2009 Mazda CX-9 Review

2009 Mazda CX-9 - Seven heaven.


Mazda stays ahead of the curve with the three-row CX-9 mid-size crossover.  Introduced in the 2007 model year, the CX-9 is built exclusively for the North American market (larger dimensions) with three rows of seats to accommodate up to seven passengers.

Don't let the mid-size designation fool you.  This is the one of the largest vehicles in Mazda's impressive fleet of vehicles, measuring 199.8 inches in length.   The CX-9 has the presence of a full-size product.

A 3.5-liter V-6 Ford Motor Co. engine generating 263 horsepower drove the CX-9 in its debut 2007 model year.  In 2008, a Mazda-inspired 3.7-liter version came online and boosted horsepower to 273.  The same powertrain returns in 2009.  Rarely does an automaker upgrade an engine just one year after its introduction, but the mid-size crossover category is doing relatively well in a sluggish economy, so a freshening can pay dividends. The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a 'sportronic' feature allowing manual changing of forward gears (when desired) without a foot clutch.  The sportronic feature, however, is more at home in a lightweight sports sedan like the peppy Mazda 3 rather than a hefty 4,500-pound crossover. This is the sole the engine and transmission in all three trim levels (Sport, Touring, Grand Touring). The 3.7 liter engine was smoother shifting than a 3.6-liter 281 horsepower engine found in a recently tested 2009 Chevrolet Traverse. No big changes are found in the 2009 CX-9 from the previous year save for a slight rearrangement of trim level option packages and one new exterior color. Also, the top Grand Touring level adds auto dimming mirrors.

Built from a unibody (car frame) platform, the five-door CX-9 hatchback is intended for on-road, not off-road adventures. The CX-9 comes with three rows of seats standard capable of holding seven passengers. For those looking for something a bit smaller, Mazda also offers a five-passenger, four-cylinder turbocharged CX-7 with two rows of seating.

Front-wheel drive comes standard while active torque split all-wheel drive is optional in all trims. No driver input is needed in this design as torque automatically gets funneled to the rear wheels when slippage is detected. Fuel mileage checks in at 15 miles per gallon city and 21 highway in all-wheel trims and one mile better in each category with front-wheel, two wheel drive.  This rates slightly less then General Motors' recently introduced foursome of mid-size eight-passenger crossovers (Chevy Traverse, Buick Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave). The CX-9 tank holds 20.1 gallons of regular, unleaded fuel.

Mazda supplied an all-wheel-drive Grand Touring with a $35,205 starting price.  Options included a moonroof/satellite radio package ($1,960) and navigation/rear-view camera ($2,300) for a total of $40,135, with $670 destination charge. This represents one of Mazda's most opulent CX-9 packages.  A front-wheel Grand Touring starts at $33,805. The lowest priced offering, a front-wheel-drive Sport sneaks in under $30,000 at $29,820.

The instrument panel has two deep-set center analog gauges flanked by two smaller ones.  A digital window along the bottom and in between the larger gauges includes digital odometer readouts. Also in the IP is a secondary vertical gear shift indicator. Blue and red backlighting at night adds a nice touch. Power side mirror and four power window switches are on the driver's door at a 45-degree angle. Power lock buttons on the driver's door are adjacent to the chrome handles. Also in each door is a molded cup holder joining two side-by-side beverage holders in between the front bucket seats.  The standard six-speed automatic transmission situates directly in front.  The parking brake is foot operated. The glove box doesn't hold as much 'stuff' as it probably should. A small retracting coin holder is found on the far left lower portion of the dash. The steering wheel adjusts manually. 

Two interior color choices are offered: black or beige.  At the very top of the long center console is a horizontal digital display with inside temperature, fan speed and direction, digital clock, audio information and outside temperature.  Below our Grand Touring edition featured an intuitive in-dash navigation system with built-in AM/FM stereo pre-sets. Below were three dials monitoring fan speed and temperature.  A button inside the center of one dial changes fan direction.  Below is a series of horizontal buttons controlling the windshield defroster, rear window defogger and heated front seats (if equipped). A pull latch unlocking the left side fuel door is inconveniently found on the floor left of the driver's seat. 

Row two has 60/40 split bench seating capable of handling three adults.  If only two adults are on board, a fold-down arm rest with dual cupholders and storage area may be utilized. The standard third row is a two seat, 50/50 split bench. When not in use, row three easily folds flat to increase cargo space.  A pull strap on the backside of each split seat makes raising seats back up from the cargo region a breeze.  Row three also has four additional cupholders. Headroom is tight in row three and average throughout the rest of the vehicle.  Cloth seating is standard in Sport while leather-trimmed seats are present in Touring and Grand Touring.

To enter row three, second row seats slide forward on a floor track once the seat backs are tilted forward via a large side latch.  Both second and third row seat backs fold so a flat.

All trims include air conditioning, cruise control, rear window defroster, compact disc player, power windows and power locks. A second-row entertainment package is optional in all trims as is Satellite radio. An Assistant Option Package (in-dash navigation screen, power lift gate) is optional in Touring and Grand Touring editions.

The rear hatch includes a standard rear wiper. When open, those taller than six feet will have to bend a bit so as to not bump their head. A convenient inside molded grab bar/area helps make closing the door easier.  A very usable 17.2 cubic feet of room is available for groceries or other items with the third row prone.  Also molded into the rear glass is an antenna receiving AM/FM signals. A temporary spare tire, under the cargo area, spins down when needed.

A high belt line design (more sheet metal higher up on the side doors) creates a sharp-looking stance.  Liquid Silver is the new exterior color for 2009. The hood is raised about two inches from the side fenders for a sporty identity. A steeply angled front window and flared fenders add to an imposing look. In front, Mazda's circular winged "M" logo is flanked by a wide, yet narrow honeycomb grille.  Below is a large air dam. Blinkers are built into side view mirrors (standard only in Grand Touring) and provide others on the road an idea of near-term lane changes.

Those who put a premium on safety will like what CX-9 offers.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration both give CX-9 top ratings in front and side impact tests. In addition, anti-lock brakes, traction control, dual front air bags, front seat side air bags and side curtain air bags for all three rows come standard. Mazda also includes advanced roll stability control which automatically pulsates the brakes and reduces torque to return the vehicle to an even keel. Too bad the wonderfully-effective blind-spot monitoring system is only available in the top-level Grand Touring. If a vehicle is traveling in a blind spot, small yellow icons illuminate in the corner of the side view mirror. If the driver activates the turn signal when vehicles are in the blind spot, a warning chime sounds.

Large 20-inch wheels on our Grand Touring model (18-inch wheels on other trims) were more sensitive to bumps and road imperfections. The CX-9 is a rather heavy vehicle (4,550 pounds), but moves and handles with grace. Body sway was at a minimum during spirited turns. Pricing is competitive, and many times out shines rival mid-size crossover competitors. The CX-9 also has received its share of professional accolades, including being named 2008 North American Truck of the Year (an honor given by acclaimed auto writers) at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Powertrain warranty coverage is good for five years or 60,000 miles while the comprehensive warranty covering other additional moving parts is for three years or 36.000 miles. Mazda also provides a toll-free roadside assistance number to call 24 hours 365 days of the week.

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.