert.
Model LineupThe 2017 Mazda CX-9 Sport ($31,520) comes with cloth upholstery, three-zone climate control, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. All-wheel drive is available for Sport, Touring Grand Touring for an additional $1800. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
CX-9 Touring ($35,970) includes leather upholstery, power heated front seats, push-button start, three-zone automatic climate control, two USB ports, Bluetooth audio streaming (no CD), rearview camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch screen, and LED headlamps.
Grand Touring ($40,470) adds lane-keep assist, lane departure alert, moonroof, adaptive cruise control, power liftgate, and upgraded infotainment with 8.0-inch screen. An option package adds automatic headlamps, LED foglamps, navigation, Bose speakers, automatic windshield wipers, sunroof, SiriusXM satellite radio, 20-inch wheels, and head-up display.
Signature ($44,315) comes standard with all-wheel drive and Nappa leather, Japanese rosewood inlays, and real aluminum trim.
The CX-9 is elegant, with a long hood, tapered fenders, and dramatic (for an SUV) roofline. Its tall nose features a large but delicate grille that's tilted at the top like a Volvo XC90, and LED headlamps; on the Signature, the grille has LED background lighting. The rear pillars arc upward. The wide stance gives an athletic look that could pass for Italian.