2015 Mazda CX-9 Review

2015 Mazda CX-9 - Don't Overlook Family-Friendly CX-9 SUV


As it did when introduced in 2007, and when receiving the 2008 North American Truck of the Year by a group of automotive media members, the 2015 Mazda CX-9 continues to impress.

Unmistakably Mazda, the '15 CX-9 is the largest vehicle in the lineup.

Visually, the sleek CX-9 continues Mazda's KODO "Soul of Motion" design cues that starts with the slight snarl of the five-point front grille with chrome trim that flows up into the eagle-eyed headlights. The steeply raked windshield compliments the brawny fender arches, and the CX-9 rolls on standard 18-inch and optional 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

It has three rows to seat seven. Properly equipped, it has sufficient strength to tow a 3,500-pound trailer. This sport utility vehicle, which operates like a wagon, also has a maximum cargo capacity of 101 cubic feet from the lift gate and up toward the back of the front seats. That is an astounding figure as 70, 80, even 90 cubic feet are the rule in this midsize wagon/SUV market. Spacious cabin provides a respectable 17.2 cubic feet of cargo room even with middle and third row occupants.

The CX-9 is an uncommonly comfortable vehicle in which to ride, but this accolade can be shared with competitors in the midsize crossover-wagon-sport utility market. In this market, seats are large, leg room is ample in front, insulating factors are topnotch and the dashboard layout is sensible.

Leg room in two of the three rows of the CX-9 is ample. Head and legroom suffer a bit in the third row, but access to it should please those who sit there. From either side, the split second row seats fold and move forward to provide easy entry to that third row.

The rear doors are as large as the front doors which means bulky or thin persons alike can easily climb into this vehicle.

If moving objects from one place to another is on the agenda, the liftgate opens to an eventual padded flat floor. The two rear rows fold absolutely flat for a smooth load surface.

The CX-9 comes in three trim levels, Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Prices start at $29,985, $32,480 and $36,625 respectively. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard on CX-9 models while an optional Active Torque All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system is available for all trim levels. Replacing front- with all-wheel-drive will cost $1,600.

The three share the same 3.7-liter, 273-horsepower, chain-driven double overhead cam V6 engine, the same shiftable six-speed automatic transmission, and, of course, the same doors, rows and storage capacities. When combined with the six-speed Sport AT, the powertrain offers up to 3,500 pound towing capacity.

In for a week of test driving was an AWD 2015 Grand Touring model with most of the bells and whistles expected in a midsize vehicle built for the common man or woman. It lacked a power rear sunshade, cabin fragrance system, heated and ventilated power rear seats and front seats with massaging capabilities found in the luxury vehicle market. Even so, the CX-9 included a lot of goodies.

It had power heated front seats, power heated exterior mirrors, plus power door locks, remote entry and keyless ignition. There are three memory settings for the driver's seat and exterior mirrors.

A power moonroof cost extra and was in a $2,435 GT Tech package that also included a color touch-screen TomTom-based in-dash navigation system with real-time traffic, satellite radio and an upgrade Bose surround sound system with 10 instead of six speakers.

Also standard on a Grand Touring model are a power open and close rear liftgate, 20-inch instead of 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels (all CX-9s have a temporary spare stored under the load floor), fog lights in front, bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a self-dimming rear view mirror, side mirrors with turn signal lights plus a tilt-in-reverse function, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera, rear backup sensors, and leather cabin trim, including all seat surfaces.

During mostly suburban driving with two adults aboard, the tested CX-9 averaged 21.6 miles per gallon of unleaded gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the AWD wagon at 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. Unnecessary accelerations were nil during the test week and the 4,552-pound vehicle was driven in a modest fashion. There is a 20.1-gallon tank on board.

Acceleration is smooth. If in a hurry, the CX-9 can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7.7 to 8.5 seconds. The slower time is an AWD CX-9.

Vented disc brakes measure 12.6 inches in front and 12.8 inches in the rear. They are a big reason why this vehicle can come to a stop from 60 mph in less than 125 feet. Safety fare includes traction and stability controls, antilock brakes, airbags in front (including sides) and overhead for three rows. Anchors and tethers for child seats are provided in the two rear rows.

Insulation factors were good as little road or engine noise invaded the cabin. The ride was fine with no harsh bumps or erratic rocking behavior on less than perfect roads. The suspension system relies on struts in front and multilinks in the rear. Gas shocks, coil springs and stabilizer bars serve both front and rear axles.

Amenities include climate controls for the three rows, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, compact disc and MP3 players, auxiliary and USB audio input, AM-FM radio with presets for satellite radio as well, grab handles, multiple beverage holders and storage bins.

The CX-9 got its start in 2007 with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. From 2008 to the present day, the engine has been a 3.7-liter V6.  

Through the nine years of existence, the wagon has undergone two facelifts and both included minor changes to the grille and headlights.

This year's CX-9 is a virtual copy of the 2014 model. The difference is in the asking price, which has been upped $200 (Sport) and $250 (Touring and Grand Touring) for 2015.

Don't overlook the Mazda CX-9; it's what a family vehicle should be.

Grand Touring model of 2015 Mazda CX-9
Type: all-wheel-drive, four-door, seven-passenger sport utility vehicle
Price: $36,625
Engine: 3.7-liter, 273-horsepower, double overhead cam, 24-valve V6
Transmission: six-speed shiftable automatic
Towing: 3,500 pounds properly equipped
Wheelbase: 113.2 inches
Length: 200.6 inches
Width: 76.2 inches
Height: 68 inches without roof frails
Weight: 4,552 pounds
Ground clearance: 8 inches
Leg room: 40.9 inches front, 39.8 inches second row, 32.4 inches third row
Tires, wheels: P245s mounted on 20-inch aluminum alloys
Brakes: vented, 12.6-inch front, 12.8-inch rear
Fuel tank: 20.1 gallons
Fuel: regular unleaded
Cargo: 17.2 cubic feet with seats in three rows upright, 48.3 cubic feet second row up and third row down, 100.7 cubic feet second and third rows down
Suspension: struts front, multilinks rear, stabilizer bars front and rear
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles with 24-hour roadside assistance, five years or 60,000 miles powertrain
Information: www.mazdausa.com

M.J. Frumkin and J.E. Kuyper

M. J. Frumkin and J. E. Kuyper covered the auto industry for decades. Frumkin was with Consumer Guide for 14 years, has authored four books and co-authored three more. He is also the historian/archivist for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association/Chicago Auto Show. Kuyper has been an automotive writer, editor and columnist for newspapers in the Chicago area the past 25 years. His reviews currently appear in the daily Northwest Herald newspaper. Frumkin and Kuyper are founding members of the Midwest Automotive Media Association.