20128 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring Test Drive

?2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD?
A Stylish 3-Row, 7-Passenger Crossover SUV

The Mazda CX-9 has been recognized as one of the best SUV / Crossover / Minivan / Station Wagons in its class since it made its world debut back in 2006. And regardless of what category one places it in; it was first and foremost a Mazda with the same ?Zoom-Zoom? properties as the rest of the vehicles in the family. For what its worth, Mazda categorizes the CX-9 as a 7-passenger, 3-row crossover SUV. It is the senior member of Mazda?s versatile SUV lineup.

Mazda’s entries in the crossover category actually differ from the majority of their competitors — in that it displays a level of styling that is not only distinctive, but purposeful as well. In terms of its functionality and versatility, it is not unlike many other crossover segment entries. The real difference comes from its roots or DNA — beneath its appealing exterior skin, lies what the Mazda folks repeatedly refer to as the? soul of a sports car?. It is certainly appropriate to reference the CX-9 as a “Zoom-Zoom vehicle with More Room” inasmuch as it?s smaller stablemate, the CX-7 was tagged as featuring “Zoom-Zoom with Room”. There?s even a CX-5 compact SUV. After all, size does matter in making a choice.
The CX-9 was engineered combining a sporty driving spirit with SUV versatility and functionality. For 2018, the CX-9 continues with its high level of performance delivered by a transversely mounted SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter, DOHC, 24-valve V6 engine with a Dynamic pressure turbo and direct coil-on-plug ignition. The horsepower rating is 227 at 5,000 rpm, and the torque is rated at 310 pound feet at 2,000 rpm. Power is geared to the driving wheels via Mazda?s SKYACTIV-Drive six-speed Sport mode automatic transmission, which allows for either totally automatic or manual gear changes to be made by the driver. Towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds.
The design is futuristic, with the concept conveying a sense of dynamic movement, even when at a standstill. The profile exhibits an aggressively rising belt line, topped by a boldly curved roof structure. The tapered greenhouse of the CX-9 sports blacked-out “B” and “C” pillars that are outlined by a bright surround, offering the visual impression of a singular glass area. The front fenders are pronounced, and flank the sculpted hood, which holds court over the bold trapezoidal, 5 horizontal bar, with no top bar grille, but rather a lower outline trim that extends into the headlight assembly forming a smile, just ahead of the highly sloped nose, with a chrome trim accenting the wide lower air inlet .The windshield is sharply raked as well, adding to the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the CX-9. The large, bright dual exhaust outlets hint suggestively at the vehicle’s performance capability.
The Mazda CX-9 is offered in four trim levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. All models come standard in Front-Wheel drive, or with Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive available as an option with the exception of the Signature model, where AWD is standard. Stopping power is provided by four-wheel vented disc brakes with 4-sensor, 4-channel ABS, DSC, and EBD. The CX-9 comes standard with 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels or with optional 20-inch alloy wheels shod with performance tires.
The interior continues to serve up a sporty feel; Switchgear and controls are well thought out for optimum user friendliness, with gauges ideally placed and legible. Storage capacity is plentiful, with the center console able to stash a compact laptop. Seating is provided for seven in a multi-configurable three rows.
Technology highlights include: MAZDA CONNECT? infotainment system with a 7? or optional 8? color multi-function display with voice command, SMS text message audio delivery and replay, E911 automatic emergency notification and optional navigation system; Multi-function commander control; available windshield-projected Active Driving Display; Dynamic stability control and traction control system with standard trailer stability assist; and an Auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Key features of the CX-9 offered are: LED headlamps with auto off and auto height control; LED taillights; variable intermittent windshield wipers; three-zone automatic climate control air conditioning; second-row 60/40 seat with seat recline, center armrest with cup holders and optional USB inputs; third-row 50/50 split seats; heated driver/passenger door mirrors; a Power liftgate with adjustable height; available Nappa leather seats, rosewood and genuine aluminum interior materials; LED grille lighting accent (Signature); Heated front seats with three settings; Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System; and available BOSE? premium audio with 12 speakers.
Safety assets include: Roll Stability Control; Blind Spot Monitoring System and Rear Cross Traffic Alert; optional Distance Recognition Support System; High Beam Control; Lane Keep Assist; Mazda Radar Cruise Control; Rear Backup Sensor, Smart City Brake Support; and Smart Brake Support.
Enhancements for the 2018 model year include: Greater sound insulation; Front parking sensors (CX-9 Grand Touring and Signature); a new color-Soul Red Crystal; an easier-to-use second-row slider that provides better third-row access; a windshield wiper de-icer (CX-9 Grand Touring and Signature); Standard Smart City Brake Support with automatic emergency braking and standard G-Vectoring Control vehicle dynamics enhancement; and available features such as: a height-adjustable power passenger seat with power lumbar support; heated second-row seats; a heated steering wheel; Traffic Sign Recognition; and full-speed Mazda Radar Cruise Control with stop and go.

Essentially, even though the CX-7 and CX-9 look very much alike, the CX-9 obviously delivers more in every respect — it is longer, taller and costs more.

My test 2018 Mazda CX-9 was a Grand Touring model in an All-Wheel Drive configuration, finished outside in thee new Soul Red Crystal metallic, and inside in Beige, with Charcoal accents and aluminum trim accents. The base price was set at $42,270, with the price as tested totaling $43,905. after adding for the metallic exterior paint, Cargo mat and Delivery, processing and Handling fee.

SUMMARY: Despite its visual similarities, the Mazda CX-9 is not simply an extended, three row version of the CX-7 – it is actually based upon the modified underpinnings of Ford?s Edge, with some componentry borrowed from the Mazda6 as well. Handling attributes deliver a pleasingly agile feel, reflective of its sports car heritage. Even the ride quality provides a firm enough damping quality to be ranked with many sports cars. In terms of overall performance, blistering “off-the-line” smoke ’em if ya got ’em tires is not in the cards. The CX-9 has a higher mission statement — it is intended for use as a stylish, roomy and comfortable transportation pod for a family and gear to support their life?s activities. It is capable of seating 7, but is more suited to five with its 50/50 split folding rear third row seats.
Given its attractiveness, value and equipment content, price point, power output and serviceability for both passengers and cargo, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 remains as one of the top contenders in competition on the Crossover SUV playing field, with several grades and equipment and feature choices offered to suit individual budgets, tastes and requirements. It represents the latest and grandest expression of KODO-Soul of Motion styling and design to date and actually meets or exceeds expectations for what a mainstream three-row crossover SUV should be.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

Base Price: $42,270.
Price as Tested: $43,905.
Engine Type and Size: SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter DOHC, 16-Valve Dynamic Pressure Turbo inline 4-cylinder with VVT.

Horsepower (bhp): 227 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 310 @ 2,000 rpm

Transmission: SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed Sport Mode automatic with manual-shift and Sport mode.

Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / i-ACTIV AWD

Suspension: Front – Macpherson strut with stabilizer bar
Rear – Multilink with stabilizer bar

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with 4-wheel, 4-channel ABS with EBD and BA.

Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus P255/50 R20 104 V mounted on 5-?V?spokesilver painted alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 115.3 inches
Length Overall: 199.4 inches ? without front license plate holder
Width: 77.5 inches ?with wheel arc moldings
Height: 69.0 inches- with Shark fin antenna
Curb Weight: 4,361 lbs.
Turning Circle: 38.8 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 19.5 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 20 mpg city / 26 mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.35
0 – 60 mph: Not tested ? 130 mph Top Speed

Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.

More from Our Auto Expert