If there’s one three-row crossover that’s always welcome in our driveway, it’s Mazda’s CX-9.
Regular readers know we like vehicles that are responsive rewarding to drive. And here is where the CX-9 burns brightest.
Its well-tuned chassis and precise and communicative steering justify Mazda’s “Driving Matters” tagline. The CX-9 is nimble in traffic and enjoys a good romp on a country two-lane.
Yet despite its spirited demeanor, the CX-9 ($33,275) offers a comfortable ride and quiet cabin.
Smoother and “more natural” ride
In fact, 2019 updates include suspension tweaks that produce a smoother and what Mazda calls a “more natural ride.” From behind the wheel, the CX-9 can feel more like a sedan than a 7-passenger people-hauler.
Other updates this year include a thicker headliner and heavier floor mats. Both contribute to a cabin that has grown progressively quieter since the CX-9’s 2006 debut.
Interior styling exceeds expectations. A deeply contoured two-tier dash is free of superfluous ornamentation. With its straightforward menu structure, rotary control knob and head-up display strategy (elements are positioned to demand less driver eye-time), the Mazda Connect infotainment system is one of the industry’s best.
And it gets better this year, with the implementation of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on all trims but the base Sport.
A dashing profile
There are abundant interior storage cubbies and the roomy door pockets have indents large enough to hold 24-ounce water bottles.
Outside, the CX-9’s long hood, steeply raked windshield, and tapering roof line cut a dashing profile in a segment dominated by boxy competitors.
All trims are well equipped.
The entry-level Sport includes a 7-inch infotainment screen, cloth seats, LED headlights and tail lights, one-touch front and rear power windows, rear privacy glass, three-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry and push-button start.
Driver aids include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a low-speed automatic emergency braking system effectual between 2 and 18 mph.
Top trim rivals luxury-class rigs
The top-selling Touring trim ($36,325) adds automatic high-beams and windshield wipers, heated mirrors, a power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, heated front seats, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, an 8-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and two USB ports in the second-row center armrest.
The Touring fetches more safety features too, including automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and enhanced automatic emergency braking.
A Touring Premium Package ($2,390) contributes a 12-speaker Bose stereo, navigation, LED fog lights, a power sliding glass moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, retractable second-row sunshades and satellite radio.
At the top of the heap, the CX-9 Signature ($46,360), pushes up against luxury-class crossovers. Its cabin impresses with auburn-toned Nappa leather, a hand-stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel and Santos rosewood trim. Supplemental lighting surrounds the shift lever.
Deep well of torque
All CX-9s are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 227 horsepower (or 250 with premium fuel) and abundant torque (310 pound-feet). It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.
The CX-9 runs the 0-60 sprint in a respectable 7.9 seconds and that deep well of torque keeps things rolling at higher engine speeds. Still, the CX-9’s 3,500-pound tow rating trails the class leaders.
Mazda’s torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system employs a network of 27 sensors, allowing it to anticipate wheel spin and allocate power front-to-rear in response.
On the deficit side of the ledger, the CX-9 is less spacious than most three-row CUVs. Its narrow cabin may feel crowded to some buyer and its third row is decidedly a kids-only zone. The cargo hold is on the small side, but a flat floor enhances utility.
The CX-9 may not be the largest, roomiest or most powerful three-row crossover, but it nails the driving experience. That’s a tradeoff many of us can live with.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
Vehicle base price: $33,275
Trim level base price: $45,635
As tested: $48,035 (includes destination and handling)
Options included a cargo mat, all-weather floor mats, illuminated doorsill trim plates, Snowflake White Pearl paint, splash guards, trailer hitch.
Tow rating: 3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 23 combined/20 city/26 highway
Regular unleaded gasoline specified