The SUV that drives like a car
Despite our fascination with the small car, larger vehicles are just as prominent on our roads. Why? Because the desire for comfort, space, and security on the road is prevalent with those in need of the interior room and practicality.
As one of the pioneers of the crossover market with their CX-7, Mazda’s largest family member -- the CX-9 -- is just another feather in their cap in a lineup of fabulously built and fun-to-drive vehicles.
With room for seven passengers, the CX-9 is every bit as practical as it is enjoyable, and with a new facelift there is very little wrong with this vehicle. However, it’s not all roses and rainbows, as the CX-9 is in serious need of an engine upgrade a la SKYACTIV.
What is the Mazda CX-9?
This is the largest vehicle in Mazda’s lineup, sitting above the CX-5 in terms of passenger volume and cargo space. An SUV in nature, the CX-9 does not share the same platform as the late CX-7, despite how similar they look.
Available since 2007, the CX-9 has only ever seen one engine upgrade, going from a 3.5L to the 3.7L we see today in its second year of existence. The year 2008 was, perhaps, the CX-9’s best as it won Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year award and also the North American Truck of the Year award at the Detroit Auto Show.
2014 Mazda CX-9 GT Price and Specs
There are four CX-9 models to choose from, including one with front-wheel drive. The remaining three offer AWD. All four house the same engine, a 3.7L V6 good for 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Power is exclusively controlled via a 6-speed automatic transmission.
In terms of pricing, for the base 2WD CX-9 GS you’ll dish out $33,995. Head to the top of the CX-9 ladder (where my particular GT tester sat), and you’re looking at a starting price of $45,995 before any options or extras are added on.
For that price you get room for seven passengers and 487 litres of cargo space with the third row up. Fold both the third and second row and you’re greeted with 2,851 litres of cavernous space for all your goodies.
Driving the 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT
Here’s where the Mazda CX-9 really shines. Truthfully, here is where any Mazda shines. Like Hondas, they have an affinity for driving well. Of course, the vehicles equipped with their brilliant new SKYACTIV engines drive even better, however, the CX-9 is still a joy to pilot.
The most pleasant aspect about the Mazda CX-9 has to be its ability to feel like a car once you’re behind the wheel. Despite its large dimensions, it still feels nimble, quick and light. Case in point: I drove a small hatchback the week after the CX-9 and it felt looser and less controllable than the CX-9. It just drove home the fact that Mazdas are driver's cars, even in SUV guise.
Power is plenty for the three-rowed people carrier, as is torque. I was pleasantly surprised with the 6-speed autobox’s refinement and its ability to choose the right gear without any input from me, even in situations where I would have normally switch to sport-shift mode and chosen my own gears.
Where the CX-9 suffers the most is in its 3.7L V6. While power is sufficient, it’s the performance that’s lacking. Mazda needs to bring the SKYACTIV to the CX-9 if for no other reason than to lower fuel consumption numbers (which hovered around 13.5L/100km range for me throughout the week).
Inside and Out of the 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT
The CX-9 is one of the “oldest” vehicles in Mazda’s lineup. Despite that, it still looks young and fresh to me. With a definite KODO design-bred front end, the CX-9 is modern and sophisticated. Draped in white with subtle chrome and piano-black finishings tucked into the front grille, my Mazda CX-9 was a bit of a stunner. I love the shape and the muscular wheel wells.
Its exterior look is also rather deceiving. You might think it’s going to be quite tight inside, as it’s not the largest-looking SUV when approached. However, step inside and space is abundant. Up front passengers are treated to various storage spaces and comfy seats. The driving position is great and visibility is awesome.
Room in the rear (second row) is plentiful as well. I had absolutely no issue attaching my son’s BRITAX baby seat, and one adult could have comfortably shared the row with him; two would have been a tight squeeze because the car seat is so large.
The third row is functional, but not for super long hauls. It’s very easy to retract and install. With the third row up, cargo space really is limited. However, for mum and son on a weekend away it was just enough space.
Comparing the Mazda CX-9 GT
The three-row SUV is a strange beast; highly practical and usually dressed to the nines with amenities, they are tempting. However, with the rise of compact crossovers, the SUV doesn’t just have competition in its own segment but others as well.
In terms of three-row SUVs, the CX-9 is looking straight at the Kia Sorento, Honda Pilot and Chevy Traverse.