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2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

2016 Mazda CX-9 Review

Timed right and built to perfection By ,

First introduced in 2006, the Mazda CX-9 was somewhat overdue for a redesign. However, one could recall the old Mercedes-Benz saying: “We redesign our models every 10 years whether we need to or not.” 

Sure, with advancements in technology today, the current thinking is to update on a slightly more frequent basis. This somewhat drives a quicker sales turnover; after all, who wants to be driving the old model? However, there was a certain wisdom behind the former approach: A decade in-between model updates allowed designers and engineers to get things perfect. It encouraged in-depth studies and greater testing of a product. It also helped maintain higher resale figures as even used-car buyers could enjoy piloting the latest model for a while.

In truth, this has always been a struggle for manufacturers. Do they rush to market and face the possible consequences? Or do they take the time and get it right? I’ve always believed Mazda to be a smart company, and I’m going to explain why.

Smart thinking
When Mazda came up with its revolutionary SKYACTIV philosophy, the company reps explained their reasoning in plain, easy-to-understand language. They said something like: “We don’t really know what the future holds ― it could be electric vehicles, hybrids or even hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Therefore, before we go investing wildly in ideas which may or may not work, we intend to extract the most efficiency from the technology that’s widely available to us right now.”

True to their word, they’ve done precisely that, and with creative thinking in all areas (engine/transmission design, refinements in weight-saving, etc.), Mazda now boasts some of the most fuel-efficient gasoline and diesel products in the world today.

I’d call that the smart common-sense approach and the same could be said about the brand new 2016 Mazda CX-9. Following the success of the little CX-3 (recently named AJAC’s Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year and Canadian Green Utility Vehicle of the Year) and the slightly larger CX-5, the time is now right for the company’s flagship crossover to move a bit further up the luxury ladder. 

Of course, one does not rush into the world of premium products. The smart thinker does due diligence and carefully plans each and every step. Therefore, at the recent Canadian launch of the new CX-9, we enjoyed another round of smart common-sense product talk.

Mazda designers were on hand to not only explain their thoughts on the overall design of the new product, but also to pinpoint minor details and explain in great depth their reasoning behind them. Yes, the 2016 Mazda CX-9 is stunningly attractive from pretty much any angle, but its true beauty lies in the attention to detail.

A true driver’s CUV
Although this is a 7-passenger vehicle, the whole cockpit area has been designed for those up front. The dashboard sweeps across in front of you, yet everything somehow flows back towards the driver. It is, after all, a product from the makers of “Zoom-Zoom,” so the driver has to be the main focus of attention. That’s not saying that the passengers have been left out. In fact, great care has been taken in providing them with additional comfort, from the redesigned third-row seats, which offer greater legroom and easier access, to the stitched Nappa leather adorning them. 

Fit and finish are top quality, as is the available Bose stereo system. However, while others simply tack the Bose logo to a speaker, Mazda designers worked directly with the audio specialists to incorporate their nameplate into the actual speaker design. Minor details, yet so important to the overall look and feel of the new Mazda CX-9.

Generously powerful and gas-pump friendly
Power comes from but one source, namely a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder. Some may see a lack of choice here, but with SKYACTIV thinking, it is nothing short of perfect for the CX-9. This decision wasn’t made overnight. In fact, Mazda engineers went so far as to follow actual owners of large crossovers (unbeknownst to them) in order to determine how they use these vehicles on an everyday basis. 

As it turned out, horsepower wasn’t the main requirement; torque was. They then went back to the design board and ended up with a phenomenal unit that produces 227 horsepower and, more importantly, a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm, all while burning regular gasoline. Add in premium gas, and the output figure climbs to 250 horsepower, which makes for slightly more power at the very top of the RPM gauge, yet doesn’t alter the more essential torque rating. Put simply, you get “Zoom-Zoom” pickup at all times, and unless you plan on going racing at the track, you really don’t require the more expensive gasoline. Smart thinking again, eh!

Clever chassis
We now come to the handling and ride comfort of the 2016 Mazda CX-9. Here, Mazda studied how humans walk. Yes, you read that right. You see, when people walk, they utilize their neck muscles to hold their heads up straight. If we didn’t, we’d all look like bobble-heads. Likewise, when your vehicle enters a corner at speed, your neck muscles work to offset the lean of the vehicle. This can be jarring and uncomfortable at times, so the new CX-9 senses the start of the corner and dips that side of the vehicle just slightly in order to prepare your neck muscles for what’s coming next. This makes for a much more comfortable ride, while still allowing you to enjoy said corner! 

Mazda is also smart when it comes to safety devices. The 2016 Mazda CX-9 features a lane departure warning system. However, try clipping the apex as most sprightly drivers do (which helps straighten the corner), and most systems will recognize that curbside line and attempt to yank you away from it. You end up struggling with your own vehicle. Not so with the latest CX-9, which uses sensors already in the vehicle to recognize that it’s a corner and turn off the curbside lane departure sensors. Clip that apex if you want, but should you stray a little too wide upon exit, the system will kick in and save you. Smart “Zoom-Zoom” thinking once again!

Conclusion
I’m afraid my editor frowns upon automotive stories which read like a Jeffrey Archer novel, so I’m somewhat limited by word count here and must therefore apologize for leaving so much out. However, I hope the above has offered you a glimpse of the lengths Mazda went to in order to perfect and maintain its sporty heritage.

Yes, the new 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a sizeable CUV, and one well worthy of placing on anyone’s potential shopping list, but it’s so much more than that! It’s a product that clearly demonstrates the unbridled enthusiasm Mazda employees have for the sheer fun of driving. From the sporty MX-5 to the redesigned CX-9, it’s all about perfecting the enjoyment of being behind the wheel. Mazda has just proven that 7-passenger utility vehicles don’t have to be dull and boring. 

Canadian pricing starts at $35,300.  

 

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Photos:K.C.Corrigan
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