Mazda tends toward making their vehicles sporty and this crossover is no exception. When it comes to searching for a vehicle with the interior space to be compared with a mini-van, it’s on the sportier end of the spectrum. This is a Mazda after all, a company that knows how to do fun.
Since there are less expensive cars with more space, and larger cars with more power, the CX-9 might be easy to pass up. It looks better than the Sorento, Santa Fe, and Pacifica, too. If you’re looking for a vehicle with three-rows, it has to at least make the test-drive list.
Despite its generous dimensions, the CX-9 handles more like a sporty sedan than a typical crossover thanks to a cleverly tuned suspension, sharp steering and responsive brakes. It’s a family vehicle that’s legitimately fun on the backroads.
Mazda didn’t forget why most people buy these vehicles, though, and the CX-9 also shines when it comes time to transporting humans and cargo. Seating capacity maxes out at seven passengers, and even adults can fit in the rearmost row due to second-row captain’s chairs that slide forward to maximize legroom for those sitting behind. Ingress and egress is particularly easy due to extra-long rear door openings and the aforementioned sliding seats.
Behind the third-row seats, there’s sufficient space for 17.2 cubic feet of gear. Fold down the third row, and 48.3 cubic feet are available, while an impressive 100.7 cubes can be had by stowing all but the first row.
Up front, the driver enjoys a sporty three-spoke steering wheel and large gauges that are a model of clarity. Aside from a smattering of downmarket plastics, material quality is generally excellent inside. A 5.8-inch touchscreen display for the sound system is standard, and extras like a navigation system, Bose stereo and power tailgate can be spec’d for a heightened level of luxury.
Trim Level Breakdown
The CX-9 is available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring.
The CX-9 Sport comes well equipped with standard three-zone automatic climate control, a 5.8-inch touchscreen display, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD radio stereo with AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio, cruise control, full power accessories, keyless entry and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Upgrading to the CX-9 Touring trim level yields leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s, seat a four-way power adjustable front passenger seat, auto on/off headlights, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, a blind spot monitoring system and a rear cross traffic alert system.
The premium trim level is labeled the Grand Touring package and delivers upgraded 20-inch wheels, Xenon headlamps, halogen fog lamps, rain-sensing windshield wipers, driver’s seat memory and available rear-entertainment system, Blind Spot Monitoring, imitation wood interior trim, a sunroof, an alarm system, a proximity key, a power tailgate and LED daytime running lights.
The Touring and Grand Touring trim levels are available with a Technology Package that brings a navigation system, 10-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio and (for the Touring only, as they are standard on the Grand Touring) foglights and a sunroof.
The Grand Touring model can be outfitted with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system that comes bundled with all of the Technology Package’s goodies plus a 115-volt power outlet.
The 2007 CX-9 was fitted with a 3.5L Cyclone V6 engine. Standard safety equipment included electronic stability control, traction control, roll stability control, front-side impact airbags, and three-row side-curtain airbags. Options included DVD navigation system, hands-free Bluetooth phone link, backup camera, and a rear entertainment system with Bose 5.1 surround sound.
For the 2008 model year, the engine was changed to a 3.7L V6 producing 274 hp and 270 lb·f) of torque. Channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission, that output is enough to allow a zero-to-60 mph sprint in the mid-seven-second range. Front-wheel-drive is standard and yields 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The optional all-wheel-drive is available across the trim levels and returns 16/22 mpg.
It’s about perfect if you need minivan utility but don’t want a, well.. ..minivan. As crossovers go, it’s fun and responsive with good steering and buttoned-down handling, and the 3.7-liter moves it along nicely. Frankly, it feels quite a bit lighter and smaller than it is.
So, the Mazda CX-9 is fun to drive and practical. As three-row crossovers go, this is a winner.