By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.0
The 2013 Mazda CX-9 bucks that old adage about not having your cake and eating it, too. In the case of Mazda's biggest vehicle, the CX-9 offers the roominess of a large SUV, yet boasts the driving dynamics of a smaller sport sedan. This 3-row, 7-passenger vehicle also bucks the status quo with its exterior styling. Instead of the chunky looks of rivals such as the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot, the Mazda is rounded and sleek with a stance that says, "Let's drive." It doesn't take long of doing just that to realize this big vehicle feels much smaller on the road. The CX-9 won't conquer boulder-strewn trails or tow massive loads, but as far as people movers go, it's hard to find one in its $30,000 price range that's more invigorating to drive.
If you need a vehicle that can haul a family, but your heart still yearns for a car that's fun to drive, the Mazda CX-9 will give you the best of both worlds.
If you regularly need to carry adults in the 3rd-row seats, the larger Chevrolet Traverse offers more room. If you require an SUV that can tow more than 3,500 pounds, check out the Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Chevy Traverse, or Ford Explorer.
For 2013, the CX-9 receives a freshened exterior with a new design front and rear. Inside, a 5.8-inch color touchscreen is standard, as is a new infotainment system with HD Radio, Pandora Internet radio connectivity, text-to-speech capability, and a new microphone for better speech recognition. Blind-spot monitoring and a rear-view camera now come to the mid-level Touring models.
Driving Impressions Most people don't expect spirited acceleration or much corner-carving ability from a large SUV. Nor should they. These vehicles are designed for hauling people, not necessarily derriere. The CX-9 is...a welcome exception. Stomp on the right pedal and you'll be pleasantly surprised at just how quickly the Mazda's 273-horsepower V6 gets this big vehicle up to speed on the freeway. And the CX-9 isn't just good in a straight line. True to that "zoom-zoom" marketing slogan, even Mazda's largest vehicle tackles corners with confidence. The CX-9 is also comfortable. Around town or on the highway, the 2013 CX-9 is relatively quiet, comfortable and easy to drive. Like other SUVs – 3-row ones especially – visibility to the rear left and rear right is hampered. Here the standard blind-spot monitoring system on Touring and Grand Touring models really helps. We are also impressed with the plush driver's seat and easy-to-reach controls.
TOUCHSCREEN DISPLAY & INFOTAINMENT SYSTEM
New for 2013, all Mazda CX-9 models receive a color touchscreen display in the center dash that adds sophistication and features. In addition to offering navigation functionality, the system relays messages from smartphones and has a built-in HD Radio tuner, which offers high-quality, subscription-free AM/FM broadcasts.
FLEXIBLE 2ND-ROW SEAT
In addition to folding in a 60/40 split, the 2nd-row bench seat in the CX-9 slides, reclines, and offers easy access to the 3rd-row via a 1-handed release. This all makes for better overall passenger comfort and great cargo flexibility.
The 2013 Mazda CX-9 has a sleek, modern interior. In upper-end models, its cabin borders on luxury-car plush. If swaths of black material are not your cup of tea, leather-trimmed sand-hued upholstery is available for this model year in Touring and Grand Touring models (base Sport trims are stuck with black cloth). The new 5.8-inch color touchscreen in the middle of the dash also helps make the CX-9 feel like a more up-level vehicle. The front seats are plush, but the 3rd-row might be a tight squeeze for adults.
The CX-9 stands out among larger SUVs with a sleek style that looks more sport wagon than traditional SUV. Updates for 2013 keep Mazda's biggest hauler looking fresh. The grille has been revamped to appear more cohesive. Gone is the 2-tiered look of a narrow honeycomb grille above what some equated to a huge "grin," replaced for 2013 with a more contemporary 1-piece housing with flowing horizontal lines. The headlights are now more sweeping, while the taillights are bolder in red and the twin exhaust outlets appear smaller and round versus the larger, elongated shape of previous models.
The 2013 CX-9 comes in three trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Base Sport models come well-equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control, a 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with AM/FM/CD/ HD radio with auxiliary and USB inputs and six speakers, cruise control, remote keyless entry, and 18-inch wheels. Touring models add a blind-spot monitor and rearview camera with rear backup sensors, leather upholstery, and heated, power front seats. Top-line Grand Touring models ladle on even more, including automatic bi-xenon headlights, a power tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, driver's memory seat, and 20-inch wheels. Safety features on all 2013 CX-9 models include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, and a roll-stability control system.
All CX-9 models can be had with Mazda's Torque Split All-Wheel-Drive system instead of the standard front-wheel drive. Most other major options are bundled into packages and include a navigation system, power moonroof, and a 10-speaker Bose premium audio system. Grand Touring models can be had with a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a DVD player and 9-inch screen.
The sole engine on the 2013 Mazda CX-9 is a sophisticated 3.7-liter V6 that puts out 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, ample muscle to move this vehicle. All CX-9 models use an automatic transmission, in this case a smooth-shifting 6-speed version with manual-shift mode. CX-9s come standard with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available and is a smart option if you regularly drive in inclement weather, especially snow. While this vehicle does not have class-leading fuel economy, the CX-9 is rated up to 24 mpg and drinks regular unleaded gasoline. Maximum towing capacity is on the lighter end at 3,500 pounds.
273 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm
270 lb-ft of torque @ 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/24 mpg (FWD), 16/22 mpg (AWD)
The 2013 Mazda CX-9 SUV has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $30,500. Adding all-wheel drive to any model is about $1,600 extra. A top-line Grand Touring model with options can reach over $40,000. At these prices, the 2013 CX-9 is in line with the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse and Toyota Highlander in this competitive segment. The Dodge Journey, with a starting price around $20,000, remains the value leader among 3-row crossover SUVs, while the Subaru Tribeca, with its starting price of over $33,000, is on the higher end. Before buying, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for the Mazda CX-9. In the long run, the CX-9's resale value is expected to hold up well, near that of the Honda Pilot and Chevrolet Traverse, but not quite as high as the Toyota Highlander.
By lucy on Friday, April 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 105,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "roomy, quiet,smooth running"
Cons: "blind spots, gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have had many cars in my life and have never bought the same make/model twice.....until now! The CX-9 is a great car that has never let me down. It drives like a dream, has excellent pick up, lots of fun options and it looks amazing. The Bose sound system is a real treat as is the dual seat heat, and climate control. It COMFORTABLY fits all 8 of us (myself, husband and 6 kids)...even on longer drives. There is lots of leg room and cargo space with the seats down. I have rarely had to take it in for anything other than standard repairs, ie: wheel bearings and exhaust. The only thing that ever bothered me are the blind spots. If you buy this car, they take some getting used to as they are pretty significant. It now has 105,000 miles and is still running strong. I would keep it, but we are downsizing 2 cars for one and a NEW CX-9 is the only way to go!"
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