By Danny Chang
- Spacious interior for 7 passengers + luggage
- Sliding second row seats that recline
- Standard equipment list longer than Snoop Dog’s rap sheet
- Exterior is too similar to the less expensive CX-7
- Interior materials and designs are boring
- The nav screen is hard to read in sunlight
- Improved MPG, but not stellar
I always thought the pair of Mazda crossover SUVs, the CX-7 and CX-9, to be some of the most handsome ones on the market when they were introduced back in 2006 as 2007 models. Even in today’s crowded crossover SUV market, the Mazdas are still lookers although the styling is getting a little long in the tooth. While the larger CX-9 shares styling cues with the CX-7, it shares almost nothing else with its smaller sibling. The CX-9 is based on the same platform and shares the same 3.7 liter V6 engine as the Ford Edge/Lincoln MKX, an example of the long-term partnership between Ford and Mazda, which continues even after Ford reduced its stake in the Japanese car maker back in 2008.
On paper the CX-9 looks like an exciting ride. A 3.7 liter V6 engine with 273 HP and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, 6-speed sport automatic transmission, and an active torque split all-wheel drive system set some high expectations. Once behind the wheel though, those expectations fell flat. The CX-9 feels sluggish. It feels heavy. Don’t get me wrong, the 3.7 liter is producing significant torque and horsepower, but the CX-9 definitely doesn’t feel like it provides a lot of zoom-zoom, as Mazda likes to say. The power eventually comes on after some hesitation once you really sink your right foot into the floor, but the response is not something you should be happy with. On the freeway, this is even more pronounced, as I accelerated on the onramp to merge with moving traffic. The CX-9 handled rather well for a vehicle this size, however, and steering feel was decently heavy at highway speeds. At highway speeds, the CX-9 feels very stable. You still get the feeling that this is a big vehicle, however.
As I mentioned, the CX-9 is still a pretty slick looker after all these years. It received the Mazda shield-shaped corporate grille in 2010 but overall appearance has not evolved much at all since the original version in 2007. The 20-inch wheels on the Grand Touring edition are massive and look great on the CX-9, but they also make the ride quality a bit rough.
Although this is a 7-passenger crossover SUV, it doesn’t have that elongated look the full-size SUVs like the Suburban do. Even the other 7-passenger crossovers like the Chevy Traverse look a bit awkward with a long body. Mazda designers managed to hide the size well on the CX-9 with a strategically-placed C pillar and the CX-9 doesn’t appear much longer than the CX-7, which only seats 5.
Its styling is too similar to that of the CX-7, however, and with the competition growing denser in the full-size crossover segment, Mazda would benefit from more aggressive and distinctive styling.
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