We're spending 12 months with this Mazda CX-9, reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates.

 

The Long and Winding Road

Current Odometer: 12,142 miles
Latest MPG: 22.8 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.4 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

by Matt DeLorenzo | April 11, 2018

The opportunity to visit friends from Detroit who were renting a house in the Santa Ynez valley town of Los Olivos was too tempting to pass up, especially when the weekend outing would include a jaunt on Highway 154 that connects that area with Santa Barbara. The views from the San Marcos pass on both sides are spectacular, made even more so by hillsides, which were green from winter rains.

Our 2017 Mazda CX-9 not only had plenty of cargo room for luggage and assorted picnic items, but also an athletic chassis that made the drive over the mountains engaging. The CX-9 is more of a tall wagon than a full-on high-riding SUV, so while you have the advantage of a high seating position, the vehicle itself handles well (a traditional strong suit for the brand). The steering is precise, the body kept in check by the taut suspension and the turbocharged 4-cylinder didn’t seem too winded during the drive. The CX-9 is a stout piece, and while the engine does fine in most everyday commuting and driving, on a challenging road like Highway 154, a little more scoot would add to the enjoyment factor.

Nonetheless, the CX-9 proved its mettle on the road and once in town being able to haul around four adults in comfort. While the return trip home involved some stop and go traffic, the good visibility out and supportive seats took a lot of the tedium out of being stuck on the 405. Overall, the Mazda CX-9 is our go-to vehicle when the open road beckons.

 

Under pressure

Current Odometer: 11,466 miles
Latest MPG: 23.1 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.2 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

by Matt DeLorenzo | March 19, 2018

While cruising along the freeway in our 2017 Mazda CX-9, the tire pressure warning light came on. Toggling through the various menus and pages, however, I couldn’t find a readout which would indicate the actual tire pressures and which specific wheel was at fault.

I immediately pulled off the highway and went to a gas station and pumped up all the tires to the recommended 34 psi—the culprit may have been the left rear, which was about 2 psi less than the other wheels. Still, having driven a rental Hyundai Elantra where the same thing happened, I noticed that this economy car had both the tire pressure light, actual pressures from all four corners and a little flag telling you which wheel was responsible for the callout. Now if an affordable car can have such a sophisticated tire pressure monitor system, why not a near luxury SUV like the $43,510 CX-9?

Still, the Mazda did redeem itself. There is a prominent switch on the dash to the left of the steering wheel that allows you to reset the warning once you equalized all the pressures. As for the Hyundai, the rental car didn’t have an owners’ manual and no matter the number of menus and pages I scrolled through, I couldn’t get the warning light to go off, even though all the tire pressures were reading equal.

Tire pressures aside, the Mazda CX-9 continues to do yeoman’s work, hauling people and stuff in relative comfort and with more than a dose of style. Looking at all the new crossovers coming to market, like the 2019 Infiniti QX50, and the CX-9 continues to hold its own with a look that will remain fresh for many years to come.

 

On the road again

Current Odometer: 11,114 miles
Latest MPG: 24.1 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

by Matt DeLorenzo | February 27, 2018

Less than a month after a road trip to Phoenix, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Palm Springs and loaded up our 2017 Mazda CX-9 with a couple of suitcases, backpacks and a set of golf clubs. While an earlier update demonstrated the flexibility of the CX-9 in swallowing a bike, this time around, the Mazda shows that in two-row mode, it can handle a lot of luggage and not sacrifice any second seat roominess. During the trip, we threw three more sets of clubs in the back and our foursome headed off to the links in total comfort.

What the trip also demonstrated was the big difference in fuel economy that exists between high cruising and in-town commuting. While shuttling back and forth between the office and home, fuel economy dropped from the Phoenix outing’s nearly 25 mpg to about 19 mpg. Taking to the highway again to Palm Springs saw the fuel economy improve to 24.7 mpg on the trip and drag the overall mpg for that tank of fuel used for in-city driving back over the 20 mpg line.

While the third-row capability is nice, that space should be reserved for smaller individuals or children. Even though the second-row indexes fore and aft, it’s still pretty tight in the way back. If you regularly need that third row, then perhaps something a bit boxier and less stylish should be on your shopping list. But, as our experience shows, if you’re looking for a 2-row SUV, you shouldn’t pass up the CX-9 because it not only functions as well as any out there in an elegant package but has that just-in-case third row capability.

