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2014 Mazda CX-9 GT Review

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Mazda has a history of building track-tuned and enthusiast-oriented vehicles like the MAZDASPEED3 and 6, the MX-5, and the RX-7/RX-8. As such, it must be a tricky business to market a big, heavy crossover SUV when your reputation is built upon lightweight, thrilling, and sporty rides. After all, most crossovers, and especially large ones, are about as exciting as a bowl of rocks.

What is a Mazda CX-9 GT
The CX-9 is the Japanese brand’s big-dog family hauler -- one that boasts three rows of seats, room for the crew and their things, and available AWD. Fresh out of a recent update, the latest CX-9 boasts refreshed styling, inside and out, that targets an affordable high-end look and feel. The CX-9 competes with machinery like the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, and Nissan Pathfinder with an eye for premium looks and the promise of a sporty driving experience.

The new face and body here are more elegant, mature, easily identifiable and modern than before. They’re also unique. Thanks to a new KODO design language (check out the new Mazda6 and CX-5 for other examples), this big hauler packs much of the visual energy and passion you’ll find in your favourite sports car. That’s a good start to making a crossover that’s a bit exciting.

2014 Mazda CX-9 Price and Specs
The CX-9 starts at $33,995 with front-wheel drive in GS trim, with AWD spiking the price to $36,995. The top-line GT, with standard AWD and a very lengthy list of premium features, is priced at $44,750.

Driving the 2014 Mazda CX-9
Even if it’s not the most “zoom zoom” Mazda model on the road, CX-9 stays flat in corners, feels more agile than its size suggests, and steers and maneuvers more like a car than a truck. It’s relatively easy to park, too. The 2014 Mazda CX-9 is nice and quiet at highway speeds as well, even wearing aggressive winter tires. The CX-9 rides with a firm sportiness without compromising much comfort. It’s a nicely balanced ride and handling equation.

Under the hood is a 3.7L, 273-horsepower V6. It’s not a quiet engine, but it sounds good and blasts the CX-9 along adequately when you give it the boots. Mazda’s slick Active Torque Split AWD system was also on board, making quick work of slippery winter conditions. No issues with needless wheel spin or off-the-line traction. The tester wore a set of Blizzak winter tires, and proved confidently entertaining, even during a snow-plowing session through over a foot of powder on my favourite empty backroad.

The 6-speed automatic works well with the engine, quickly finding a gear ratio to maximize acceleration or gas mileage depending on your intentions. Manual-mode shifting is available too.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Mazda CX-9
Go with the top-line GT model like the tester, and you get Bose audio, a sunroof, heated seats, automatic climate control, navigation, Bluetooth, and more. I liked the powerful, high-performance xenon lighting system, and those who don’t like looking behind them will like the blind-spot monitoring mirrors and a backup camera, too.

Shoppers will notice the perforated leather, suede inserts, glossy and metallic accents and intricate panel intersections, and how they work to show off some attention to detail. Material use is about average for the segment, but the design will rival a premium crossover’s cabin any day of the week. So, the cabin pulls off some excitement, too.

The driver computer is a small LCD readout, rather than a full-colour screen. The navigation and phone interface isn’t the market’s most advanced -- but, all in all, test-drivers should find the CX-9 to be a sporty, upscale and well-equipped place to be.

It’s also roomy: Up front there is generous space for two adults and their stuff, thanks to plenty of storage. Rear-seat occupants get their own climate control, and the accessory, form-fitted rubber mats make for easy cleaning of winter messes, cargo spills, and the like. The cargo hold is just massive, and conceals a third seating row that flips out of the floor as needed when you’ve got more than five total occupants along for the ride.

Complaints? As expected of a big powerful ute, gas mileage can get thirsty. During a lead-footed filming session in very deep snow, I saw 20L/100km. Discounting this exceptional situation, mileage landed at 15L/100km, which was as expected.

Further, the remote tailgate only worked some of the time, which was weird, and the leather on the steering wheel was a bit on the slippery side, so make sure you’re grabbing on tight.

Comparing the 2014 Mazda CX-9 GT
Ultimately, the looks, room, and flexibility should leave drivers and their families feeling like they’re in something that’s sophisticated, entertaining and ready for anything -- even very deep snow. Consider the 2014 Mazda CX-9 a sportier, more engaging alternative to the Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, and Ford Explorer.

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    2014 Mazda CX-9 GT
    mazda cx-9 2014
    2014 Mazda CX-9 GT
    Review this Vehicle
    Styling
    Accessories
    Space and Access
    Comfort
    Performance
    Driving Dynamics
    Safety
    General Appreciation
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