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 2008 Mazda CX-9. It offers the tough-to-achieve blend of sport sedan and SUV that can corner and carry equally well. Like the smaller Mazda CX-7, the CX-9 is 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's 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 the 2008 Mazda 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.
A new 3.7-liter V6 replaces last year's 3.5-liter unit and provides more horsepower and torque. Mazda's Blind Spot Monitoring System will be available later in the model year.
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 2008 Mazda 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 anti-lock disc brakes (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 satellite radio, DVD-based touch-screen navigation, Blind Spot Monitoring System, Surround Sound Bose 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 new, more powerful, 3.7-liter V6 is a variation of the 3.5-liter engine that powers its American cousins, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. The 3.7-liter version is specific to Mazda. It powers the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission, or all four wheels with Mazda's available Active Torque-Split all-wheel drive.
273 horsepower @ 6250 rpm
270 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (FWD), 15/21 (AWD)
By dwo2000 on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 86,300overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliability. Comfort. Family friendly."
Cons: "Big vehicle so gas mileage not great. Duh."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Ultra reliable.Only had one major issues which was rear wheel bearings (rare problem) replaced under warranty at 50000 miles. Other than that, just tires and oil changes. Check brakes every year and still they are OK. Incredible. Drives great."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By hummer on Friday, March 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Oh where to start...... I love/hate this vehicle. It looks good, drives good and is very comfortable to sit in. The ride is a bit clunky and I'm very disappointed in the gas milage. No where near what I expected. I don't drive crazy nor do I haul heavy loads yet I get only about 12 miles to the gallon. Please keep this in mind when considering the Mazda cx9"
4 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By SkipperJohn on Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, versatility, comfortable seating"
Cons: "Quirky radio/climate controls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Purchased new in early 2012, we were drawn to the Mazda CX-9 by the roomy, comfortable interior with high quality materials and a 3rd row seat in a fairly compact package. Ease of opening and folding the 3rd row seat sold the wife on this car. She loves it. So do I. With 22000 miles, the CX-9 has had only two unscheduled visits to the dealer. 1. A power steering belt broke; and 2. I had to cut the seat belt in the right rear to extract my child who had been squirming around and got himself inextricably entwined in the seat belt which cinched up around him and could not be unfastened. Mazda was good enough to cover that repair even though I didn't expect them to. A bit disappointed with 16-17 MPG city and 22 hwy. but with adequate acceleration. Had hoped for 3-4 MPG more each. Braking very good with 80% pads left after 22,000 miles. Brakes squeak occasionally when cold but there is a kit Mazda installs to eliminate this. Excellent driving position and comfort on long hauls. No fatigue after a 3 1/2 hour drive and that's exceptional for me with my bad back. Love the Blind Spot Monitoring system. Works great. The gauges are a bit dated looking and are either too bright or too dim at night with limited adjustability. A very slight turn of the dimmer knob either direction maxes it out either way. The rear view camera provides a somewhat distorted view to the rear. Daylight glare on the screen washes out that view. Handling is exceptional for an SUV of this size. But ride can be a bit bouncy on certain surfaces with the 20" wheels on the Grand Touring. And the OEM Bridgestone tires became rather noisy with a loud humm after 20,000 miles. The radio/climate controls beep every time you make a selection. Wish I knew how to turn that off. It's a bit annoying. And the radio/climate display read out at the top center of the dash is not prominent enough. I prefer a clearer, larger display. Also, the keyless ignition on the 2012 model is a bit quirky. The keyless fob allows you to turn the "dummy" ignition switch on the steering column, as opposed to a "push start-push off" button. None of that is that big of a deal to us however. Overall, we're very happy, and glad we bought the 2012 model. We DO NOT LIKE the 2013-2014 exterior redesign."
8 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By Lovemycx9 on Saturday, February 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 115,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, feel safe, love the sleek style"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I drive a lot of miles and really enjoy the luxury and comfort and handling of the CX-9. It has all the features I want in a sleek and sexy style. Handles well and I feel safe in this vehicle. Our daughter is learning to drive in this SUV and I feel comfortable knowing it has great safety features."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By drumdude on Saturday, January 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cargo room, relative comfort, reliability"
Cons: "Forward angled steering/dash, bulky/cheap feel"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"Bought this '11 GT FWD new coming out of an '08 Pathfinder... wanted something more car like in drivability, but still needed lots of cargo room. Almost didn't buy due to FWD torque steer and driver position/steering/dash reach. Mostly the reasons I'll likely be trading this tomorrow on a VW AWD Touareg. The Mazda is nice, it is very reliable, and drives pretty well, but does feel big, cause it is! It has a HUGE amount of cargo space, which I needed more than now at purchase time. Maybe I should have gotten the AWD, but wanted better gas mileage which is pretty lame as it is (17.5 avg). I hate the FWD torque steer. Almost dangerous in 'need to get out of the way' situations. It just spins the front tires. Worse for me (at 5'8") is the angle of the steering wheel (also too small IMO) and dash (all forward leaning) and the subsequent far reach for all. A '9/3' hand position on the wheel is almost impossible when pedal distance is correct. Nav screen not readable in sunlight due to this ridiculous angle as well. (Nav is also not very intuitive to use). Other gripes is lack of lit up controls like windows (besides drivers), locks, mirrors, etc, which I didn't catch til first night drive after purchase-have to open the dang door to see the lock/unlock button! ... cost cutting, but lame. Stereo is way boomy and too much low/low mids, not natural. Truck feels thin and cheap to me. Having said that, I got a great deal on it when buying, and it wasn't that expensive to begin with. So, you get what you pay for. Bluetooth does work well, and voice recognition is decent. As stated, it's a very nice truck/car, probably better suited to bigger folks with long arms! The above mentioned are deal breakers for me though, so after lots of research, going back to German solidness/engineering (had a few Beemers and Audis). More expensive, but again, you get what you pay for."
2 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By skingfool on Thursday, January 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "all around fun car yet great for the family"
Cons: "window and lock controls hard to reach"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is the first new car I have ever purchased. When comparing to the domestic counterparts, this car was a steal. Very functional, decent mileage, great for my large family, and fun to drive."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful