2008 Mazda CX-9 Review – the Zoom, zoom, zoom SUV!

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by Holly R.

2008 Mazda CX-9


  • VERY roomy
  • Engine pick-up is really good
  • Safe and very fun to drive (yes, both in the same sentence)
  • Big vehicle feel in a slightly smaller package
  • Not a whole lot of them on the road (yet)
  • Voice recognition system


  • Volume control for stereo is really far away (the steering wheel one is good)
  • “Zoom, zoom” might actually get you in trouble…
  • I do actually prefer the XM® Satellite Radio over Sirius® (but I’m really searching for “cons”).
  • Voice recognition system

The CX-9 looks big at first glance. Much larger than the CX-7. But when I climbed inside, I realized just how much space it had. I wasn’t sure that I could fit it into my garage, but it fit (again, another illusion). It sure was a fun car to drive! This is the first car that I’ve test driven to review that I truly did NOT want to give back! I was lucky to have it for almost 5 days and it really grew on me. No wonder it was given the 2008 Motor Trend Sport/Utility of the YEAR award

2008 Mazda CX-9

Driving Impressions:
This vehicle was a blast to drive! Even though it’s technically in the league of larger SUVs, the mileage was really decent (20.5 mph in normal driving conditions – some stop-and-go, some highway, etc.). The auto shifting was nice and smooth. For my commute to and from work, I switched it to manual mode and the manual shifting was smooth and dead on.

2008 Mazda CX-9 - Shifter 2008 Mazda CX-9 - heated body colored side view mirrors 2008 Mazda CX-9 - 20

I drove the “Grand Touring Edition” which includes: chrome door handles and lift-gate garnish, side-view mirrors with side marker lights, fog lamps, Xenon headlamps, 20-inch wheels, Smart Card with MAZDA Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System, intermittent/variable and rain-sensing windshield wipers – ALL STANDARD on this model.

While I didn’t drive this car in any abnormal weather conditions, it felt like a solidly-built vehicle. The specs list the curb weight as heavier than my Volvo, which is surprising given the mileage I got! You could seriously take the CX-9 ANYWHERE and feel very comfortable and safe in it.

In moving the seats forward, backward, folding up the rear seats and then putting them back into position, I didn’t detect any weakness or flimsiness. The build is equally good inside as it is on the outside. I had no worries about folding the seats down and flopping my mountain bike in the back – this vehicle could take it.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics:
The good:

Besides the fact that the seats were super comfortable, the vehicle had an unbelievable amount of room. The front compartment was very roomy, yet I had no trouble seeing out of the car. Behind me, beside me – no matter. I had no trouble with any blind spots.

2008 Mazda CX-9 - 60/40 split fold-flat reclining 2nd row seats 2008 Mazda CX-9 - 3rd row seating 2008 Mazda CX-9 - 100 cubic feet of storage Mazda CX-9 - loaded cargo area

Let’s talk about cargo space. I kept the 3rd row seats down the entire time, but once I folded the second row seats forward, I had plenty of room to take both myself and a teammate to a road bike race along with all of our stuff (2 bikes, shoes, helmets, cooler and bags). All of it fit comfortably in the back. The following day, I even took it to a mountain bike race and was able to lie my mountain bike in the back with the wheel and all my stuff scattered about (see photos above).

The voice recognition system was good when I could get it to work right. I do seem to have trouble with these, so please don’t take my word for it. I have generally good luck when I ask “how long to destination”, but little else!

2008 Mazda CX-9 - Sirius* satellite radio 2008 Mazda CX-9 - Power driver's seat 2008 Mazda CX-9 - front cockpit

This CX-9 had the “Assistance Package” with the navigation system, back-up assist camera, power open/close hatch-back (SO nice with an armload of stuff!), Sirius® satellite radio, leather interior, power driver’s seat with 8-way adjustable power lumbar and support and memory (very, very nice) and the sweet heated seats that I love so much.

The bad and the ugly:
Honestly, I couldn’t find a whole lot wrong with the interior of this vehicle. I was pretty happy with it overall.

The CX-9 is powered with a 3.7-liter V6 that creates 273 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a standard, six-speed automatic transmission, while all trim levels can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive. For the weight of the CX-9, it responds impressively, driving like a much lighter vehicle. I detected no lag when accelerating whatsoever.

2008 Mazda CX-9 - 3.7L V6 DOHC 24 Valve Engine

I drove in heavy traffic. On narrow streets. On the grass. In the dirt. Around the crazy hills and narrow streets of a nearby seaside town. I ended up driving considerably faster than normal, just due to the superb handling of this vehicle. In most cases, I had NO IDEA I was going so fast. The car never felt heavy, in fact it felt pretty responsive. Due to its size, the turning radius was pretty impressive. I had no trouble u-turning or navigating around a tight parking lot.

The “Touring Edition” has all the bling: 20″ wheels, leather interior, navigation system, 6-disc CD changer, heated seats, back-up assist camera and on and on. It was actually pretty “hot” looking for a 7-passenger SUV. The 20-inch wheels added a definite style factor that the other trim lines lack. If you could add only one thing to this vehicle to make it look sharper – the wheels are the ticket.

2008 Mazda CX-9

For a vehicle at the low end of the $30k range, it felt and drove like it was more expensive than it really is. With all of its safety features: anti-lock disc brakes, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, blind-spot warning system (standard on the Grand Touring), AND its high scoring in the NHTSA testing (five stars (of five stars) in all front and side crash tests), this vehicle is an excellent value. Additionally, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CX-9 its top rating of “Good” for both frontal-offset and side-impact crash-worthiness. Safety and sexy all rolled into a fun, sporty and gorgeous vehicle. How could you possibly go wrong?

I LOVED this car. It had all the room, all the comforts, all the style points, enough zip to keep even a non-soccer mom on her toes, and it even got decent mileage. You could load all kinds of stuff in the back of it and feel like you weren’t hurting the car. You could load all the neighbor kids (or a bunch of your friends) in the car, and know they’d be comfortable AND safe.

Would I buy one? ABSOLUTELY. Would I recommend one to a family or friend? I already have, several times over.

Who should buy it?
Someone who wants a safe, roomy vehicle that won’t bore them to tears. If you have a bunch of things you need to consistently haul around (sporting goods, kids, dogs, balloons, plants, etc.), but don’t want to compromise with a low-powered all-purpose car (yawn, like a mini-van), and you have a good deal of self-control (not wanting to floor it all the time), then this is YOUR VEHICLE! Anyone who buys one of these will not be disappointed.

2008 Mazda CX-9


Build Interior Performance Handling Styling Value Overall
Rating 4.75 4.75 4.75 4.5 5.0 4.75 4.75/A-

>> See all of the Mazda CX-9 photos in our photo gallery

>> Do you have an opinion of the Mazda CX-9? Submit your review of a 2008 Mazda CX-9 at CarReview.com

>> Official website for Mazda cars, trucks, crossovers, suvs, and trucks: Mazda USA

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