By KBB.com Editors
Car-based "crossover" utility vehicles (CUVs) try to marry the best attributes of passenger cars and SUVs, and these days they are leaving the woods and mountains behind. The goal is to offer a sporty, urban vibe, and none pulls this off better than the twin CUVs from Mazda, the CX-7 and CX-9. They offer the tough-to-achieve blend of a sport sedan and an SUV that can corner and carry equally well. Both are vehicles that are genuinely fun to drive yet still useful on a shopping trip or a family vacation. Of the two, the CX-7 may be a tad sportier, but its larger three-row, seven-passenger CX-9 stablemate, which shares its engine and much of its architecture with Ford's Edge and Lincoln MKX, delivers a similar feel while upping the utility quotient considerably.
If large three-row CUV practicality with a fair measure of Mazda "Zoom-Zoom" character might be your cup of tea, take a look at this new CX-9. Its combination of sporty looks, eager performance and people and cargo capacity should impress you.
If your needs include a greater level of off-road prowess or heavier cargo and towing capability, one of many less sporty but more powerful and capable SUVs on the market would be a better choice.
We were skeptical when Mazda claimed sportiness as a key attribute of its new crossover utilities, but they have surprised us by delivering on that promise. The CX-9, created specifically for North America, is the largest vehicle Mazda has ever brought to this market.
Driving Impressions A lightly-loaded CX-9 does a creditable job of living up to Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" marketing promise with its rigid unibody chassis, low-friction MacPherson strut front and independent multi-link rear suspension, precise...engine-speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering and stabilizer bars at both ends. Despite its substantial size and weight, it acquits itself surprisingly well on curvy country roads and rides smoothly and quietly at freeway speeds. With more people and cargo aboard, it is understandably less athletic and loses some performance, but it remains a satisfying ride. Unlike many three-row CUVs, there is ample adult-size room in all seating positions and 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.
60/40-split, sliding, reclining second-row seat
This versatile center-row seat slides five inches to accommodate long-legged folks either on or behind it. The seat also has reclining backrests, offers easy access to the third row with a one-handed release and folds flat into the floor to optimize cargo room.
Active Torque-Split All-Wheel Drive
On available all-wheel-drive models, sensors signal control modules to send more torque to the axle with the best traction automatically. Up to half the engine's torque can be sent to the rear through a computer-controlled coupling connected to the rear differential.
The CX-9's interior upholds the exterior's sporting character but with more luxury touches than the less expensive CX-7. Its instrument panel has quad chrome-ringed gauges under a prominent hood and a logically laid-out audio and climate control area bounded by rich wood spears plunging from dash-top to floor and mirroring similar pieces in the door panels. The three-spoke steering wheel, contoured front bucket seats and two-tone trim say "sports car" more than "SUV," while blue indirect lighting adds an upscale glow at night. The 60/40 second-row seat reclines and slides forward to enhance third-row access, and both it and the 50/50 third seat fold flat into the floor.Exterior
The CX-9 is well dressed for its role as the bigger brother of Mazda's CX-7 sport CUV. Its look is Mazda sporty, with a signature five-point grille over a wide, aggressive bumper, wrap-around headlights and a broad-shouldered tail with curving tail lights and twin trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips. One nice touch is a full-width chrome strip across the top of the black-out grille opening, which flows across the top of the large, centered Mazda logo.
The CX-9 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base Sport comes with three-row, seven-passenger seating, front and rear air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, tilt wheel, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio and six sets of air bags (front, side and full-length side curtain). Additional safety features include four-wheel ventilated disc brakes with ABS, Traction Control System (TCS) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). The mid-range Touring and top-line Grand Touring add leather trim, power front seats and more.
The Mazda CX-9 has an options list that mimics a premium-level sedan. Major options available on the CX-9 include SIRIUS(tm) satellite radio, DVD-based touch-screen navigation, Surround-Sound Bose(r) premium audio with a six-CD changer, rear DVD entertainment system and a power rear liftgate. All-wheel drive is an important functional option.
The CX-9's dual-overhead-cam, 24-valve, variable-valve-timing 3.5-liter V6 is essentially the same excellent new engine that powers its American cousins, the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and other upper-level Ford products, but it is assembled, tuned and calibrated by Mazda. It powers the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission or all four with Mazda's available Active Torque-Split all-wheel drive.
263 horsepower @ 6250 rpm
249 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (front-wheel drive), 16/22 (all-wheel drive)
By buster on Thursday, November 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"we owned a 2007 rendezvous prior to this suv. really loved that car, but this one is a close second. not 100% satisfied with the transmission and the way it down shifts as soon as you take your foot off the gas peddle. Drove it to florida this past Feb. and it was quite comfortable and handled the road great. got about 22mpg on the road."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Mel on Wednesday, November 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 210,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought the car used and it is one of the best cars that I have ever owned mo major issues juts change the oil regularly and it keeps going"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By sandy on Saturday, October 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,490overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "is really fun to drive and very comfortable"
Cons: "steering could be tighter"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"my only complaint is that the brakes will chatter when they get hot. not really comfortable braking when it feels like the antilock system is on, which it is not. also I find the steering is not as precise as I would prefer. I seem to make a fair amount of corrections when driving on a smooth toll road at maybe 65mph other than that the car is really quick and fast. and the 20" tires that came with the car are pretty unforgiving on the road, and are already showing signs of wear and drying out at under 16,000mi..I hope to replace them with something other than a high performance tire down the road."
12 people out of 22 found this review helpful
By Tim on Friday, October 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 41,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "trouble free,comfortable, roomy"
Cons: "I have yet to find a problem"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I traded in my Mercedes for one of the first CX-7's, which was an outstanding car, but ended up being too small and my wife wanted the 3rd row. I have since purchased 3 CX-9s. I drive a lot throughout California and put a ton of miles on my car and after driving for six or seven hours, I do not feel tired or sore from sitting. It is fun to drive and has all the power I need for passing on long stretches of highway. I have not had ANY mechanical or other issues with any of these cars. In fact, I have an appointment in two days to buy my 4th CX-9.."
7 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By TJ on Thursday, September 25, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "I can only say Mazda..... ZOOM ZOOM"
Cons: "Vehicle should come with side molding,for lights"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The only thing I would have liked is a little better gas mileage.. The fit and finish is excellent, I just replaced my tires after 55,000. The ride is very good and has plenty of power when needed.. Only complaint is I need a ladder to wash it. Love the vehicle."
By Stanley on Saturday, September 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 21,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good driver for a big car"
Cons: "Getting in and out on all four seat not good"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"I have two negative issues 1. The drivers seat goes back to fully recline each time you unlock the car. 2. The passenger seat is too high and the angle of the windshield is too short. A lot of power, pretty good mileage on the highway! Sound system great , good lines Blind side is a great feature"
12 people out of 26 found this review helpful