Vehicles with a sporty nature need not be coupes or convertibles. Mazda has been injecting its vehicles with a decidedly sporty nature for years. The 2015 CX-9 crossover is no exception.
The four-door hatchback CX-9 drives much like a worthy large sedan, with nicely weighted and accurate power steering, agile handling, supple ride and friendly acting brake pedal. It’s enjoyable to drive.
Helping keeping things safe and stable are anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, besides Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System and Roll-Stability Control.
Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear-Cross Traffic Alert, backup sensors and a rearview camera are standard on Touring and Grand Touring models and not available on the base Sport.
For added safety’s sake, there’s a bunch of air bags and full-length side curtains for all.
Styling is attractive (at least for a crossover) from the CX-9’s smooth front end and sharply raked windshield to its attractive dual exhaust outlets that help give sporty visual flair.
This is a genuine seven seater, although keeping the third-row seats in their normal position results in a small (17.2 cubic feet) cargo area — good for maybe just one or two days worth of groceries. However, second and third row seats can be easily folded flat to provide up to a whopping 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
The third-row seats are decent, at least for shorter trips, but entering and leaving them calls for extra effort. The CX-9 has a high floor, so getting in or out also necessitates some added effort.
Once inside the quiet, upscale interior with its soft-touch points, occupants enjoy a high seating position. The driver has easy access to the power windows, but has marginal visibility to the rear because of the roof design. Large outside power mirrors help here.
The CX-9 stickers from $29,985 to $36,625. There are well-equipped entry Sport, mid-range Touring and top-line Grand Touring models. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard for all versions, and all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional.
I tested the $36,625 Grand Touring AWD model, which is packed with comfort and convenience items. Besides cosmetic touches such as chrome exterior door handles, they include heated power front leather seats, 3-zone automatic climate control, 5.8-inch color display with rear backup camera, power up/down hatch to assist when your arms are loaded with stuff — and 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
All 2015 CX-9 models have 3-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, tilt-telescopic wheel and wheel-mounted audio and cruise control operations. Not to mention Bluetooth-enabled hands-free audio and phone connectivity (which I didn’t try) and the 5.8-inch full color in-dash multi-information display touch screen.
Sport model equipment includes 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, AM/FM/CD head unit with six speakers and available heated front cloth seats.
The Touring’s standard items include leather-trimmed upholstery, power front seats, Blind Spot Monitoring system, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, rear backup sensors and a rearview camera.
Optional include a power moonroof and Bose audio system with 10 speakers.
There’s only one engine for all: an advanced 3.7-liter short-stroke V-6 with dual overhead camshafts, 24 valves and variable valve timing. It generates 273 horsepower and works with a smooth, responsive 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature.
The CX9 is heavy at approximately 4,500-plus pounds and rather long at 200.6-inches. But the engine provides fast acceleration, largely because the torque curve keeps 250 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 to 6,000 r.p.m. It peaks at 270 pound-feet at 4,250 r.p.m.
All CX-9s are equipped with 2,000 pounds of towing capacity, but a Towing Prep Package — only available on the Grand Touring — increases that pull strength to 3,500 pounds.
Estimated fuel economy isn’t a CX-9 strong point. It’s 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on highways with FWD and 16 and 22 for AWD versions. I actually beat both figures with my test CX-9 AWD model by a few miles per gallon during mostly moderate driving in town and on highways.
Front seats are supportive, and second-row seats offers approximately five inches of fore-aft travel, besides a manual-reclining backrest. Gauges can be easily read, and there are large HIV control knobs and an array of easily used smaller controls. My test CX-9’s touch screen was easy to read and operate, but a driver still must take his eyes off the road for a brief time.
There’s a deep front console covered storage bin and all doors have decently sized storage pockets. One nice touch are long sun visor extensions that slide out to cover more upper windshield areas to prevent glare when, for instance, driving into a low-setting sun.
The heavy hood is held up by a prop rod, instead of a hydraulic strut, but components under the hood are deftly arranged.
The refined, nicely built CX-9 is a comfortable, roomy, upscale crossover that shows Mazda can compete with premium rivals.
Pros: Roomy. Quick. Agile. Comfortable. Upscale. Front or rear-wheel drive.
Cons: So-so fuel economy. Tight cargo area with third-row seat up.
Bottom Line: Sporty, practical crossover vehicle.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his reviews of new and vintage automobiles, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.