Entry price: $32,130
Price as tested: $45,555
This week, we’re driving the 2018 Mazda CX-9, a three row SUV delivered in top class Signature dress with all-wheel-drive (AWD). Although listed as a midsize SUV, you’ll feel like you’re driving a full size SUV when you get behind the wheel.
Built in Hiroshima, Japan, the history of the Mazda CX-9 finds its debut in 2006 with Ford engines under the hood, which means Mazda was a little late to the SUV midsize revolution. Relying on then partner Ford for assembly line assist, CX-9 was an impressive SUV that lasted through 2015 on the same design sans the usual yearly tweaks to exterior and interior.
This new second generation “all-Mazda” CX-9 delivers solid good looks and a company-built four-cylinder turbo that not only runs like a V-6, it sounds like one too. The CX-9 offers three row seating and delivers the sporty handling that Mazda manufactured vehicles are known for. Notable, too, is how the designers worked magic in the CX-9 blueprint by making it smaller and bigger at the same time. The end result is a CX-9 that is shorter in length than the last generation yet offers a longer wheelbase. Notable is that although built in Japan, the CX-9 is too big for the Japanese mandates resulting in a government approved CX-8 selling there instead.
The new design also offers the bigger interior dimensions we mention above, and then caps off with a lighter overall weight, too. This all delivers better performance, more room and better mileage in what really is a smaller dimension package. Further, our i-Active AWD equipped 2018 CX-9 Signature is nearly 300 lbs. lighter than the previous generation as Mazda closely follows its core philosophy Skyactiv vehicle dynamic. For those who don’t know what Skyactiv means, it centers on properly matched suspension, transmission, engine and subsequent computerized technology to make everything work in tandem. The end result is CX-9’s surprising handling, comfort and spirited performance.
Starting at $32,130 for the entry Sport front-drive, next up is the Touring at $34,960 and then the Grand Touring at $40,470. These three models also offer AWD underpinnings for $1,800 more. If you choose the top flight Signature they come with standard with AWD and are near fully loaded for a retail of $44,315.
Under the hood sits a 250-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo four that generates 310 lb. ft. of torque and mates to a six-speed automatic. Fuel mileage is decent as the EPA numbers are 22 city and 28 highway for front-drive models and 20 and 26, respectively, for the AWD CX-9. Zero to 60-MPH acceleration arrives in 7.6 for the AWD and 7.1 for front drive models.
The CX-9 Signature tri-color cabin comes standard with Nappa leather seating, aluminum trim and real Rosewood touches. A 12-speaker Bose stereo system with all the modern gadgetry fills the cabin with music while third row passengers will appreciate the extra room (although still tight for taller adults). As for cargo, when third row seating is in the down position there’s more than ample cargo space. Then, when you drop the second row seats, you’ll be impressed with over 70 cu. ft. of cargo space available.
This new generation CX-9 arrived in 2016 and is very pleasing to the eye, especially in top flight Signature trim. Included are 20-inch Bridgestone all-season tires on alloy wheels, large chrome front grille, aluminum roof rails, rain sense wipers, privacy glass, power moonroof and LED lighting. Our tester came finished in an extra cost pearl paint ($200 extra) that looked outstanding. Add $100 for cargo mats and $940 delivery and you arrive at the bottom line retail of $45,555.
Selecting the upper class Mazda CX-9 pays dividends, especially in enhanced safety factors. Signature models all come standard with high-tech radar adaptive cruise control, cross traffic alerts, rear backup sensors, enhanced safety rear camera, lane departure, lane assist, and crash avoidance smart brake support and smart city brake support. Add all the traction controls, four-wheel ABS disc brakes, stability control, modern airbag system and the Skyactiv body ring roll-bar structure and you have one very safe CX-9 sitting in your driveway. Notable is that all CX-9 models come standard with smart city brake support and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 115.3 inches, 4,361 lb. curb weight, 8.8 inch ground clearance, 14.4 to 71.2 cu. ft. of cargo space, 3,500 lb. towing capacity and a 19.5 gal. fuel tank.
Mazda continues to successfully blend innovation and marketing to make major dents in the midsize SUV market. Additionally, Mazda dealers may have a few leftover 2017 CX-9 models on sale, so prospective owners will receive some nice incentives on an identical version. Your Mazda dealer is awaiting your test drive visit to explain current 2018 offers and everything you want to know about the Mazda CX-9.
Likes: Mazda quality build, interior, great looks, peppy engine.
Dislikes: Entry models don’t offer some high-tech safety features.
Next week: All new 2018 Honda Accord. Upcoming 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.