By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/6/2012
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2013
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.
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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.