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 SteveiB (CT) on Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 112,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfort, style, leather interior, quiet, fun"
Cons: "Can't find any."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought new in 2008 after my 2004 6 sport(still own it) was paid off. LOVE this SUV. Normal maintenance and oil changes done. Never broken down, never left on the side of the road. Rear shock just failed today. After the repair I still smiled when I got back in and drove home. Normal repair and on other cars I have had that happen at 50,000 miles. This car rides like a sports sedan. My neighbor with his Explorer can't believe this is 6 years old. Thinking of trading and then keep saying WHY? Those that complain about mileage just realize it's an SUV (AWD) even though it feels like a smaller car. I press the peddle (big one on the right) and know I can beat most anything out there. Can Ford, GM or Chrysler say NO RECALLS. Between my 2004 and 2008 never a recall! Mazda, I will be back but it might be a while!"
By joeflausa (FL) on Monday, November 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price was good enough for me to buy."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"All (almost) is great, but a few things I would change. Not enough compartments within arms reach of the driver. The steering wheel is a little small for me. And the last thing some of the dash light (mpg, miles left to go, etc. Just a little to small. But I'm thinking I'll get used to it. But now I'll give it very high 9 over 10."
By Bort (CA) on Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "drv. dynamics, qualily interior, spacious, stylish"
Cons: "gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"After testing most 2013 SUV in this class, my finalists where the CX-9 and the Highlander. Hands down Mazda's interior quality and design beats anything else in its class that I have test driven (Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Ford, Chevy, etc.). The seats are race comfortable with good seat pan tilt and height adjustment. The telescopic steering wheel adjustment gave the most latitude out of all others. The driving dynamics on the CX-9 is above the rest. The car grips like glue on the road on long fast turns and maintains its stiff race like suspension where all others would compress and lurch out of line. I recommend the 20" wheels that come with the grand touring if you like a stiffer handling as I do. The car has plenty of pep. The style and drivability somewhat reminds me of the Audi. My wife likes the blind spot warning radar which few others have. Cargo space seems more spacious than competitors because of its wide gate that doesn't narrow towards the back like others. Both first and second row seating have generous space while the third row, like all others, is cramped and should be used by small children or in small doses. I don't recommend the AWD however. There is a history of transfer case overheating and failure problems on older models with AWD if the tires are not evenly worn. So all four tires must be replaced together on the AWD variant. This may have been fixed in newer models but AWD also lowers your 0 - 60 time and gives you less gas mileage on a car that already is poor in that department. Overall I am very happy with this car and enjoy driving it very much."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By tkalladan (GA) on Tuesday, October 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Strong SUV for good price."
Cons: "Gas mileage is less."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I looked in to most of the mid size SUV before I settle into buy Mazda CX-9, grand Turing with tech package. I paid $33000 to drive out including tax and all fees. I think I got good deal on price and bought one. Two month later I'm very happy about the driving and feel safe. Almost all the luxury SUV has similar futures and cost lot more money."
By Steve (WA) on Monday, September 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, Safe Feel, Look, Functionality, Sexy"
Cons: "Gas Mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased this vehicle in Jan of 2013. My initial impression was how substantual and crisp the drive and handling were. I feel like if I hit another car, I would be ok without a seatbelt and would quite frankly destroy the other car. I take it over to Eastern WA and over the mountain passes. It's the first vehicle that I feel entirely safe in... and can bully those 18 wheel semis on those hairpin turns!!! It's a bit thirsty around town, bummer to see 16 MPG. Highway is a true 23 MPG. Handling is crisp and nimble, ride is appointed, not stiff but you feel bumps at times. I have the Grand Touring. I love my Bose and the interior is super nice. It's the most comfortable vehicle I've ever owned. It is my favorite vehicle ever! I would test drive one asap if you're in the market for SUV or CUV."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By bb_nj (NJ) on Friday, July 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good overall drive experience"
Cons: "Lousy customer service and Parts availablity."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Bought spanking new CX9 AWD and was super excited. The drive is nice though the voice interface can be improved. Alas this was short lived and not to mention super frustating. So much so that I have decided to let go of the vehicle at a lose. Why... because Mazda sold me a car for which they do not have spare parts. My car is in workshop for more than a month for simple parts like bumber and grill. They do not even have eta on the back orders. The Customer service is no help and would not even consider a loner car. I am spending from my pocket. Even after the car is fixed I have lost complete faith in the brand. Please do share as this might be the most important and missing information you could pass to your friends. Great car lousy service failed brand. Bottomline if you do not care about service or certain it will never require repair a good buy. Stay away..."
12 people out of 18 found this review helpful