By KBB.com Editors
When Mazda created the seven-passenger CX-9, it sought to build a family-friendly wagon that could also radiate the sporty, urban vibe created by its CX-7 crossover utility vehicle (CUV). Three years and a boatload of awards later, the 2011 CX-9 has successful accomplished Mazda's master plan, offering everything a growing family needs in a car and still looking cool while doing it. Sharing much of its architecture and drivetrain with the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKT (a product of the now defunct Ford/Mazda partnership), the CX-9 might be considered a bit of a world car, but regardless of its pedigree, its attitude is all Mazda. From its sleek good looks to its capable handling, stunning interior and standard safety features, the 2011 Mazda CX-9 truly is the coolest way for seven people to get around.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're youthful side craves the "Zoom-Zoom" attitude of a MAZDA3, but the responsible adult in you recognizes the needs of your growing family, the CX-9 may very well satisfy both.You May Not Like This Car If...
Although the CX-9 is great for hauling kids and cargo, if you need to pull something heavier than 3,500 pounds, there is no substitute for a full-size, V8-powered SUV.What's New for 2011
Other then improved fuel economy and some new wheels, there are no major changes for the 2011 Mazda CX-9.Driving It Driving Impressions
When not burden by too many passengers or toys, the CX-9 does a credible job fulfilling the marketing department's promise of a "Zoom-Zoom" driving experience. Despite its substantial size and weight, the CX-9 acquits itself surprisingly well on curvy country roads and rides smoothly and quietly at freeway speeds. This combination of smooth ride and agile handling results from the CX-9's rigid unit-body 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. Add people and cargo to the mix, and the CX-9 becomes understandably less athletic.Favorite Features
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 is practically luxury car plush. From the driver's seat the first feature that comes into view is a quad chrome-ringed gauge cluster brilliantly illuminated by blue and red lighting. Controls for ventilation and the audio system are logically laid out, flanked by rich wood spears running from dash to floor mirroring similar pieces on the door panels. The well-contoured bucket seats and two-tone trim bespeak luxury trappings, but the thick-grip three-spoke steering wheel and six-speed automatic with manual shift gate scream performance machine. 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. Like many three-row crossovers, however, the CX-9's third row seat is best suited for children or diminutive adults. However, unlike many three-row CUVs, there is an ample 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.Exterior
As the big brother to the Mazda CX-7, the CX-9 is well suited to its more mature role. Though longer and heavier than the CX-7, the CX-9 retains Mazda's sports-car inspired styling, touting the company's signature five-point grille stretched over a wide, aggressive bumper. The styling theme is completed by a set of wrap-around headlights and a broad-shouldered tail with curving tail lights and twin trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips. Although gaining access to the third-row seat is still a bit of squeeze if you're an adult, the CX-9's long rear doors allow the best possible access and are particularly helpful when it comes time to install a childe safety seat. The tall roof can be easily accessed by standing on the bottom of the door opening, another helpful feature for those not blessed with overwhelming height.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base Sport comes with three-row, seven-passenger seating, power windows, locks and mirrors, tilt wheel, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio, front and rear air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and six sets of airbags (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.Notable Optional Equipment
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 (single disc when combined with navigation), rear DVD entertainment system, keyless entry and start, 4.3-inch view screen with rear backup camera and a power rear liftgate. All-wheel drive is an important functional option.Under the Hood
The 2011 Mazda CX-9's 3.7-liter V6 is a variation of the 3.5-liter engine that powers its American cousins, the Ford Edge, however, the 3.7-liter version is specific to Mazda and Lincoln. 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: 17/24 (FWD), 16/22 (AWD)
With just one engine and transmission combination, the 2011 Mazda CX-9 has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting right around $30,000, while Active Torque-Split all-wheel-drive adds another $1,500 to the bottom line. A fully loaded Grand Touring can climb as high as $40,000. That places it higher than the five-passenger Ford Edge and about even with the three-row Chevrolet Traverse and Honda Pilot. To make your best deal, be sure to check KBB Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers are actually paying in your area. Though slightly more expensive than some competitors, the CX-9 is projected to retain a higher resale value than the Edge and Traverse. To make your best deal, be sure to check KBB's Fair Purchase Price to see what buyers are actually paying in your area.