The 2014 Mazda CX-9 is something of an anomaly for a company that excels at building small agile cars with their innovative Skyactiv technology. While the Skyactiv technology is more minimalist in nature, the CX-9 leans more toward the other side of the spectrum ? elegant and refined.
More of a product of the old school Mazda, we think the CX-9, is very well done and a strong competitor in that group of mid- to large crossover /SUVs. In 2013, the flagship three-row Mazda CX-9 received a major refresh including a dose of KODO ?Soul in Motion? design enhancements. While the original version still looks good, the new version has a more sophisticated and elegant demeanor that sets it apart from competitors.
The KODO is one of those obscure Japanese design languages that are difficult to describe. Mazda uses references to ?fluidity of movement? and several other Zen-like descriptions we don?t totally understand, but when applied to a vehicle design, it looks great, especially on the CX-9!
At 200-inches long, the CX-9 is only four inches shorter than the Chevrolet Tahoe and a few inches longer than the Ford Explorer. The KODO styling makes it look more streamline and not boxy like more traditionally styled crossovers and SUVs. It also has a sportier feel behind the wheel ? more like a sport wagon than a truck.
The interior is spacious with room for real size people in the first two rows, and more petite individuals in the ?way back?, which is what we call a vehicle?s third row. With all three rows in place the 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space is about the equivalent that of a large sedan. When the second and third row seat backs are folded, there is 100.7 cubic feet of space ? that?s 6.0 cubic feet more than the new 2015 Tahoe.
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 ?office? or interior has a clean contemporary design accented with comfortable, mildly bolstered leather seating (front two rows) in the top two levels, with the front seats are heated.
Controls are well placed, easily identified and have a good positive feel. We like that the transmission has an extra shiftgate for manual shifting, but it does take a while to adapt, because the Mazda engineers, like BMW, subscribe to the pattern of shifting forward to shift down and pulling the shifter toward the rear to shift up. The system actually makes sense when you think about the vehicle motions, but when most vehicles are just the opposite; it takes us a few days to adjust.
The optional Touring Technology Package that was included on our test vehicle includes a navigation system designed by aftermarket maker, TomTom. The audio system-mounted unit sits in the center stack at about the same level as the center of the steering wheel. This requires taking your eyes off the road to look at the map to a relatively small (by today?s standards) 5.8-inch screen. The audio portion of the unit does include the latest technologies like HD radio, satellite radio, Pandora and Bluetooth streaming. The system links with the Internet using a smartphone connection.
Under the hood is a powerful 273-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 engine attached to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. For $1,590 more, it?s available in all-wheel drive. The combination feels responsive and powerful underfoot and accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. Like most larger crossovers, fuel economy is not its best feature. EPA estimates say the CX-9 AWD gets 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. We averaged 18.7 mpg in mixed driving conditions.
The big Mazda will tow up to 3,500 pounds when equipped with the optional ($425) towing package.
The new CX-9 is available in three trim levels, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring and in front or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $30,780, including the $795 destination charge, for the FWD Sport to $37,420 for the Grand Touring model with AWD. With all the options and accessories, the GT top price is about $43,000.
Like most top-level models the GT has a long equipment list with all the convenience and comfort features we expect at this price point. It also has some important safety features we think should be on all cars including blind spot monitoring, roll stability control and rain sensor wipers. We also appreciate other features like the Rear Cross Traffic alert system, Bi-Xenon headlights and power liftgate that are standard on the top level Grand Touring.
The CX-9 is not a big seller, but it wears a Consumer Reports ?Recommended? rating and ranks a ?must drive? from us on the list of full size crossover/SUVs. When you buy a CX-9, you?ll be looking good and you won?t be seeing them all over the place.
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 is well-equipped with most of the latest technologies, it?s comfortable and enjoyable drive, plus it?s a good value.