Taking a ride with Mazda’s largest crossover utility vehicle.
Mazda threw a monkey wrench into the midsize three-row utility vehicle segment when it updated the current-generation CX-9 in 2016. This model is a cut above most competitors and is best compared with the likes of the Buick Enclave, itself a near-luxury crossover.
Where the first-generation CX-9 supplied a laudable model for the segment, the latest version is simply better than the one it replaced.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Overview
What makes the so special is its styling and use of high-quality materials, especially as you move up the model range. Mazda offers the CX-9 in four trims: Sport ($32,280), Touring ($35,330), Grand Touring ($40,840), and Signature ($45,365). Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available (standard on the Signature). All models come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
For 2019, Mazda makes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility available. Also, the CX-9 features a new surround-view parking camera system. Finally, the suspension system has been retuned, supplying this SUV with a smoother ride.
Mazda’s KODO or “soul in motion” design is used across the brand’s model line. KODO signifies powerful, yet elegant flowing lines, carefully placed creases, smart cutouts and an overall look that punches above the normal.
The look is especially handsome on Mazda’s cars, including the MX-5 Miata and the Mazda6 sedan. But it also transfers well to crossovers, including one the size of the CX-9’s proportions.
My favorite features are the bold, upright grille along with the rising beltline and falling roofline. The latter two combine to impart a sporty look not common to SUVs. Also, the headlights connect to the top of the grille and flow dramatically outward. At the rear, a swoopy chrome bar connects the sleek wraparound tail lamps. In all, the Mazda’s visage isn’t easily mistaken for another model.
Standard features include LED lights, power side mirrors, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and dual exhaust tips. As you move up the trim levels, Mazda rolls out automatic headlights, LED fog lights, heated side mirrors, a power moonroof, aluminum roof rails, 20-inch wheels, and brightwork trim.
There are mainstream and there are luxury models. When it comes to interiors, the two are generally worlds apart. But the Mazda CX-9 is a bridge builder between the two camps, benefitting from a design that’s stylish, clean and elegant.
What’s especially intriguing is how all this is achieved with the top-trim level models. Here, you’ll find the finest leathers, genuine wood and sculpted aluminum. The model name may be mainstream, but the materials match what you’d find in an Audi, Lexus or Cadillac model.
Standard seating is for seven, with a split seatback in the middle row. The first row seats are comfortable and supportive as are the middle seats. The third row, like that in many such crossovers, is best left for youngsters as legroom is limited. Other passengers will simply fold the rear seat to gain additional storage space.
I especially liked the CX-9’s dashboard which sits low, flows elegantly and has an uncluttered center stack. The display panel sits on top of the stack and is similar to Audi’s with its black background and white lettering.
Standard features include full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, cloth seats, and three-zone automatic climate control. Upgraded features include keyless entry with push-button start, power front seats, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and leather-trimmed seats.
Technology and Safety
Tech. We love it and want more of it. Fortunately, the CX-9 does not disappoint.
The standard Mazda Connect infotainment package includes a 7-inch screen, six speakers, two USB ports, an auxiliary input jack, and HD Radio. You’ll also find for the first time Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration starting at the Touring level. Other upgrades include a navigation system, an 8-inch screen, satellite radio, and a 12-speaker audio system.
The dial-based infotainment interface is another feature Mazda “borrows” from high-end German models. The learning curve may challenge some people, but it is intuitive and easy to use.
Among safety features, the 2019 CX-9 has blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and low-speed automatic braking. Available features include high beam control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and radar cruise control. At the top of the list, you’ll find a traffic sign recognition system, front and rear parking sensors, and a 360-degree view monitor.
Some manufacturers offer multiple powertrain choices with their crossovers, but in the 2019 Mazda CX-9, you are limited to just one. And that would be a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Mazda’s engine has an output of 227 horsepower (250 when sipping premium fuel) and 310 pound-feet of torque. While the first number is important, the second one is especially significant when passing or pulling. It essentially flips the Buick Enclave’s numbers (310 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque) achieved by a naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine.
Perhaps the Mazda engine’s shortcoming is in towing. Where many competing engines tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, the Mazda turbo stops at 3,500 pounds.
Under normal throttle, the CX-9 moves steadily with the turbo spooling up at the right time to deliver an extra burst of power. Under hard acceleration, the turbo lag is reasonably short, decisive and satisfying.
I’m nearly always a proponent of shoppers choosing all-wheel drive when shopping for a three-row crossover. For one, you gain an extra measure of control as power is distributed to the rear wheels as needed. This is important when driving with a full load of people on a twisty road with all your gear onboard. It is also most useful whenever roads are slippery, especially under winter conditions.
What especially appealed to me is that the CX-9 drives like a smaller vehicle. Its steering is crisp and it maneuvers with ease. You’re not navigating a boat-like vehicle here, rather an SUV tuned to behave like a car and ride like one too.
Parting Thoughts: 2019 Mazda CX-9
The 2019 Mazda CX-9 should meet the needs of a growing family and do so within their budget. The Grand Touring model delivers many of the amenities customers want in this segment. With available all-wheel drive, this model’s MSRP nears $43,000, with your out-the-door price coming in perhaps around $40,000.
If you do choose the top-trim Signature model, your price included all-wheel drive. My test model included the available Rear Seat Entertainment System ($1,995, dual 8-inch LCD monitors, two headphones, SD card slot, and HDMI ports). It also had the Front and Rear Bumper Trim Package ($575) and illuminated doorsill trim plates ($500). All these features brought this model’s final price to a fully-optioned $49,780.
See Also — Turbo Wonder: 2018 Mazda6
2019 Mazda CX-9 photos copyright Mazda USA.