A rigid unibody chassis, stiffly-sprung independent multi-link suspension front and rear and a clever all-wheel-drive system all work together to give the CX-9 a tight, responsive feel compared to most vehicles in its class. Steering input is more performance car than schoolbus, the ride is on the firm side, and you can feel what’s going on with all four 20-inch alloy wheels. That lumbering, vague feel you get from behind the wheel of most vehicles in this size? It’s been replaced with a sensation of being connected with the road, and in control.
But it’s still no sports car. Push the CX-9 into a corner too fast and you’ll get the understeer you’d expect. Try to chase that smirking, BMW 3-series neighbor up a windy road and you’ll still fall woefully behind, but you’ll have more fun doing it than you might normally expect.
SUV’s tend to fall into two categories: those that impersonate trucks, and those that impersonate cars. The CX-9 falls into the latter group. Styling is best described as clean and subtle. There are no clumsy design cues that stand out, so much that it borders on bland for some. Overall it looks nice but somewhat forgettable design. If you’re looking for a car that stands out, the CX-9 will leave you wanting more.
We reviewed the top-of-the-line Grand Touring model with a sticker price after options and assorted fees of nearly $40,000. At this price the CX-9 comes with 20-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power lift gate, three-position memory for the driver seat, keyless ignition/entry, a potent Bose stereo, a navigation system with a back-up camera and real-time traffic, blind-spot warning system and a rear DVD entertainment system. Two-stage heated seats are not cooled like on some premium vehicles. Given the features, driving experience and overall feel of the CX-9 we’d say lives up to its price tag. Offerings from Acura, Lexus and German competitors will definitely be even more well-equipped and luxurious, but they’ll also cost more. Best of all, the frugal shopper can get a stripped-down CX-9 for around $30,000. At this price it lacks the gadgets but still retains the great motor, transmission and well-designed suspension and steering that’s really the soul of the CX-9.
Who should buy it?
If you’re looking for CUV with room for seven that drives like a well-appointed cloud, the CX9 might not offer the pillow-plush ride you’re looking for. But if you live atop a windy road, need a large vehicle but secretly harbor sports car fantasies, the CX9 isn’t going to hang with your neighbor’s BMW 3-series, but it’s likely the closest you’ll get in a vehicle in this class and price bracket.
Mazda provided what they promised in their ads—a large people hauler that feels less barge-like than its competitors. The line offers a broad range of options including most of the premium technology add-on’s available on many luxury cars, and the styling, though subtle and bordering on minivan-esque, won’t look dated in two years. It’s a well-equipped, well-built and all-around quality vehicle that should be on the short list of anyone shopping in this segment.
Pages: 1 2