The largest vehicle in Mazda’s lineup is also the oldest.
Introduced in the United States in 2007, the seven-passenger CX-9 crossover underwent only one minor change until it was updated for 2013.
nyone who buys this year’s model will immediately notice that the CX-9 has a new look, with a frontal design that adopts Mazda’s new trademark grille opening and sleek headlamps. The interior has also been upgraded with a new instrument panel and new infotainment systems.
The platform and drivetrain are unchanged, which is good news. The CX-9 has long been one of the better crossovers offered in this country and nothing in the extensive cosmetic redo changes that.
Mazda retains the 3.7-liter, 273-horsepower V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission for 2013. The engine is smooth, powerful and refined, while the transmission only receives a minor demerit for its occasional reluctance to downshift when the driver needs a little added punch for merging or passing. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
My wife Paula and I had the previous CX-9 for review during mild weather, so we were unable to test it in the snow. That wasn’t the case this time around. The CX-9 was competent on roads that remained covered in snow for days after last month’s blizzard had come and gone. For mobility immediately after more typical snowfalls, the CX-9 with the all-wheel drive option should prove to be more than sufficient, even with the all-season tires on our review vehicle.
The Blizzard of 2013 also precluded a typical review regimen, so we were unable to test the zero-to-60 time. The last CX-9 we had for review posted an 8.5 second zero-to-60 time with the same drivetrain as the 2013 version.
The three trim levels offered in 2013 are the same as last year: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. Our Grand Touring review vehicle had all the expected amenities – power everything, air conditioning and an audio system – plus some standard features not necessarily expected, such as blind spot warning, and keyless access and starting. It should be noted that even the base Sport comes with equipment that makes it “fully equipped” in the minds of most people.
The ride in the CX-9 is firm for a crossover. It’s not uncomfortable, but is noticeable, especially when comparing the CX-9 to some competitors.
However, that firmness aids in handling. Tight quarter maneuvering is quite good, thanks to a turning circle of 37.4 feet that is rather compact when you consider the vehicle’s size. The CX-9 also shines on secondary roads, overcoming a slightly dull on-center steering feel with solid performances in turns and entrance ramps.
The front and second row seats are adjustable, supportive, roomy and comfortable. Even the third row can handle adults, at least for a short trek across town. With the seats folded, the CX-9 turns cavernous, with just over 100 cubic feet of capacity available.
While the Mazda CX-9 has a new face, it’s easy to live with and engaging to drive. Its performance is pretty much unchanged, which is good news.
For such a big vehicle, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 feels smaller than its looks suggest. This crossover is not only exceptionally maneuverable, but it’s also lively and has plenty of power.
It stays straight and true on the highway, requiring few steering changes to stay on course. Highway cruising is quiet enough for parents to hear children in the third row plotting any potential mischief.
My husband Jim and I reviewed the CX-9 right after having the Buick Enclave. The Buick had a softer ride, but it wasn’t as much fun to drive. It was also more expensive; although the CX-9 doesn’t exactly come with a bargain basement price either. Our review Mazda carried a $39,755 retail price, including options, compared to $52,000 for the Enclave. Both were excellent cars, but were different in the way they felt and drove. Each also comes in a more basic version that can be had for at least $10,000 less than the review models Jim and I had.
As for the Mazda, the seven passenger capacity is a plus for families, as is the ability to store a week’s worth of groceries behind the raised third-row seat. The second-row seats move back and forth and have reclining backrests.
The controls are generally straight forward and the instruments are easy to read. Visibility ahead is good. A rear backup camera and rear obstacle sensors took much of the tension out of backing maneuvers. Even if you missed an obstacle after checking the clear image from the camera, the sensors’ warning would let you know you were getting close to something.
We had the CX-9 during a stretch of bad weather that didn’t allow for a normal review schedule. It’s also likely that the weather took a toll on fuel economy, which came to 16.9 miles per gallon. An earlier CX-9 with the same engine managed to go 18.2 miles per gallon while in our hands.