Reviewed by: Susan Frissell

Mazda wins a lot of awards; or so it seems. Car & Driver Magazine has given the Mazda3 and Mazda6 a spot in their 10 Best Cars category several times; something like the 29th or 30th time Mazda vehicles have been awarded.

Easy to understand after spending a week in the Mazda CX-9 SUV.  A feature attracting awards and praise is Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology, and their “Soul of Motion” design. This writer is partial to the ever-popular MX5 Miata sports car, so driving a Mazda of any ilk is usually a favorable experience.

Well equipped, the Mazda CX-9 SUV offers plenty. Options on our 7-passenger Grand Touring CX-9 included rear bumper guard stainless ($150), GT Tech package (Bose audio w/10 speakers, Satellite radio w/4-mth subscription, $2,435. Standard equipment on the Grand Touring trim level includes steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, power front windows, leather-wrapped shift and steering wheel, heated 8-way power driver seat and power lumbar w/three position memory, heated power front passenger seat, leather trimmed seats, rain sensing wipers, power open/close lift gate, 60/40-split fold down 2nd and 3rd row seating.

Safety equipment includes the usual: rear backup sensors, rear cross traffic alert, 3rd row side air curtains w/rollover protection, blind spot monitoring system, EBD, Brake assist, auto on/off Bi-xenon headlights, fog lights and heated power mirrors. Dynamic stability control, traction control, dual advanced front and side impact airbags, anti-theft engine immobilizer, anti-theft alarm, side-impact door beams, etc.

cx9The CX-9’s sound system includes AM/FM/CD with six speakers, Bluetooth hands-free phone/audio and 5.8-inch color display camera. Using the nav in the CX-9 was easy and all controls are easily reached.

Driving the Mazda CX-9 and 7-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe back-to-back made for good comparison. The Santa Fe seemed and drove as though it was much larger; the CX-9 a more comfortable and easier to handle SUV.

The Mazda CX-9, Mazda’s top-of-the-line SUV, is available in three trim levels: Sport ($29,985), Touring (32,480), Grand Touring ($35,035). New for 2014, the Touring and Grand Touring models get the new cross-traffic alert system. The AWD versions come standard with a towing prep package. Also available on the Grand Touring package is a rear entertainment system, with 9-inch screen.

The Grand Touring version adds 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, fog lights, automatic wipers, power liftgate, upgraded interior and exterior trim, keyless entry/ignition, driver memory functions, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and second row center armrest with console storage.

Competition for the Mazda CX-9 are the Dodge Durango, Chevrolet Traverse (and GMC Acadia), and Ford Flex. Those things in the CX-9’s favor include its responsive steering, strong V-6 engine and spacious interior. Third-row seats are easily accessible and standard three-row seating tri-zone automatic climate control is a nice touch, also.

With pros must come some cons, of course, and while they are few, there do exist a few: The CX-9’s crash-test ratings aren’t outstanding, it’s IP and console with navigation/audio features is somewhat dated. The 5.8-inch touchscreen new in 2013, is small for a vehicle of this size and its interface isn’t top-notch. Although easily operated, for those into high-tech, the CX-9 may get a C. The rear doors are long and the ride with the 20-inch tires is a tad stiff.

A great highway cruiser, as well as around-town vehicle, the CX-9 is a Mazda at heart; sporty and fun. You can’t take the heart out of a Mazda, no matter the size.


MSRP: $36,625; total vehicle price $40,005; destination $795

Engine: 3.7-liter, V-6, DOHC 24-valve, 273 hp., 270-lb. ft. torque, Active torque split AWD

Transmission: 6-speed, Sport

Tires: P245/50R20

Wheels: 20-inch aluminum alloy

Wheelbase: 200.6 in.

Length: 113.2 in.

Width: 76.2 in.

Height: 68 in.

EPA Fuel Economy: 18/22 mpg.

Warranty: 36 mths./36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper; 60 mths./60,000-mile powertrain; 24-hour roadside assistance.

Assembly point: Japan