Unmistakably Mazda, the 2018 CX-9 midsize crossover sport utility vehicle is the largest vehicle in the company's lineup, and as it did when introduced in 2007, the 2018 Mazda's CX-9 continues to impress.
It is what a family vehicle should be.
Visually, the sleek CX-9 continues Mazda's KODO "Soul of Motion" design cues that starts with a bold, five-point front grille with chrome trim that flows up into the eagle-eyed headlights. The steeply raked windshield compliments the brawny fender arches.
The CX-9 has three rows to seat seven. Properly equipped, it has sufficient strength to tow a 3,500-pound trailer. This sport utility vehicle has a maximum cargo capacity of 71.2 cubic feet. For a midsize SUV that is a decent figure.
A power liftgate on a recently tested Grand Touring model opens to an eventual padded flat floor. The rear doors are as large as the front doors. Bulky or thin persons alike easily can climb inside, and the two rear rows fold absolutely flat for a smooth load surface.
The CX-9 is an uncommonly comfortable vehicle in which to ride, but this accolade can be shared with competitors in the midsize SUV market. In this market, seats are large, leg room is ample (first two rows), insulating factors are topnotch and the dashboard layout is sensible.
Head and legroom suffer a bit in the third row, but access to it is easy. From either side, the split second row seats fold and move forward to provide easy entry to that third row. When seats in the three rows are upright, there remains 14.4 cubic feet of storage space.
The CX-9 comes in four trim levels, Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. Manufacturer asking prices start at $32,130 for the Sport and climb to $44,315 for the Signature. The Touring model starts at $34,960 and the Grand Touring at $40,470. The recently tested Grand Touring had a list price of $42,270. That was due to replacing front-wheel-drive with the optional $1,800 all-wheel-drive system.
All models share the same 2.5-liter, turbocharged, chain-driven double overhead cam four cylinder engine mated to a shiftable six-speed automatic transmission. And they share the same doors, rows and storage capacities. Horsepower is 227 when regular gasoline is in the fuel tank and 250 when premium fuel is used.
Mazda's name for powerplant and drive systems is SkyActiv. Introduced in 2011, this technology increases a direct injection engine's compression ratio while reducing residual gas in the exhaust system. Torque is on the losing end, but fuel economy is the beneficiary on the other end. Acceleration time from 0 to 60 miles per hour is nine to 10 seconds.
CX-9 can brake from 60 mph to a stop in a distance of 125 feet, which is above average for a vehicle of this heft and this is due to vented disc brakes measuring 12.6 inches in front and 12.8 inches in the rear.
During mostly suburban driving with two adults aboard, the tested CX-9 averaged 21 miles per gallon of unleaded gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the AWD CX-9 at 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
Standard on the Grand Touring are P255 20-inch tires mounted on aluminum alloy wheels. CX-9s have a temporary spare stored under the load floor.
The Grand Touring model has lots of bells and whistles. They included power heated front seats, power heated exterior mirrors, heated steering wheel, power moonroof, liftgate and door locks, remote entry, keyless ignition, fog lights in front, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a self-dimming rear view mirror, side mirrors with turn signal lights plus leather and aluminum cabin trim.
Besides the norm (traction control, airbags, antilock brakes, seatbelts), the Grand Touring model also had a rearview camera, rear park sensors and a blind spot monitoring system. Anchors and tethers for child seats are provided in the two rear rows.
Amenities include climate controls for the three rows, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB audio input, AM-FM-satellite radio, touchscreen navigation system and an upgrade Bose sound system with 12 instead of six speakers.
The CX-9 got its start in 2007 with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. From 2008 through 2015 the engine was a 3.7-liter V6 and then Mazda segued into the turbocharged four-cylinder.
Vehicle: Touring model of 2018 Mazda CX-9
Type: three-row, seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive midsize sport utility vehicle
Towing: 3,500 pounds properly equipped
Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 115.3, 199.4, 77.5, 67.6, 8.8
Weight: 4,361 pounds
Leg room: 41 inches front, 39.4 inches second row, 29.7 inches third row
Tires, wheels: P255s mounted on 20-inch aluminum alloys
Brakes: vented, 12.6-inch front, 12.8-inch rear
Fuel tank: 19.5 gallons
Fuel: regular unleaded
Cargo: 14.4 cubic feet with seats in three rows upright, 38.2 cubic feet second row up and third row down, 71.2 cubic feet second and third rows down
Suspension: struts front, multilinks rear, stabilizer bars front and rear
Turning circle: 38.8 feet
Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles with 24-hour roadside assistance, five years or 60,000 miles powertrain