Mazda's Bose system, as configured in our CX-9, uses a 277-watt amp powering 10 speakers. Typical for Bose, it produces a strong sound emphasizing the midranges. We tested it with a variety of music, from layered electronic recordings to acoustic to classic rock. With each genre it sounded very good, making distinct highs and bass; however, it didn't really stand out as an exceptional listening experience. With the optional rear-entertainment system, the audio system gets an extra speaker.
The new LCD also made the standard Bluetooth phone system much easier to use. With our iPhone paired, the system offered not only the usual basic voice commands but also showed a very nice phone dialing graphic on the LCD. Even better, when we paired the phone the system gave the option of importing the contact list to the car and offers an easy interface for browsing contact list entries and making calls.
Thoroughly pleasant driving
Out on the road, the CX-9 drives well, fulfilling that crossover promise of a car-like experience. The steering proved responsive and the car did not seem bulky at all as we maneuvered through dense urban streets. The 4.3-inch LCD shows the rearview camera video. It's a small image, but it is useful when parallel parking.
Climbing a hill on a mountain highway, the V-6's 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque kept the CX-9 up to the pace of the faster traffic. The engine didn't sound strained when we pushed it and the car moved along effortlessly.
The EPA fuel economy for the CX-9 is 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. In our driving, we achieved 18.4 mpg--not a spectacular number.
We liked the programming of the six-speed-automatic transmission. The digital gear indicator in the instrument cluster showed how fast this transmission downshifts when we floored the gas. Cruising on the freeway, the transmission quickly finds its way up to sixth gear; however, jamming down the gas pedal, the gear indicator jumps down to third gear before you know it, giving the CX-9 the thrust it needs for passing maneuvers.
The transmission also has a manual mode, but the automatic mode shifts so well it isn't needed for most driving. We did try it while going down a grade, using engine braking. Like a sports car, a push forward on the shifter downshifts, while pulling back upshifts.
The CX-9's fully independent suspension leads to a comfortable ride in most circumstances. Mazda fits the CX-9 with stabilizer bars front and rear, but the size of the vehicle prevented it from being something we wanted to drive hard in the corners.
The 2010 Mazda CX-9 looked good inside and out, and, overall, gave us a good driving feel. But looking at the available tech, it lets us down. The lack of a navigation system in the Touring trim is especially troubling, as Mazda is not only forcing a move to a more expensive trim level, but also then charging an extra chunk of money for the navigation option. Its stereo sounded OK, and we appreciate Bluetooth streaming audio, but it lacks true iPod integration.
The engine, although the right size for the CX-9, was ultimately average and didn't excel in power or fuel economy. However, we were impressed with the automatic transmission that made good use of the engine's power. We also liked the design of the CX-9, as the car has practical interior space and has a unique body. The new radio and phone display was also easy to use.
|Model||2010 Mazda CX-9|
|Power train||3.7-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/22 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||18.4 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible six disc changer|
|MP3 player support||None|
|Other digital audio||Bluetooth streaming audio, satellite radio, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Bose 277-watt 10-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$34,527|