 

700 Easy Weekend Miles

by Matt DeLorenzo | February 5, 2018

Current Odometer: 10,769 miles
Latest MPG: 24.7 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.9 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

There’s nothing like a road trip to help boost fuel economy. A recent roundtrip to Phoenix yielded a pretty impressive average of nearly 25 mpg from our CX-9, and it coverd the 700 miles with relative ease. The seats are firm, but supportive, so even after spending more than five hours in the saddle each way, I felt fresh at both ends of the trip.

The CX-9 has plenty of power and cruised effortlessly with traffic, and even at speeds of 70 to 75 mph recorded that mid-20s mileage. As mentioned in earlier entries, the Mazda's turbocharged 4-cylinder engine has sufficient horsepower (277) and abundant torque (310 lb-ft) to move the 3-row people mover with ease, so the stellar highway mileage is a bonus, not a consolation. And the tank is large enough that we only needed to fill up twice, with one stop outside Phoenix (where gasoline is a buck cheaper than in California) and then again when got home. There’s tremendous range in this vehicle, with the trip odo recording 439.2 miles between the Phoenix and home refills. With plenty of time behind the wheel, I was able to appreciate the stability and comfort of this long-legged crossover and really liked the convenience of the head-up display as a reminder to keep the speed in check.

Pretty soon it will be spring break time and the open road will again beckon. The Mazda CX-9 will be at the top of the list when it comes time to grab the keys.

 

If the Bike Fits…

by Jason Allan | January 23, 2018

Current Odometer: 9,626 miles
Latest MPG: 18.1 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.3 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

The Mazda CX-9 is among the smallest entries in the 3-row midsize SUV segment, but we’ve yet to run out of room. It recently passed the mountain bike test, swallowing the adult-size dirt bike pictured here without too much maneuvering. The same bike is even easier to load into a Honda Pilot, for instance, but in the Mazda you can have a little fun on the way to the trailhead, too.

Mountain bike in back of 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

Are Four Cylinders Enough?

by Michael Harley | January 10, 2018

Current Odometer: 9,334 miles
Latest MPG: 18.1 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.3 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

Eyebrows were raised when Mazda announced that its second-generation CX-9, launched for the 2017 model year, would arrive with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. But 6-cylinder power is the norm for the 7-passenger crossover segment, cried many naysayers, while others lamented the loss of the 3.7-liter V6, which had powered its predecessor.

No need to fret, as the new 2.5-liter engine (rated at 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque) is an excellent—albeit smaller—replacement for its discontinued forerunner. Thanks to turbocharging, and carefully controlling the way air flows in and out of the engine with innovative technology, nearly all the engine’s power is delivered down low. The result, when compared to the outgoing V6, is 40 more pound-feet of torque, the twisty force that makes an engine feel strong. Step on the accelerator pedal and the CX-9 moves with authority off the line, zips around town, and passes effortlessly on the highway (after a couple of downshifts). I put more than 2,000 miles on the Mazda in December, and never once did I miss the V6.

While a 6-speed automatic is decidedly old-school (most of the industry has jumped to 8- or 9-speed automatics), the gearbox shifts smoothly and it harmonizes well with the turbocharged engine’s characteristics. Thanks to gobs of low-end torque, the engine refrains from revving too high, which goes a long way to improve fuel economy. Overall, I averaged 22.0 mpg during the month, and during one 90-mile highway run I saw 27.4 mpg—effectively beating the numbers on its window sticker (the EPA rates the CX-9 at 20 mpg city/26 mpg highway).

The only downside to the 4-cylinder powerplant is noise and vibration. There’s an unrewarding buzz emanating from under the hood during acceleration that is accompanied by a mild vibration that fluctuates with the tempo. Mazda has proven that you can beat a V6’s torque and fuel efficiency with a turbocharged four, but matching the V6’s distinctive audio track and smoothness is futile.

