2018 Mazda CX-9 Review

2018 Mazda CX-9 - The 2018 Mazda CX-9 SUV combines sportiness with utility


Price: $40,470-$42,270

Mazda keeps managing to build vehicles of various types that are fun to drive. One of them is its sleek CX-9 sport-utility vehicle.

The CX-9 looks about as sporty as a fairly large, roomy SUV can look, although Mazda also refers to it as a"crossover." The CX-9's blunt, aggressive nose leads flowing lines that end in a nicely curved rear end with dual exhaust outlets. The 200-inch-long CX-9 comes in Touring, Grand Touring, Signature and Sport trim levels with front or all-wheel drive (AWD).

List CX-9 prices go from $32,130 to $44,315. The Grand Touring lists at $40,470 with front-drive and $42,270 with all-wheel drive (AWD).

In keeping with its sporty nature, my test Grand Touring AWD model had dual exhaust outlets, big tires on 20-inch aluminum wheels and a body color rear roof spoiler.

The CX-9 has a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 r.p.m. on 87-octane gasoline. Fill 'er up with 93-octane, and horsepower jumps to 250. That largely explains why my test 250-horsepower CX-9 had strong acceleration even though it had available all-wheel drive that brings the CX-9s weight up from 4,166 pounds with front-wheel drive to 4,361 pounds.

The engine works with a crisp-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission with a responsive manual-shift feature. A "Sport" mode enhances acceleration a bit when passing or merging, but I never really felt the need for it.

The steering is quick and nicely weighted with 3.1 turns lock-to-lock. Handling is car-like and the ride is smooth, with the suspension and large tires easily soaking up bumps. The brake pedal works in a smooth, progressive manner.  

Estimated fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways with front-drive and 20 and 26 with AWD. The front-drive version's tank holds holds 19 gallons, while the AWD model's tank holds 19.5 gallons. (The Signature model comes only with AWD.)

I averaged about 22 miles per gallon but did mostly brisk city stop-go street driving, which hurt fuel economy.

The Grand Touring's quiet interior is definitely upscale. It has a push-button start, aluminum trim and nice materials, a Bose sound system, easily read gauges and handy manual dashboard controls for the HIV system.There's also a power glass moonroof, and the dial-controlled infotainment system is fairly easy to figure out. Deep storage areas in the front door pockets and a large covered console bin provide room to stash various items.

The CX-9 is supposed to hold seven occupants, but only four average-size adults fit comfortably in the first two seating rows because the center of the backseat is stiff, and the third-row seat is suited only for two kids. However, I reached the third row without too much trouble despite long legs because the second-row seat slides and flips forward.

The cargo area is modest, at best, for this size vehicle. But flipping the rear seatbacks forward with the third-row seat out of the way greatly increases cargo space. My CX-9 Grand Touring had a standard power hatch that worked quickly and efficiently.

Grand Touring AWD standard features include remote keyless entry, heated steering wheel with audio, phone and cruise controls, active driving display with traffic sign recognition, rearview camera, power front seats, first- and second-row heated seats, three-zone automatic climate control, 7-inch full color touch screen display, blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and Smart City brake support.

With the Mazda CX-9, it's nice to know there's at least one SUV out there that's 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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