Full 2009 Mazda CX-9 Review
What's New for 2009
Only minor changes occur for the 2009 Mazda CX-9. A trip computer is now standard on all trim levels, and the base model gets standard Bluetooth phone capability. All-wheel-drive models come standard with a trailer tow prep package, and Grand Touring trims get a standard garage door opener and auto-dimming rearview mirror. In addition, satellite radio now comes with the upgraded audio and rear-seat entertainment packages.
Large crossover SUVs started to appear just a few years ago, and already there are many excellent choices available to consumers. Mazda was one of the first automakers out of the gate with its CX-9, and it's been a success for the company ever since.
Aside from an engine upgrade last year, the 2009 Mazda CX-9 isn't much different from when it debuted two model years ago, and that suits us just fine. The CX-9's very spacious interior features a third-row seat suitable for even average-sized adults. It's easy to access, too. The CX-9 also boasts excellent build quality, an attractive dash design and an adequate number of technology and entertainment features. But, as always, the true pleasure of the Mazda CX-9 lies in its superb handling capabilities. No vehicle this size can ever be called nimble, but among large crossovers, Mazda's flagship stands out as being the most enjoyable to drive.
We're quite fond of the CX-9, though a few drawbacks, such as a potentially stiff ride quality, do open the door for you to consider other competitors. The Ford Flex and General Motors' "Lambda" quadruplets (Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook) are all great choices, especially if you're interested in a pure family vehicle with ample cargo space and versatility. But for those who also value performance and driver feedback, the CX-9 won't disappoint.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mazda CX-9 is a large, seven-passenger crossover SUV that's available in three trim levels. The entry-level Sport comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The mid-line Touring version adds heated mirrors, two-tone leather seating and heated, powered front seats. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring adds 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless ignition/entry, memory driver seat presets, wood cabin accents, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and special blue cabin illumination.
Major options, depending on the trim level, include an upgraded surround-sound Bose audio system with a six-CD changer, a sunroof, a power rear liftgate, a navigation system with a rearview camera, a stand-alone rearview camera (with a display in the rearview mirror), satellite radio, remote engine start, video game docking station and a traditional rear-seat entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Mazda CX-9 is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, while all trim levels can be equipped with either front- or all-wheel drive. All-wheel-drive models are equipped standard with a trailer tow prep package, which allows the CX-9 to tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. A front-wheel-drive CX-9 went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while AWD adds a second to that. This is on par for the segment.
EPA-rated fuel economy for a front-drive 2009 CX-9 is 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. All-wheel-drive CX-9s achieve 1 mpg less. Both ratings are slightly below class leaders.
All 2009 CX-9 models come standard with antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A blind-spot warning system is standard on the Grand Touring. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testing, the CX-9 did very well, scoring five out of five stars in all front and side crash tests. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CX-9 its top rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashworthiness.
Interior Design and Special Features
With its available two-tone leather, red and blue instrument lighting, metal-look accents and either piano black or tasteful wood trim, the CX-9 has plenty of sporty style to spare. Most controls are ergonomically friendly and easy to use. Materials quality is hit-or-miss, however, and the CX-9 doesn't have many useful storage cubbies.
The two-passenger third-row seat is one of the roomiest you'll find, and is quite suitable for normal-sized adults. Access to the third row is easy thanks to large rear-door openings (which, unfortunately, can be troublesome in tight parking lots) and a fold-and-slide second row. With the third row in place, luggage space totals 17 cubic feet. Folding the second and third rows flat delivers 101 cubic feet of cargo capacity.
Like most large crossovers, the 2009 Mazda CX-9 is well engineered for long road trips. Driven on curvy roads, however, the CX-9 really excels. A sport-tuned suspension and low-profile tires make the vehicle feel smaller than it is, and the steering is precise and direct, if a bit light on center. This high level of vehicle control is an advantage not only on back roads, but on confined city streets as well. Ride comfort is generally well-damped, though the 20-inch wheels on the Grand Touring make for a somewhat choppy ride on rough roads. For those who commute daily on well-traveled, chewed-up freeways, we say avoid the big rims and stick to something smaller.
Read our Mazda CX-9 Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test