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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The seven-passenger Mazda CX-9 continues to close in on the endless list of mid-sized crossovers with a stylish and well-made product chockful of conveniences and luxurious touches. The third row is accommodating, the vehicle is easy to maneuver, you have all the safety tech required – in short, it’s something families actually want.

I drove a 2016 Mazda CX-9 with the new 227-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo engine, front-wheel drive and six-speed Sport automatic transmission with Sport Mode. Snow available in four trims – Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and the all-new Signature – 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; moonroof; three-zone climate control; second-row window sunshades; power liftgate; twenty-inch alloy wheels; fog lights; bi-xenon headlights; stainless steel exhaust outlet; roof rails; a safety suite of technology; and a roof spoiler. Price as described is $40,170 without little need for options.

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 has been redesigned for 2016 (the 2017 promises to be even more impressive at the last year’s prices so stay tuned). Similar three-row competitors include the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Chevy Traverse, and the Kia Sorento.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Lots of add-ons that are now standards on my Grand Touring trim such as the roof rails, rear window sunshades, moonroof, and loads of safety technology – yet all that did increase the trim price another $5k from last year’s model. The infotainment system relies on touchscreen and dial commands and is easy to navigate on the run. Although it might appear arbitrary, the thermodynamics (heating system) emits steady heat without a lot of fuss and uses well-placed dials (so confusing when a maker uses all buttons and touchscreens) – with all the distractions I have going on in the morning getting kids and accompanying equipment in the car to school on a chilly morning, it is enough of a simple pleasure to seal the purchase. What the all-new signature trims adds is exterior LED lighting, upgraded Nappa leather seats and a special rosewood interior trim.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2016 Mazda CX-9 mixed ratings: “Poor” in small overlap front and “Marginal” in roof strength and head restraints, which is unexpected for its class and size. It might be worth it to visit their website to view actual images as to how this vehicle looks after such strenuous testing. 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 cross traffic alert, lane-keep assist, frontal collision mitigation, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.

Cost Issues:Starting price for a Mazda CX-9 in the base Sport trim starts at $31,520. My upper mid-level Grand Touring was $40,170 – that’s not a bad deal considering Mazda says the 2017 prices will remain the same and the loaded 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is $43,560.

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: Fuel economy improves with the smaller 2.5-liter for 25-city and 28-highway for a combined 25 miles-per-gallon. All-wheel drive knocks this down to 23 combined which is still excellent for a mid-size SUV.

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 stays competitive with great fuel economy and a classy attitude – enough so to stay ahead of the curve and even steer shoppers away from and entry-level luxury brand like Lexus or Acura. Just note there are some mixed safety results which are a surprise for a vehicle of this size.

©2017 Katrina Ramser

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