2018 Mazda CX-9 Review - A Notch Above By Larry Nutson

2018 Mazda CX-9
A Notch Above

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

Mazda is making strides to connect more with the customer. Mazda also has aspirations to elevate the brand to a premium status. At a roundtable discussion in Chicago earlier in 2017, Masahiro Moro, CEO, Mazda North American Operations spoke about his direction for Mazda.

Premium is not necessarily about a higher price tag but more about delivering an experience that exceeds an owner’s expectations and builds lifelong customers. Brand loyalty for many, whether for cars, clothes, electronics or a restaurant comes from complete satisfaction with what you get for your money.

Moro said that the new CX-9 has drawn in buyers from other luxury brands. More than 55 percent of current-generation CX-9s sold in the U.S. have been highly optioned Grand Touring or Signature models.

Those two CX-9 models are priced to start in the low to mid $40s.

The excellent materials used in Mazda’s cars and crossovers and their outstanding driving characteristics are praised by many an auto critic. From my view the CX-9 has an attractive overall exterior design and a very comfortable and refined as well as attractive interior. The Mazda name may not “wow” someone in social conversation as some of the luxury nameplates. However, seeing the various Mazda car and SUV models in person will usually bring out a “wow.”

For 2018 the Mazda CX-9 has more standard features. They’re now equipped with more driver-assistance safety features namely, Smart City Brake Support (it helps mitigate low speed crashes by automatically applying the brakes in emergency situations below 19 mph), blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control is also standard. First offered on the CX-5, the system improves handling confidence and steering feel by modulating engine torque based on the drivers throttle and steering inputs.

The midsize CX-9 has seats for seven in a two-three-two, three-row configuration. All CX-9s are powered by a 250-HP turbo 2.5-L mated to a six-speed automatic. Both the engine and transmission make use of the Mazda SKYACTIV technologies for enhanced performance and efficiency.

Mazda CX-9 is one of a handful of midsize, three-row crossover SUVs to earn a 2017 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety “Top Safety Pick+” rating when equipped with Smart Brake Support and Adaptive Front-lighting System.

High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, and Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go function are additional driver-assistance safety features that are available depending on trim level.

The CX-9 is offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trim levels as well as in the top-of-the-line all-wheel drive Signature trim level with prices starting at $32,130 and topping out at $44,315.

I recently drove a 2018 CX-9 Grand Touring with all-wheel drive with a base MSRP of $42,270. The high-trim CX-9 Grand Touring includes 20-inch wheels, Adaptive Front-lighting System, aluminum interior trim, Active Driving Display head-up unit with new Traffic Sign Recognition, roof rails and a memory driver’s seat. Also new are heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel and windshield wiper de-icer.

An improved second row for both greater comfort and easier third-row access as well as greater sound insulation in an already quiet SUV are part of the 2018 updates.

The CX-9 delivers top-level fuel economy in its class. EPA test-cycle ratings are 20 city mpg and 26 highway mpg for AWD models and 22 city mpg and 28 highway mpg for FWD models.

Behind the third row there’s 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space that grows to 38 cubic feet when folded and to a bit over 71 cubic feet with both rows folded. Other mid-size SUVs offer a bit more, but the CX-9 is plenty versatile. Most 3-row owners are not using the third row seats that often but leave them folded for the cargo space. And, the CX-9 is rated to tow up to 3,500 lbs.

I found the CX-9 to be really pleasant to drive. Notwithstanding its overall well-proportioned good looks both in and out, the road manners and overall driving dynamics are very pleasing and comfortable. You become engaged as the driver and enjoy the high level of refinement along with the confident ride and handing. Engine and transmission response is very good too.

Noteworthy is that the CX-9 was named a finalist for both North American Utility Vehicle of the Year and World Car of the Year.

Coming back to Mazda’s premium position, recently a Signature trim level was added to the Mazda6 creating a whole new type of midsize sedan. It’s another step in their evolving higher aim.

© 2018 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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