Sporty Seven-Seater

Mazda’s CX-9 crossover proves not every people mover is a dud to drive

BYAlan Rider
You have the right to expect a lot from any new vehicle — good looks, above-average comfort, and the latest in convenience and safety technology. The Mazda CX-9 midsize crossover delivers all that, along with something you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a seven-passenger people mover: a sporty driving demeanor.
 
Perhaps the most noticeable change to this model is Mazda’s engineers managed to make it 300 pounds lighter than the previous generation, a change that makes for much improved fuel economy. The lighter load and well-tuned suspension also make the CX-9 feel more athletic, without sacrificing a smooth ride.
 
Performance feels stronger as well, despite the fact that the outgoing generation’s V-6 engine has been replaced by a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out a respectable 227 horsepower. More important in everyday driving, however, is the engine’s robust torque output, which delivers brisk acceleration when merging into freeway traffic.
 
The CX-9 also sets new standards for technology — the Grand Touring model I drove offered almost every important amenity, from adaptive LED headlights to a large 8-inch display screen. While the vehicle hasn’t yet received its official crash test ratings, it comes with a long list of standard safety features, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assists, and automated emergency braking.
 
Figure in an unexpectedly entertaining driving character, and you have a seven-seater that will make road trips fun for the whole family — driver included.
ALAN RIDER has been writing about the intersection of automobiles and adventure travel for more than two decades.

2017 Mazda CX-9

Vehicle Type: 
Crossover
Base Price: 
$31,520
Price as Tested: 
$40,470
Fuel Economy: 
22 MPG City
28 MPG Highway
Key Safety Features: 
  • Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Automated emergency braking
The Good: 
  • Responsive handling
  • Comfortable, amenity-rich interior
  • Handsome styling
The Bad: 
  • Central knob-controlled display makes simple tasks more difficult than necessary
  • Front seats heated but not ventilated
  • Cramped third-row seat
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