Modern Motoring: Reviewing the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9

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Mazda’s three-row mid-size crossover, the CX-9, has been with us for nearly a decade, and it’s been a couple of years where folks have been wondering when the refresh was coming. Sure, the CX-9 looked sharp when it first arrived nearly a decade ago but the competition has been constantly upgrading their versions while Mazda kept its same design, with only slight changes. Well, it’s finally here and to me, it was well worth the wait.

Starting with the exterior, the grille stands out boldly and there’s an attractive, modern look to it. With 18” wheels (standard on the entry level GS) filling out the wheel wells nicely, smooth and crisp design lines via Mazda’s “Kodo, Soul of Motion” design approach, LED headlights, and long hood with minimal overhangs, this vehicle has a strong, athletic stance, which should resonate well with drivers. Yes, it’s still a crossover, but it doesn’t have the bulky feel that a Highlander or Pathfinder does.

Propelling the all-new CX-9 is but a single engine. And surprisingly, it’s not a V6. Mazda chose to utilize a four cylinder, 2.5L turbocharged engine, which goes nicely with their SkyActiv approach of doing more with less. Power wise, you’ll see 250 horsepower if you use 93 octane fuel and 227 horsepower if you go with the standard 87 octane. Torque is high at 310 lb-ft. (best in class) and definitely helps get you up to speed quickly. To reduce any turbo lag, Mazda has utilized their “Dynamic Pressure Turbo” technology. Here’s how they describe it: “Our patented Dynamic Pressure Turbo is crafted to give you a higher level of power at lower levels of rpm with no lag, which means you get a smooth, powerful ride.” After nearly 500 km in a week of mixed driving, I’ll agree with them. Mississauga streets are fairly congested nearly all the time so most of my city driving keeps me hovering near the 60 km/h mark. 

The drive quality overall is great, just what I’d expect from Mazda. As a guy who drove a 2005 and 2010 Mazda 3, their “fun factor driving-wise” has always been very high with the CX-9 being far from boring behind the wheel.

Another wonderful feature is the 27 sensor i-ACTIV AWD system, which monitors driving conditions a whopping 200 times per second, covering everything from steering angle and wiper use to exterior temperature to the amount of torque required to turn the wheels and braking patterns that help predict driving conditions.

Fuel economy, which Mazda claims is best in class, come in at 10.5 city and 8.3 highway for L/100 km on the Front Wheel drive model through 72L of fuel. The All-Wheel Drive trim rates at 11.2 city and 8.8 highway or L/100km and holds 74L of fuel to a full tank.

The steering and handling are responsive yet comfortable, giving an enjoyable ride to the driver and passengers. Overall, in typical Mazda fashion, they continue to provide the “zoom-zoom” experience through their lineup of vehicles and thankfully the 2016 CX-9 can be included in that.

My tester, the range-topping “Signature” trim spared no detail on the interior, boasting Nappa leather upholstery with premium stitching detail, aluminum trim, a rosewood-trimmed centre console and door switch panel, and an eight-inch colour touchscreen that operates the 12-speaker premium Bose audio system. There’s definitely a premium feel inside with Mazda focusing on a clean design that follows many of its other offerings and the plethora of LED interior lighting certainly helps. Happily (for me, at least) there aren’t paddle shifters and the Mazda Connect system is very easy to maneuver, even if you’re not familiar with it.

Cargo space sees 2,017 L with all seats folded, 1,082 L behind the second row and 407 behind the third row. Up front seating is extremely comfortable in the Signature trim and rear seating for three is offers more comfort than some of their competitors. That third row of seats, however, will be best utilized by kids and folks without longer legs. If I had more than a week with the CX-9, I’d happily take it on a few long-distance road trips with a few passengers based on how good the seats feel and how much space there is for the front five seats.

Safety wise, the Signature trim jams everything it can into the vehicle, including BLIS, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, headlights that pivot 15 degrees when turning, active brake assist, and others. 

While the Signature trim gives you everything offered beneath the Mazda CX-9 umbrella, shelling out $50,100 for it may not be for everyone. The only option you can add at the top is $300 for Machine Grey Metallic paint. The GS starts at $35,300, the GS-L at $41,500 and the GT at $45,500. Expect the GS-L to be the big volume seller as it’s still well-equipped out of the box and you’re hovering in the low $40K mark.

With the better-late-than-never redesign of the 2016 CX-9, Mazda is showing that they’re ready to take on their competitors with a well-made vehicle that offers great driving dynamics and a well-tailored interior that offers functionality and style.

Gord Downie said it best:
“It’s been a long time coming, it’s well worth the wait.”

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