2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD SUV (3.7L V6 6-speed Automatic)
Driven On 6/25/2013
The Mazda CX-9 masks its size with svelte styling and the most engaging driving in the segment. It's a great choice for those upsizing to a three-row family vehicle from a more agile car. It offers ample space/interior flexibility. Disappointing safety ratings, fuel economy and interior materials keep it from a top mark.
PerformanceMore verve than your typical SUV. In instrumented testing some competitors can out-accelerate and just barely out-handle the CX-9. In the real world, though, it's more involving and reassuring to drive.
Considering the CX-9's weight, the 273-hp 3.7-liter V6 does an adequate job, and helps reach 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly, but can be hesitant to kick down.
The CX-9's panic stop distances were a little shorter than average, at 120 feet from 60 mph. Although pedal feel wasn't as crisp around town as we would've liked, it's easy to modulate.
Direct steering that makes this Mazda feel nimble in a way that most large SUVs do not. It's not brimming with feel, but is quick and weighted on the light side.
The CX-9 feels more athletic than most of its competitors in regular driving. But track handling numbers showed it's not as dominant over its competition as we thought.
Easy-to-drive vehicle with supple throttle delivery. The automatic transmission always tells you the gear you're in, and it downshifts in cruise control to stay at the set speed.
The CX-9 has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. Conversely, the Ford Flex can tow up to 4,500 pounds, the Hyundai Santa Fe 5,000 lb. and the Chevy Traverse 5,200 lb.
Like its competitors, the CX-9 is a soft-roader. Smooth fire roads are about as adventurous as you're going to want to get. Especially the front-wheel-drive version we tested.
ComfortThe CX-9 is a quiet, comfortable cruiser. Surprisingly, the third row actually has enough headroom for moderately sized adults. If the ride is too firm on rough roads, reconsider whether the Grand Touring's 20-inch wheels are for you.
Front seats are extremely plush with perfect lumbar but mild bolstering. One foot is always resting on the seat rail in the second row. Comfy third row has headroom for adults.
This is among the firmer-riding SUVs, but it's not harsh. A good amount of body control. If you're looking for a smother-everything ride, though, look elsewhere.
Well hushed. Tires are quiet, even on concrete freeways. Wind noise is nearly nonexistent. You almost never notice the V6. Even under full throttle it's pretty subdued.
InteriorThere's little to fault in the cabin beyond the small, fiddly navigation screen and a few low-rent plastic pieces. There's loads of room, easy access and nice outward visibility.
Overall the cabin controls are well-sorted and placed. The glaring exception is the multimedia screen, the interface of which is slow, cumbersome and not intuitive.
Easy to get in/out up front, perfect step-in height. If second-row seats are moved rearward, third-row seatbacks can't be raised. But nice one-touch mechanism for accessing third row.
Good front headroom, generous elbow room with cut-out doors and individual center armrests. Second-row headroom is excellent. Third-row foot room is poor, but sliding second row improves legroom.
Despite sloping roof, side windows are large. Most pillars are narrow, other than the rearmost. Blind-spot monitor standard on this model. Standard back-up camera has small screen.
Small but handy front bin. Cup holders lack anti-tip. Second largest cargo area in the segment. Hatch doesn't rise high enough, easy to hit head. Door pockets too low.
ValueThe CX-9 combines a well-stocked feature list, plenty of space and a pleasant driving acuity in day-to-day maneuvers that is missing in most SUVs. Its fuel economy does not distinguish, but it offers adequate features for the money.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The shifter surround plastic feels cheap and the dash is hard-touch, but most materials look and feel substantial. High marks for the seat/door suede inserts. Wood trim is classy.
The top-level Grand Touring starts at $34,785. That price brings blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, back-up sensors and Bluetooth standard. Nav and a sunroof cost extra.
The as-tested price of $38,115 includes navigation, sunroof, tranny cooler and heavy-duty fan. Considering the size, people-hauling ability and quality, this is a reasonable sum.
The EPA rates the CX-9 at 19 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). We averaged 17.7 mpg overall, and 19.7 mpg on our standard evaluation route. Middling fuel economy for the class.
The basic warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles with the drivetrain covered for 5 years/60,000 miles. Both are about average for the class, but well below that of the Hyundai Santa Fe.
The CX-9 has roadside assistance for 3 years/36,000 miles, which is less than some competitors. It doesn't have free maintenance, but then neither do its rivals.
Fun To DriveIf the time has come to trade in your sporty car for a big-old family vehicle, the Mazda CX-9 should make the transition less painful. It's responsive and comparatively fun to drive, and even looks sportier than most.
No large SUV will drive like a sports car, but the CX-9 comes closest to embodying those principles in terms of steering, routine handling and lack of slop.
With its raked windshield, car-like seating position, sleeker styling and involving driving experience, the CX-9 isn't a typical, staid family hauler.