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2013 Mazda CX-9 7 Passenger Review By Steve Purdy

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2013 Mazda CX-9

2013 MAZDA CX9
A Nice Three-row Hauler

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

For those who need – or want – a three-row, 7- or 8-passenger people mover there is no shortage of choices, from the luxury Cadillac Escalade, Audi Q7 or Lexus LX 570, to the popularly priced Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda Pilot and lots of choices in-between. ( 7-9 Passenger SUV's

Our test car this week is one of the nicer ones in this category – the Mazda CX9.

The 2013 CX9, modestly refreshed outside and in, comes in three trim levels beginning with the Sport with a base price just under $30,000. Our well-optioned Grand Touring version has a sticker price close to $40,000. Prices for the CX9 reflect those of the mainstream of these large crossovers, like the GMC Acadia and its cousins from Chevy and Buick, the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Sante Fe Sport, and many others. On a head-to-head comparison we think you’ll find the CX9 a good value in just about all respects in spite of its aging infrastructure.

With these updates for 2013 the CX9 style and design shows more modernity than most in its class. Though essentially the same dimensions as the others it looks a bit lower and longer because of the swoopy character lines and longer nose. The standard eighteen-inch wheels add little to the look but the 20-inchers on the higher-end cars accentuate leanness in body shape. Lots of nice jewelry front and rear assures you’ll feel like you’re driving something special.

I was most surprised by the premium feel and look of the front cabin enhanced by the rich leather seats. What at first glance appeared to be bold wood trim was a glossy painted surface in a deep woody color without a hint of grain. Other materials projected an upscale and high-quality feel and look with better than average design and execution. The second row seat features a generous fold-down armrest in the center with two cup holders. My back seat passengers this week raved about the environment back there.

My only complaint inside was the navigation system that gave me fits. The first thing I always do when I get in a new car is to adjust the map so that north is at the top. It took me the better part of a three-hour drive to finally find my way three levels deep into the menus that finally allowed me to do that. Now I’m not sure I could find my way back to it. This is far from the best navigation system I’ve used for a variety of other reasons, but as a disclaimer, I’ll admit that most of my problems with the navigation system relate to my unfamiliarity with it and it’s less-than-intuitive management systems. It would take little time for a new owner to learn his/her way around it but they would probably have to go to the manual to do it.

Mazda designers make good use of the space inside the CX9. Releasing the second row seat and sliding it forward is an easy process making the third-row seat fairly easy to enter and exit. Though it’s not a comfortable space for full-size people its adequate for most average and smaller folks. Folding the third seat back is a two-step, or two-handed, process. That’s not good. A spring-loaded release would make much more sense back there. Folding the third and second row seatbacks give an amazing 101 cubic-feet of cargo space.

Under the sloping hood you’ll find only one powertrain for the entire line, a 3.7-liter V6 with 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Those numbers translate into excellent acceleration when you need it, unremarkable fuel mileage and enough power to tow up to 3,500 pounds. Rated at only 17-mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 19 combined for the front-wheel drive version those numbers drop by only one digit for the all-wheel drive. We managed just barely over 20 this week with a long highway trip to Chicago accounting for more than half our miles.

Relatively firm suspension, excellent cornering ability (for a large crossover) and quick, precise steering make for a more agile personality, and the comfortable ride does not get compromised or harsh in any way. That’s how the CX9 distinguishes itself from its competitors. Kudos to the Mazda ride and handling engineers!

These large crossovers differ from soccer-mom vans mostly in having conventional rear doors rather than sliders. The CX9 rear doors are remarkably big risking door dings in neighboring cars. Better train those little squirts in the back seat to be careful. Those big doors, of course, make it easier to load and unload.

Mazda no longer has any manufacturing presence in the U.S. with their disassociation from Ford and the dissolution of their partnership in the Flat Rock, MI plant that now just builds Mustangs. So this Mazda comes to the U.S. from Japan.

We enjoyed our time with the CX9 and highly recommend you put it on your shopping list when looking for a new 7-passenger CUV.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved