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2015 Mazda CX-9 Heels on Wheels Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2015 Mazda CX-9 AWD

HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE MAZDA CX-9 VEHICLE
The three-row Mazda CX-9 crossover can compete with the best of them, offering families a hearty list of functional and convenient features wrapped up in sharp styling both inside and out for a modest sum. Another standout worth mentioning is just how maneuverable this full-sized vehicle is.

I drove a 2015 Mazda CX-9 with the standard 273-horsepower 3.7-liter engine, front-wheel drive and six-speed Sport automatic transmission. Still available in three trims – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – my Grand Touring trim came with the following standard features: leather-trimmed upholstery; heated front seats; an eight-way power driver’s seat; keyless start; leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; Bluetooth connectivity; Pandora Radio; 5.8-inch multi-information display; six-speaker audio system; three-zone climate control; twenty-inch alloy wheels; fog lights; bi-xenon headlights; stainless steel exhaust outlet; and a roof spoiler. Price as described is $35,035 without options.

Two model years ago the CX-9 received some updates to the exterior design and a new multi-information display screen. For 2015, the CX-9 sees no new remarkable changes. Similar three-row competitors include the Nissan Pathfinder, Chevy Traverse, and the Kia Sorento.

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The CX-9’s cabin has an air of refinement with a top-quality-for-all mentality. The standard 5.8-inch multi-information display is a bit on the small size compared to what competitors are offering, and the graphics aren’t as engaging as the Kia Sorento’s UVO eServices telematics. Also, I didn’t find them as ergonomically supportive as some competitors – the Sorento’s instrument panel has a more intuitive layout. The CX-9 should have added a heated steering wheel and rear side window pull-down shades to keep their edge. Additional packages on my test drive included a $2,435 Grand Touring Tech Package (Bose audio system, touchscreen navigation, moonroof); a $100 Towing Prep Package to handle up to 3,500 pounds; a $650 heavy-duty transmission cooler; and a $650 stainless steel rear bumper guard.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2015 Mazda CX-9 ratings of “Good” in moderate overlap front and side crash testing – but “Poor” in small overlap front and “Marginal” in roof strength and head restraints. It might be worth it to visit their website to view actual images as to how this vehicle looks after such strenuous testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall rating of 4-Stars (with Frontal Crash still receiving 3-Stars, rollover 4-Stars, and Side Crash 5-Stars). Standard safety equipment includes An Advanced Airbag System; Anti-Lock Brakes with EBD; Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control; and Roll Stability Control. My Grand Touring trims also had a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.

Cost Issues: Starting price for a Mazda CX-9 in the base Sport trim starts at $29,985; the mid-level Touring at $32,480; and my loaded Grand Touring with options at $37,570. The Kia Sorento starts out fair at $24,100 for the smaller 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine – but like the CX-9 can creep up to almost $40k if you select the top trim with numerous options.

Activity & Performance Ability: The CX-9 possesses many surprising merits; the first being that seven people – and that includes two adults in the third row – can fit comfortably inside. No complaints on visibility, legroom and airflow, which can sometimes be an issue with these non-luxury brands. Another motivating quality is the generous turning radius and maneuverability. Unlike a lot of three-row vehicles (and even some two-row SUVs), you won’t feel swallowed up by the size both inside and out. Navigating into parking spaces and tight turns will come quite easy.

The Green Concern: The Mazda CX-9 has unimpressive V6 gas mileage: with front-wheel drive, its 17-city and 24-highway for 19 miles-per-gallon combined. All-wheel drive is 16-city and 22-highway for 18 combined. This will be a growing issue as vehicles like the Acura MDX crossover can live up to its 21 miles-per-gallon promise under a 3.5-liter V6 and all-wheel drive.

FINAL PARTING WORDS
For the last several years, I’ve prophesized the Mazda CX-9 as a dark horse in the three-row crossover segment. While it still remains to be a value-oriented find, lack of upgrades with each passing model is a concern –little upgrades like a heated steering wheel and side rear pull-up shades could have assured me Mazda is keeping tabs on how to oust its stiff competition.

©2015 Katrina Ramser