img_8808

It’s a tough claim for automakers to make having an SUV that is actually sporty. Unless you’re willing to spending something in the$60k or even $70k range, there really isn’t much choice for a sport influenced crossover. Mazda however has an objection to that… and we’re here to find out if their all-new seven passenger CX-9 can live up to Mazda’s repetition.

Following Mazda’s reputation of their Kudo design language, the CX-9 appears to be sculpted by Donatello himself. Looking almost like the face of a shark, the CX-9 has very fluid lines in its architecture. Every curve, every angle is clean and desirable. From a far you’d even mistaken this for a Porsche from its wide hips and streamline LED taillights.

Like an upscale loft, the interior of the CX-9 is full of richness and inviting contrasts of materials and finishes. Our sampler’s top spec Signature trim came with exquisite taste and a divine soft red Nappa leather interior. The Mazda designers paid very close attention to every detail – everything is lined up the way it should it be, it all feels extremely very well put together – the Rosewood trim is as if it was handcrafted and the brushed aluminum is almost like it came right off the press. This interior is about as good as you can get in this segment featuring supremely comfortable bolstered seats both in the front and rear – rear passengers can enjoy the peace and serenity of the utmost quiet cabin blocking out the world with their sunshade and adjusting their own temperature through the three-way climate control system. However, if you have two troubling teenagers – stuff them in the third row and make them get out when you drop them off at school – they’ll learn their lesson quick, it’s quite an embarrassing moment. At least it was for us and the office spectators that’s got a show.

In typical Mazda form, the center 8-inch touch screen infotainment center sprouts out of the dash – while it’s a bit far to reach for touch, it’s more controllable via the rotary dial on the console. The base model will come with a smaller, 7-inch screen whereas the others get that 8-incher standard. Behind that leather wrapped steering wheel lies the usual three clusters – only this time we have a TFT digital display for all your trip and navigational needs. Behind that is a standard, crystal clear color heads up display that can read out everything from your speed, lane departure, to driving directions. Our tester being the top end of the spectrum dazzled us in technology all around having all the safety features imaginable – blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and assist, smart braking support, and adaptive cruise control.

So the CX-9 looks quite sporty and has a very well executed interior – but now does it drive like a sports car… uhmmmm no. It is a crossover after all. But, it comes very close to being one of the best handling crossovers in its segment. Across the board, the CX-9 works with only one engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV engine that happens to be turbocharged. Producing 250-horsepower, it’s not exactly quick, taking 7.5 seconds to 60 mph. To fair though, that’s just enough power for something that weights 4400lbs. When driving around town the CX-9’s six-speed transmission smoothly operates its 2.5-liter engine – there’s never really a call to hustle its 310lbs-ft of torque. It gets up to speed happily maintaining rpms under 3000. That’s what also helps keep the mpg at a combined 23mpg.

There is a sport mode to justify your driving satisfactions – it allows the transmission to hold the rpms longer when you’re feeling the need to be more aggressive. But we’re not so sure how the kids will take to motion sickness. Eeks! The great thing about this turbocharged engine is that its always on call – you would never guess there was a turbo under the hood – the lag is completely unnoticeable. When you put your foot down it does take a second for the transmission to realize its main goal and then you’re on your way. Thanks to the All-Wheel Drive at least, the CX-9 is competent, manages the turbo and delivery well by eliminating torque steer and more control on the road.

From inside the cabin everything is isolating from the extra weight in sound density materials to make for a quieter cabin. Even with rolling on 20-inch wheels, the world is like a pillow top mattress absorbing all your stresses away from the day. This however doesn’t take a way the joys of driving. The steering is nicely weighted with a good heft in its responsiveness. Turn in and the wheels send feedback to the wheel allowing you to have some sense of connection to the road.

Even with its near perfection, at $45,215, there are a few things we didn’t quite like. Yes its engine is just fine, yet when competing with the Kia Sorento, Dodge Journey or even the bigger Ford Explorer or Honda Pilot– they all offer larger, more powerful V-6’s at that price point. Plus the sunroof is also a tiny hole in the roof and driver seat lacked adjustability.

Judging by how many CX-9’s we’ve seen on the road, we‘d say they’ve nailed it out of the ballpark with this one. Its almost like having a premium crossover for under $50k – granted it’s hefty price is still a lot to caulk up, but in the name of having luxury and something fun to drive, this Mazda CX-9 is going to be a tough one to beat.

Vehicle Specifications:
Signature Base Price: $44,015
As Tested (including Options & Destination): $45,215
Performance Specs:
2.5-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 250-horsepower/310lb-ft of torque – 0-60MPH: ±7.5 seconds
EPA MPG: 21/27/23 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average:  23 MPG’s – Fuel Range: 340 Miles