Here’s a question for families considering a seven-seat vehicle: do you know that with a full-size luxury 4WD wagon, for most of your driving you’ll be lugging around hardware you don’t need?
That’s the beauty of Mazda’s latest and even more luxurious CX-9 SUV – it delivers everything family seven-seat buyers need in a package you’ll use every time. After all, when was the last time you needed low-range four-wheel-drive to pick up your children from school?
What You Get
Mazda’s first seven-seat crossover SUV has been a global phenomenon, racking-up more than 80,000 sales and collecting a swag of international awards. Now facelifted, the latest CX-9 has ramped-up the luxury inclusions and wrapped them in slightly revised, bolder styling.
Style is a big factor in the CX-9’s popularity. Mazda has proved to family buyers that spacious seating for seven, good load space and sporty driving dynamics can be accompanied by cutting edge looks.
Mazda also sharpened the pricing as part of the facelift and CX-9 is now available in three model grades – Classic ($49,990), Luxury ($56,990) and –as tested by Car Showroom – Grand Touring ($63,186)
Propulsion remains Mazda’s 3.7-litre V6 24-valve DOHC V6 petrol engine delivering 204kW at 6,250rpm and 367Nm at 4,250rpm. Some 90 per cent of maximum torque is available from 2,800rpm
As part of the facelift, Mazda improved the CX-9’s aerodynamics (drag Cd now down to 0.365) and recalibrated the V6 for enhanced fuel consumption. As a result, consumption has dropped to 12.2l/100kms and emissions are down to 291g/km.
Mazda’s drivetrain engineering is amongst the world’s best and the CX-9 delivers silky-smooth performance – zero to 100km/h takes 8.5 seconds.
Drive is to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission and Mazda’s Active Torque Split AWD system. Under normal conditions drive is exclusively transmitted to the front wheels, but seamlessly shifts to AWD when slippage is detected.
CX-9 has a towing capacity of 2,000kgs.
Mazda CX-9’s contemporary, sporty exterior sets the tone for the interior which is also first-class. The facelift improved things even further with extra quality, features and refinement.
Space is what families need and even with all seven seats occupied, the CX-9 provides 267 litres of cargo capacity. Fold the second and third row seats and cargo space grows to an enormous 1,887 litres in the Grand Touring model we tested (which also gains power operation for the tailgate).
New fabrics were introduced in the facelift package and the Grand Touring as tested secured new softer leather. As well, a new double-lid center console provides a place with an auxiliary jack where you can sit your MP3 player or iPod.
The second row seat split-folds 60/40, slides through a range of 120mm and is adjustable for rake. There is also a center arm-rest for passengers to adjust their own climate control zone and also two cupholders.
Up front, driver and passenger enjoy nicely sculptured seats with electronic adjustment. The leather-wrapped steering wheel (with simple buttons to operate the cruise control) adjusts for rake and reach, ensuring an optimum driving position.
As part of the facelift, frequently used items like air-conditioning controls and the transmission shifter went to nicely-finished chrome.
There are four conventional round instruments (large ones for speedo/tacho and smaller ones for fuel level and engine temperature).
The attractive center console in Grand Touring models has a seven-inch colour touch screen with displays for satellite navigation, audio and the reversing camera. Grand Touring also secures the 10-speaker Premium Bose audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and a glass sunroof.
Access to the third row seats is via a simple lever that simultaneously rakes the second row seatback and slides the base forwards. The third row space is amongst the best in the segment.
Exterior & Styling
With the CX-9, Mazda proved the terms “seven-seat family wagon’ and ‘cutting edge style’ are mutually incompatible. Cleverly, styling changes for the facelift are minor.
At the front, the corporate, five-point Mazda ‘family face’ has been updated with a more rounded lower grille and slightly more aggressive contours for the bumper. New fog light housings plus bigger, bolder lights and indicators round-out the up-front changes.
Extra chrome, new lights, a slightly revised tailgate spoiler and trapezoid dual exhausts give the rear end a look which is noticeably changed from the previous CX-9.
Our Grand Touring model ran superb 20-inch alloy wheels (also standard on the Luxury variant) which really complement the high-waisted, long, thin glasshouse side profile that stamps the CX-9’s overall styling elegance.
On The Road
‘Zoom-Zoom’ isn’t just an advertising tag-line at Mazda – sporty driving dynamics are part of its passenger car DNA from the compact Mazda2 right up to the CX-9.
For starters the 3.7-litre V6 is a pearler. Even with the 2.097kgs of the Grand Touring model, acceleration is brisk and response from the six-speed auto is immediate.
Around town, the size of the CX-9 is noticeable, but the reversing camera and surprising 11.4 metre turning circle comfortably accounted for the challenges of our eight-level CBD car park.
A real surprise awaits first-time CX-9 drivers when you head to the twists and curves like we use in our standard mountain roads loop. Sure this is a seven-seat crossover, but it’s damn taut and precise in the twisty stuff, body control is excellent and there is European stiffness about its spring/damper response.
The nicely-weighted power steering and low-profile 245/50R20 rubber provide excellent feedback even at un-family-like speeds. As a result, some of our drivers felt the CX-9 rode a tad hard over Melbourne’s notorious tram/train track crossings.
CX-9 also scored highly with its excellent levels of refinement. NVH is extremely low and – as you’d expect with that slippery body shape - wind noise was also minimal.
Enthusiast drivers will love the CX-9 but some may find the suspension a tad too firm.
Those clever folk at Mazda have provided a tantalizing alternative to full-size 4WDs for those who demand three seat rows. Great looks, a massive list of luxury features, sporty driving dynamics and handy pricing is a combination that’s hard to beat.
Mitsubishi’s Grandis and Honda’s Odyssey, both highly-regarded by the Car Showroom team are handily priced. Like their colleagues at Mazda, the Mitsubishi and Honda stylists also sharpened their crayons when they drew these seven-seaters.
The Dodge Journey puts a competitively-priced American slant on things - it’s one of our favourites.
Superb styling; lots of kit; sporty driving dynamics
A but pricey; sporty suspension may be too firm for some