The redesigned Mazda CX-9 employs the company-wide design philosophy known as KODO. The crossover weighs 250 pounds less thanks in no small part to replacing big 3.7L V6 with a 2.5L turbocharged four. The engine powers the full CX-9 range and produces 227 horsepower when using regular unleaded and 250 horsepower on 93 octane. The engine also makes an impressive 310 pound-feet of torque from just 2,000 rpm. It is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The CX-9 boasts three rows of seating with room for up to seven passengers, and it comes with standard front-wheel drive, while all-wheel drive is available. The CX-9 comes in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. Even the base Sport is nicely equipped, with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, 3-zone automatic climate control, Mazda Connect infotainment system with a 7-inch color touchscreen, a rearview camera and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
The Touring adds keyless entry and start, a power tailgate with programmable height adjustment, heated mirrors, leather seating with heated front seats and 8-way power adjustability for the driver and an 8-inch color touchscreen. Standard advanced safety features include a blind-spot warning system with rear cross traffic alert. An available Premium Package brings LED fog lights, Bose stereo, navigation, back-up sensors and more.
Stepping up to the Grand Touring affords 20-inch alloy wheels, a power glass moonroof and chrome exterior accents with aluminum roof rails. Inside there's a head-up display 12-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, aluminum inlays, driver's seat memory, and i-ACTIVESENSE advanced safety features such as adaptive headlights, automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and more.
Finally, the top-of-the-line, CX-9 Signature brings standard all-wheel drive in addition to LED accent lighting in the grille, LED interior ambient lighting, Napa leather seating and trim with rosewood inlays and a leather steering wheel.
Standard safety features on all CX-9s include dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction controls, a rearview camera and a tire-pressure monitor.
This may be the best-looking three-row crossover on sale today. Even though it's getting on in years, the Mazda CX-9 is still an exemplar of good taste, beautiful to behold both inside and out.
But should style really matter when it's time to purchase a family-schlepping utility vehicle, one that will be packed with kids and their associated paraphernalia, camping gear, pieces of furniture and outsized hauls from monthly Costco runs? Probably not. Things like fuel economy, pricing and especially capaciousness are far more important factors to consider. And in some of these areas, the CX-9's beauty is truly only skin deep.
The CX-9 competes in a crowded field, one rife with excellent options. It squares off directly with vehicles like the, , and the as well as the and the . Those two Korean offerings are probably its strongest competitors, having won critical praise, though the Highlander will certainly siphon off risk-averse drivers who want long-haul reliability above all else, while the Explorer will probably draw in the patriotic sort who want something a little more red, white and Blue Oval.
The Good ~ Buckets of low-end torque ~ Impressive refinement ~ Luxury-car interior ~ Sultry styling
The Bad ~ Mediocre infotainment system ~ Engine could be smoother ~ Limited cargo space
The Bottom Line The best-looking three-row crossover available today, Mazda's CX-9 is achingly handsome with a gorgeous interior. It's just too bad versatility takes a back seat to style.
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