2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

2016 Mazda CX-9 - The 2016 Mazda CX-9 looks sharper and is a smoother operator.


The CX-9 has been here for almost a decade, so it's high time it got significantly revised styling and a more efficient engine. As with all Mazdas, the CX-9 is enjoyable to drive and has a strong European flavor.

The  new CX-9 comes with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD) in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature versions. List prices range from $31,520 to $44,015. I tested the equipment-loaded $44,015 Signature with AWD.

The top-line Signature has many upscale items, including a standard power sunroof, power tailgate, Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, heated and power front seats, 3-zone automatic climate control and a Bose sound system with 12 speakers.

Safety items include blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear backup sensors, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

The 2016 CX-9 is approximately two inches shorter and several hundred pounds lighter than its predecessor. However, it still weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It's got a 115-inch wheelbase and is a stretched version of the Mazda 6 and CX-5.

Last year's 3.7-liter 273 horsepower V-6 has been replaced by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It produces 227 horsepower on regular-grade fuel and 250 on premium gasoline.

The new engine has a sophisticated "Dynamic Pressure Turbo" system that provides especially good low-end responsiveness. That's particularly helpful when moving fast off the line and when darting through traffic.

The CX-9 also performs well on open roads. It does 0-60 m.p.h. in 7.2 seconds and delivers fast 65-75 m.p.h. passing times. But the engine provides most  torque at 2,000 r.p.m. to accommodate typical U.S. driving conditions and isn't designed for really high-r.p.m. cruising--often done in Europe. Shoot past 4,500 r.p.m. and the engine loses an appreciable amount of enthusiasm.   

The transmission is a silky smooth six-speed automatic, with a responsive manual-control feature.

City estimated fuel economy is about 21 miles per gallon, but the highway number is decent at 27. My test vehicle averaged about 20 miles per gallon during an even mix of brisk and moderate freeway and city driving. The EPA estimated combined fuel economy rating is 23 miles per gallon.

The roomy cabin looks decidedly upscale, with nice-fitting materials and a mix of easily used small and large controls. However, the eight-inch touchscreen in the middle of my test CX-9's dashboard  is a bit too far for those with shorter arms to reach for audio and navigation reasons. In that case, it's best to control the screen with a knob behind the console shifter.

 The CX-9 cabin is roomy, with a decent amount of storage areas. It's exceptionally quiet, thanks to generous sound-insulation measures.

It doesn't require much extra effort to slide into the first and second seating rows, but the tight third seat is hard to reach and best left for children. Running boards would make third-row seat entry and exit much easier.

There's marginal cargo room with the third seat in its upright position, but good cargo space with its seatbacks pushed forward. Also fold the second-row seatbacks flat and cargo room is impressive.

The electrically assisted steering initially felt too light and a little slow for city driving, but soon felt just about right for a tall, heavy crossover in the city and on freeways.

The ride was smooth, even when the CX-9 was put in "sport" mode for slightly sharper responses, but that mode also causes a  little loss in fuel economy.

Handling was agile, helped by 20-inch tires and stability and traction controls and roll stability control. The brake pedal had a nice linear action, and brakes were equipped with "Smart Brake Support."

While practical, the new CX-9 is stylish and fun to drive.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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