2010 Mazda CX-9 Review

2010 Mazda CX-9 - Large crossover SUV that you'll fight to drive.


Vehicle Tested
2010 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD
Base Price: $34,045
At-Tested Price: $39,265
Built in Japan.

Rear-Bumper Step Plate
Power Liftgate
Navigation System
Bose Stereo
Satellite Radio

Engine: 3.7-Liter V6
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: All-Wheel Drive

The Mazda CX-9 was introduced in 2007 as a seven-passenger crossover SUV. It played the part of big brother to five-passenger Mazda CX-7 in both looks and size. Like the CX-7, upon which it is loosely based, the CX-9 is a four-door wagon that comes with front- or all-wheel drive.

Mazda calls it a crossover SUV, meaning it blends the driving characteristics of a car with the shape and versatility of a SUV. Competitors include the Ford Taurus X, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Saturn Outlook, and Toyota Highlander.

CX-9 has front bucket seats, a split-folding three-passenger second-row bench seat, and a two-passenger split-folding third-row seat. The second row seats recline and slide for and aft, increasing either legroom or cargo area. Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring models are available, all with front- or all-wheel drive. All are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 engine that makes 273 horsepower. The V6 mates to a six-speed automatic transmission that sports a shift lever with a separate gate for manual operation.

Standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, tire-pressure monitor, and front-, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. The curtain airbags protect all three seating rows and feature a rollover sensor. A rear-view camera and blind-spot warning system are also available.

The Sport starts at $28,635 and includes air conditioning with tri-zone automatic climate controls, tilt and telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, center console, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD player with digital-media player connection, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, outside-temperature indicator, variable-intermittent wipers, illuminated visor mirrors, rear defogger, variable-intermittent rear wiper/washer, floormats, theft-deterrent system, rear privacy glass, rear spoiler, 245/60R18 tires and alloy wheels.

The Touring has a starting price of $30,555 and adds to the Sport leather upholstery, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, four-way power passenger seat, heated power mirrors, and automatic-off headlights.

The line topping Grand Touring lists for $32,645 and adds to the Touring blind-spot alert, driver-seat memory, keyless access and starting, rain-sensing wipers, automatic day/night rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, automatic headlights, fog lights, HID headlights, and 245/50R20 tires.

All-wheel drive adds $1400 to the price of each model.

Options include remote engine start, sunroof, power liftgate rear-seat entertainment system, Bose AM/FM radio with in-dash 6-disc CD changer, satellite radio, 115-volt power outlet and navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic information. CX-9 is built in Japan and has a destination charge of $750

Get up and Go  Mazda doesn't quote a 0-60 mph time for the CX-9, but it is easily less than nine seconds. The 3.7-liter V6 provides ample power in all situations and is especially impressive in highway-passing situations. It is smooth and refined and willing rev to redline when called upon.

The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly in light and moderate acceleration and downshifts quickly in passing situations. Manual operation of the transmission with the sport shifter is somewhat vague as the transmission seems to pause a second or two before responding to driver commands.

Even though traction control is standard, front-drive models suffer from some wheel spin when accelerating quickly from a stop. It's not so much a problem on dry pavement, but is annoying in the rain and troublesome in the snow. All-wheel drive models don't have this problem.

Like most of its competitors, CX-9's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. Towing capacity is listed at 3500 pounds when equipped with the optional towing package.

The all-wheel-drive CX-9 is EPA rated at 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Those numbers are comparable to other seven-passenger crossover SUVs. In routine city driving expect to average 16-17 mpg. If your commute includes a large amount of highway driving, you might be able to reach 20 mpg. Mazda says that the V6 will run fine on regular-grade gasoline.

On the Road  Mazda tried to create a crossover SUV with a sporty flair. In doing so, it gave CX-9 a firm suspension and low-profile tires. Compared to its competition the Mazda rides with more road feel and impact harshness. That doesn't mean that CX-9 has a hard ride, but passengers will feel bumps more, especially on Grand Touring models with 20-inch wheels.

The trade-off to the firm ride is an athletic feeling behind the wheel. From the responsive steering, to the powerful brakes, to grippy tires, CX-9 is more nimble than its crossover competition. Body lean is nicely kept in check and the turning radius is impressively tight.

CX-9 is not without its faults, though. The steering has a vague on-center feeling, which makes for tiresome highway driving. Also, there's more road noise than you might expect, especially on rough concrete pavement.

Behind the Wheel  CX-9 features tall front windows and a sloping dashboard that create a airy sense of openness and good forward visibility. Materials are sturdy and nicely textured, but there's nary a padded surface outside of the armrests. While not exactly a fault, most competitors feature padded dashboards and door surrounds.

Large and legible gauges are nicely illuminated at night with blue and red lighting. In models without the optional navigation system, audio and climate controls are simple and clearly market. Navigation-equipped models have a confusing assortment of driver-distracting buttons, knobs, and touch-screen prompts. In addition, the voice-recognition system isn't as easy to operate as most.

Front seats are firm, but comfortable. Head and leg room are good, but taller drivers will want to avoid the optional sunroof, which robs a few inches of headroom. Forward visibility is good, but narrow rear glass and thick roof pillars make the blind-spot detection system and rear-view camera a must for safety-conscious shoppers.

Second-row seats have true adult-size head and leg room. Sitting three adults abreast isn't recommended, but not out of the question on short trips. The seats slide fore and aft about six inches, which creates welcome legroom for third-row passengers.

The third-row seats aren't the penalty box you might expect. Average-size adults will find decent head room and good leg room--if the second-row seats aren't positioned all the way back. Getting into the third-row seats isn't difficult as the second-row seats tip-and-slide at the pull of a single lever.

CX-9 offers room for two rows of grocery bags behind an in-use third-row seat. Those seats fold flat in one motion to greatly increase cargo room. Second-row seats also fold, though the cargo floor is slightly uneven, to create a generous cargo hold. A shallow compartment is hidden beneath the cargo floor. Interior storage is complemented by map pockets in all four doors. However, the glove box and center console are much smaller than expected.

Bottom Line  The CX-9 is one of the sportiest crossover SUVs on the market and an excellent blend of room and utility. Other virtues include a smooth and powerful engine and ample passenger and cargo room. The firm ride may turn off some, but it will also attract buyers looking for an SUV that doesn't drive like a truck.

The CX-9 can be affordable, especially when compared to like-sized competitors. Even fully-quipped the Grand Touring model sports a sticker price that's less than $40,000. Given this vehicle's unique character, that's bound to make it a bargain for many crossover shoppers.

Specifications, 2010 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD
4-door wagon
Wheelbase, in.
Size, liters/cu. in.
3.7 / 227
Length, in.
Horsepower @ rpm
273 @ 6250
Width, in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) @ rpm
270 @ 4250
Height, in.
6-Speed Automatic
Weight, lbs.
EPA Estimates, mpg
15 city / 21 highway
Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.
Fuel Capacity, gals.
Manufacturer's Warranty
Seating Capacity
3 years / 36,000 miles
Front Head Room, in.
5 years / 60,000 miles
Front Leg Room, in.
5 years / Unlimited miles
Second-Row Head Room, in.
Free Roadside Assistance
3 years / 36,000 miles
Second-Row Leg Room, in.
Free Scheduled Maintenance

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.