 

First Service

by Michael Harley | December 27, 2017

Current Odometer: 8,721 miles
Latest MPG: 18.8 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.4 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $89.60
Time out of Service: 70 minutes

The “Oil Change Due” message illuminated on the CX-9’s dashboard shortly after it reached the 7,000-mile mark, which follows Mazda’s “flexible” maintenance interval (the owner’s manual “severe diving conditions” schedule recommends 5,000-mile oil changes). We placed a call to Neftin Westlake Mazda, in Westlake Village, California, and made an appointment.

Arriving at 7:45 a.m., we were greeted by a friendly service advisor who grabbed the keys and checked the vehicle’s mileage. We asked for just the oil change – everything else appeared to be working perfectly – and said that we’d be waiting. The wait would be an hour, unless we wanted the Mazda washed, which would add another 20 minutes. A sparkling-clean Mazda sounded appealing, so we opted for the additional wait.

We were shown to a waiting area with a desk and free WiFi. About 70 minutes later, earlier than expected, the service was complete.

According to the receipt, the “Minor Service” and “Full Circle Inspection” included draining the engine crankcase and replacing the oil filter. The new fill was six quarts of full synthetic Castrol Edge 5W-30. The tires (“good” at 7/32” or greater tread depth) and battery (“good at this time”) were also inspected. The brakes were also checked (“good” at over 5mm), and the tire pressures brought up to 36 psi at all four corners.

The total invoice was $156.35, but they had us sign an oil rebate form (they took the refund) so our total bill was $89.60, including tax.

Overall, the service was effortless – no upsell or pressure to do maintenance work that wasn’t needed. Our only curiosity was with the sticker that Neftin Westlake Mazda put inside the front windshield that indicated our next visit was due in just 5,000 miles – that’s following the “severe” schedule. Most owners, especially those in temperate Southern California, won’t need to follow that aggressive program that adds another 30 percent to maintenance costs. 

 

Introduction

by Keith Buglewicz | July 10, 2017

The phrase "family hauler" evokes a lot of mental pictures, few of them brimming with excitement. The 2017 Mazda CX-9 we recently added to the Kelley Blue Book long-term fleet aims to change that with a much-needed dose of behind-the-wheel entertainment to supplement its wholesomeness. Think of it like Brussels sprouts, but slathered in butter and cooked with bacon: Tasty, but still kinda good for you under all that.

The question, of course, is whether or not the tastiness of the bacon overrides the goodness of the sprouts. That is, did Mazda make the CX-9 fun to drive at the expense of its core mission of family-friendly hauling? We're going to spend the next year finding out.

It's a Looker

If three-row crossover SUVs were bought solely on their looks, the Mazda CX-9 would be the hands-down winner. This is a great looking crossover, with sharp lines, a little bit of a shark-nose jut to the top of the hood, head and taillights sunk into the bodywork, and razor-sharp grille offset give it a simultaneously modern and classic look. We especially like the clean LED accents in the headlights, and the slab-sided flanks that stand out for all the right reasons. There's just enough chrome to keep things interesting without being garish. The Machine Gray Metallic paint highlights the CX-9's subtle handsomeness perfectly, its satin finish helping this already good looking car stand out even more.

Inside, the CX-9 obviously targets higher-end luxury SUVs rather than the workaday Honda Pilots and Toyota Highlanders of the world. Soft touch surfaces are everywhere, with stitched and padded panels down by the driver's knees. The control knob for the infotainment system is a hefty feeling solid metal piece, as is the volume knob. Everything has a weight and positivity to how it feels, and if you were to strip out the Mazda badge and replace it with one from a luxury brand—looking at you, Lexus—we're guessing few would doubt the subterfuge.

Is It a Doer?

Our test CX-9 is a Grand Touring model, with all-wheel drive and the cool color being the only paid-for options. Everything else is standard at this trim level, and it's a lot. There's active cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic braking, a backup camera with cross-traffic alert, and more. The leather interior also includes heated front seats, real aluminum trim, and separate climate controls for the second row of seats. So far we're enjoying the Bose audio system, but truth be told we'd like the infotainment more if Mazda would offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Fully belled-and-whistled, our 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring comes with a price tag of $43,510, including the $940 destination charge and $300 paint job.

We're putting our Mazda through its paces already, and in its first month it has racked up more than 1,000 miles of service. Stay up to date with our Mazda CX-9 adventures by bookmarking this page. 

 

More 2017 Mazda CX-9

See our full review of the 2017 Mazda CX-9 or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.

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