Full 2014 Mazda CX-9 Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 Touring and Grand Touring trim levels receive a new rear cross-traffic alert system.
If you're wondering whether the seven-passenger 2014 Mazda CX-9 drives like a proper Mazda, we'll cut to the chase: You bet it does. Three rows and all, the responsive CX-9 feels smaller than it really is when you're driving it on winding roads. There's plenty of power, too, which is something not every Mazda can claim. If athleticism is what you want from a family-sized crossover, the CX-9's hard to beat.
But suppose you don't give a hoot about handling and you're just reading this review because you want the best all-around crossover in this class. Much to Mazda's credit, the CX-9 remains a compelling option. From its roomy three-row seating with standard tri-zone automatic climate control to its available rear entertainment system and massive cargo capacity, the CX-9 checks all the family-friendly boxes. Well, almost all of them: The standard touchscreen is a little small and low-tech relative to the competition. In addition, the CX-9's safety scores, while solid, aren't top-notch.
If you're shopping for a three-row crossover or SUV in 2014, there are some other great choices to look at, starting with the refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango; it offers strong performance and a high-quality interior in a more SUV-like package, albeit with less cargo capacity than the Mazda. We also like the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse (and related GMC Acadia) for its big interior and eight-passenger seating. The 2014 Ford Flex, meanwhile, is appealing for its wagon-oriented style and advanced driver-interface technology. But the 2014 Mazda CX-9 stacks up well against all of them, regardless of whether its sporting DNA moves the needle for you.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 is a large seven-passenger crossover SUV offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims. Note that all-wheel-drive models come standard with a towing prep package, but among front-wheel-drive models, only the Grand Touring can be so equipped.
Standard features on the Sport model include 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, cruise control, full power accessories, a trip computer, three-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a 5.8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, Pandora radio capability and USB/auxiliary inputs. Packaged as an option are heated mirrors, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar.
The Touring model gets that optional package as standard and adds automatic headlights, leather upholstery, a four-way adjustable front passenger seat, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors, a rear cross-traffic alert system and a rearview camera.
The Grand Touring ramps up the luxury with 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, upgraded exterior and interior trim, keyless ignition/entry, driver memory functions, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a second-row center armrest with console storage.
Most options are bundled into a few packages. The Touring trim is eligible for the Touring Technology package, which includes foglights, a sunroof, a power liftgate, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, a premium 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system and satellite radio. The Grand Touring gets its own Technology package, which is just the Touring's version minus what's already standard.
Exclusive to the Grand Touring is an optional rear-seat entertainment package with a 9-inch screen that also includes an 11-speaker Bose surround system with satellite radio, the navigation system and a 115-volt power outlet. However, this package cannot be combined with the Technology package (translation: you'll have to choose between the entertainment screen and the sunroof).
Powertrains and Performance
Available with either front- or all-wheel drive, the 2014 Mazda CX-9 is motivated by a 3.7-liter V6 engine that produces 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic with manual shift control. Properly equipped, the CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-9 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, which is decently quick by segment standards. An all-wheel-drive model needed 8.5 seconds in our testing, though, so AWD is more of a performance burden than you might expect. Fuel economy is on par with that of other large crossovers at an EPA-estimated 19 mpg combined (17 mpg city/24 mpg highway) for front-wheel-drive models. The CX-9 AWD drops to 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city/22 mpg highway).
The 2014 CX-9 comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active head restraints. Touring and Grand Touring models add a suite of electronic driving aids that include a blind-spot monitor, rear parking sensors, a rear cross-traffic alert system and a rearview camera.
In government crash tests, the CX-9 received a four-star overall score out of a possible five, with three stars for total front crash protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded last year's CX-9 its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset crash test and the side-impact test. However, it rated the CX-9 only "Marginal" (the second-lowest rating of four) in both the roof-strength test and for its seat/head restraint design's whiplash protection in rear-impact crashes.
In Edmunds brake testing, an AWD Grand Touring model came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average showing for this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Mazda CX-9's dashboard features a graceful waterfall design that flows into the door panels with uncommon flair. Materials quality is unremarkable -- there's nary a soft-touch panel to be found on the dash, for example -- but it's all screwed together pretty well. One nice premium touch is the center console bin, which has a nifty split lid that pops open like a set of clamshell doors. Otherwise, the CX-9's cabin could use a few more storage areas here and there.
The 5.8-inch touchscreen, newly standard as of last year, is a mixed bag. We appreciate that every CX-9 is now touchscreen-equipped, but it's pretty small for a vehicle like this, and its interface isn't as crisp or comprehensive as we'd like to see in a spanking-new unit. The competition clearly upstages the CX-9 on this count.
In the first two seating rows, there's ample room even for taller passengers, but headroom is tighter for those seated in the third row. Happily, the second-row seat reclines and slides fore and aft to accommodate various passenger scenarios. Access to the third row is a cinch relative to some other crossover SUVs, but the large rear door openings that make this possible can be cumbersome in tight parking spaces.
With its second and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 offers up a formidable 101 cubic feet of cargo capacity: an excellent number for this class.
The 2014 Mazda CX-9's V6 offers strong acceleration for both around-town driving and highway passing. The automatic transmission is also pleasing, offering quick and timely shifts.
We also like that the CX-9 is an accomplished highway cruiser, keeping road and wind noise to acceptable levels for backseat movie viewing and such. The precise, communicative steering lets you carve a consistent path, whether you're powering down the interstate or making time on a rural two-lane road, and the steep rake of the windshield adds to the sporty vibe.
Although we generally like the suspension's combination of compliance and poise, we can't recommend the 20-inch wheels of the Grand Touring, as too much ride comfort is lost in the transition from the standard 18-inch wheels. If you stick with the base wheel setup, you'll still have one of the best-handling big crossovers around.