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2016 Mazda CX-9 Road Test and Review By Larry Nutson +VIDEO


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2016 Mazda CX-9
Ten years after.

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Yes it was just about ten years ago that Mazda’s 7-passenger, 3-row midsize SUV, the CX-9, came on the scene. Since then the new-vehicle buying public is now interested more than ever to have an SUV in their household fleet.

With that consideration, Mazda needed to be sure in its revamp of the CX-9 to deliver on all the wants and needs of today’s buyer. With the millennial generation getting into their child-rearing years a new CX-9 needed to keep them attracted to the Mazda brand.


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The CX-9 is all new. For 2016 Mazda has elevated the CX-9 a notch with a new range-topping Signature model, with standard all-wheel drive. There are still the familiar Sport, Touring and Grand Touring models that come in front-drive or all-wheel drive

The Sport model is priced at $31,520. All-wheel drive is $1,800 additional. The top-line Signature is priced at $44,015. So, there’s about a $10,000+ spread across the model range to give some choice to buyers.

I was fortunate to be among the first in the Chicago area to drive the new CX-9 when media loan vehicles arrived for evaluation. When it showed up at my front door the CX-9 didn’t disappoint in looks both inside and out. I don’t know about you, but I have to like a vehicle’s design from the outside but since I spend all my time on the inside, that’s where it really needs to deliver.

The new CX-9 still distinctly bears the Mazda look. It now rides on a 2.2 inch longer wheelbase and yet is 1.2 inches shorter, yielding more passenger legroom. Front and rear overhangs are reduced. Overall, the CX-9 has better exterior proportions. Weight has been taken out in some places but sound deadener and thicker glass have been added. So, the CX-9 is lighter and yet also quieter.

Overall driving efficiency has been improved with a new Skyactiv 250HP Turbo 2.5-L 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic. The former V6 is gone, a trend we see across the industry. But don’t be dismayed. The new 2.5-L Turbo produces more torque at low RPM where you need it for better acceleration. Fuel efficiency is also improved.




EPA test-cycle fuel economy ratings for the front-drive CX-9 are 25 mpg combined, with 22 city mpg and 28 highway mpg. For AWD models, EPA test-cycle ratings are 23 mpg combined, with 21 city mpg and 27 highway mpg. These EPA ratings are much improved from the 2015 and real-world fuel consumption should be quite good with the new engine. By the way the CX-9 still is rated to tow up to 3500lbs.


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In the rear, fold down the seats and the cargo room can grow from 14.4cuft to 71.2cuft. I occasionally wonder how often the third-row of an SUV actually gets used. But, it’s great to have the extra two seats if you are carpooling the children to school, sports or a field trip. The CX-9’s third-row access was developed so that even children could use them with a single lever control. Plus, one second-row seat can even be folded forward while still accommodating a child seat so that it does not have to be removed.

The CX-9 can be equipped, depending on model, with driver-assistance safety features that work very well to help reduce the stress of driving and minimize collisions. Blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control can be had. Mazda also offers forward emergency braking in their Smart City Brake Support and Smart Brake Support.

All of these semi-autonomous, driver-assistance safety features are very much worth consideration. Adaptive cruise control is a nice-to-have on a long highway road trip. All you do is steer. The CX-9’s Smart City Brake Support came into function on one occurrence when I was coming to a stop behind another vehicle. I thought I had plenty of room and was slowing adequately, but the system thought otherwise and stopped me quickly. The systems calibration seemed a bit aggressive in this circumstance.


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My test drive media loaner was the CX-9 in the new Signature trim. Standard is Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive. On the inside there’s Auburn-colored Nappa leather and rosewood supplied by Japanese guitar-maker Fujigen. LED signature accent grille lighting and LED accent lighting around the automatic shifter add more character.

I had a mix of around town and a bit of highway driving in the CX-9 and it did not disappoint. The torquey turbo engine – it’s Mazda’s first Skyactiv turbo, and the 6-speed automatic delivered spirited acceleration as well as responsive highway merging and passing. The suspension is well tuned for ride comfort balanced with a good sense of control and confidence.

The all-new CX-9 comes with a seven-inch or eight-inch, depending on model, touchscreen infotainment system at eye level with commander control knob. It uses both touchscreen functions when parked and a center-mounted commander control knob when on the move to control radio, phone, navigation, diagnostic and phone functions. I really prefer the center-mounted knob controller that Mazda and some other makers use. I’m just not a fan of touchscreens.


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The new CX-9 is, for the most part, quite loaded up with equipment features and options. With the Signature model now playing in the near-luxury price range, I think a few more features might be expected by the $45,000 buyer. A heated steering wheel, cooled seats and power-fold feature for the outside mirrors should be offered.

The all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 arrived in dealer showrooms in May. More specs and product details can be found at www.mazdausa.com. Comparison of the CX-9 to other three-row SUVs can be done right here at www.theautochannel.com.


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In driving the CX-9 I was reminded of how important the test drive is when buying or leasing a new vehicle. You can look at images, read specs, compare prices all in the comfort of your home. But in the end, the decision is made, or should be, only after you get behind the wheel and realize this is the vehicle for me.

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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