The Mazda CX-9 debuted in 2006 as a versatile, well-equipped addition to the fraternity of family haulers. The first generation endured for nine years in the ever-expanding segment of urban taxis.
The 2019 edition is the second generation’s fourth year. Tweaks have been added each year as SUVs become increasingly attractive to large clans and families of one.
New this year for CX-9: Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a retuned suspension and a surround-view parking camera.
Mazda’s largest vehicle remains available in Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature trims. All choices present Mazda at its best, including the base model. It has a three-zone climate control with a second-row control and a seven-inch color touchscreen with a rotary controller. And there’s Smart City Brake Support (active at speeds up to 19 mph), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera and 18-inch wheels.
Standard technology features include the Mazda Connect system with voice command, Internet radio streaming, Bluetooth connectivity and AM/FM/HD Radio with an auxiliary input and two USB inputs. The only downside to the entry-level CX-9 is its manual seat adjustments.
In the higher-level Grand Touring and Signature trims, the three-row, seven-passenger CX-9 further defines its place among SUVs. With a starting price of $42,640, the Grand Touring cruiser combines a quiet cabin with a luxurious interior and a smooth ride with a stylish exterior.
The Grand Touring trim also piles on upgrades. Twenty-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, LED foglights, roof rails, a sunroof, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display and with traffic sign recognition start the deluge.
And there are driver-seat memory functions, ventilated front seats, retractable sunshades for the middle-row seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, aluminum interior trim, additional interior lighting, a navigation system.
The 12-speaker Bose premium audio system and satellite radio offer plenty for nearly any audiophile.
For its price range, the CX-9 has a surprising lean toward luxury. Leather seats are high quality and the aluminum trim and rosewood inlays further add to the SUV’s class.
The CX-9’s smooth ride and maneuverability provide a second personality. The vehicle matches many competitors overall in the midsize SUV segment. But it’s also among a smaller group of vehicles that advance more like a sedan than their definition.
The new Mazda CX-9 is equipment with a 2.5-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with 227 horsepower. It’s matched to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and is available with front and all-wheel drive. It accelerates from 0-60 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds, an average time for its segment.
Gas mileage averages in the all-wheel-drive option are 20 miles per gallon in city driving, 26 miles per gallon on the freeway. The averages are slightly higher with front-wheel drive.
With its adept steering, short turning radius, maneuverability and spirited feel, the CX-9 has a prideful persona. It merges into traffic confidently and passes slower traffic with little effort. It’s stable and confident powering down the road.
As a cargo hauler, the CX-9 has 14.4 cubic feet of space behind its third row of seats. A flat cargo area is presented with rear down seats down, expanding the available room to 71.2 cubic feet. Some competitors have larger areas. The Mazda has also 3,500-pound towing capacity, also outdone by some competitors.
Designers did well with other storage areas. The CX-9 features lots of small compartments for various needs as well as bottle holders in the doors.
The Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas are all strong choices. But the Mazda CX-9, while an underdog and unheralded, shouldn’t be. It has major strengths, few weaknesses and plenty of overall appeal.
Article Last Updated: March 29, 2019.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.