LOS ANGELES — At the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda debuted its all-new CX-9, a seven-passenger, three-row midsize crossover that will go on sale in the spring of 2016. The 2016 CX-9 is the first major redesign of the model since 2007, when it was originally introduced.
Pricing has yet to be announced.
The new look of the CX-9 stems from Mazda's Kodo "Soul of Motion" design language. An elongated hood, short overhangs, large 18- or 20-inch wheels and a prominent grille give it a very masculine appearance for a crossover.
A significantly lighter chassis results in a 198-pound overall weight reduction (287 on AWD models) even after adding 53 pounds of sound-deadening materials for a quieter cabin.
Overall the CX-9 is shorter by 1.2 inches, but its wheelbase grows by 2.2 inches. Mazda hasn't released any final interior specs, but notes that the longer wheelbase provides benefits to both passenger legroom and ingress/egress.
At the heart of the new CX-9 is the company's first turbocharged engine that uses fuel-saving Skyactiv technology. It develops 227 horsepower at 5,000 rpm on 87 octane (250 hp on 93 octane) and 310 pound-feet of torque from a low 2,000 rpm. It sends this power through a six-speed automatic transmission, and will be offered in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations.
Although no specific EPA mileage figures were announced, the 2.5-liter inline-4 is estimated to deliver a 20-percent increase in fuel economy over the 3.7-liter V6 it replaces.
The optional all-wheel-drive system first seen in the Mazda CX-5 has been adapted for the new CX-9. This system samples data from 22 different sensors, 200 times per second, and can adjust power distribution fore and aft up to 50 percent. Mazda states that the effect is more predictive than reactive, resulting in all-wheel-drive modulation that is virtually transparent to both driver and passengers.
On the safety front, the CX-9's i-Activesense suite includes advanced blind spot monitoring, Mazda radar cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, high beam control, Smart City brake support, distance-recognition support and forward obstruction warning. This new comprehensive suite elevates the CX-9 to an active safety level on par with any of its main competitors.
As far as the new engine goes, there are a few innovative technologies developed by Mazda that enable it to generate such high levels of torque at a very low rpm. Mazda's dynamic pressure turbo uses valves to control the flow of exhaust acting on the turbocharger. At low rpm, the system routes exhaust gases through smaller passages in the exhaust manifold. This effect is analogous to holding a thumb over a garden hose to increase the pressure and speed of the stream. Through this, the turbocharger is able to create as much as 17.4 psi of boost almost instantly. As rpm increases, the system's valves open to allow the greater exhaust volume to flow through the main passages.
In addition to the valve system, Mazda designed a new compact 4-3-1 exhaust manifold. The arrangement optimizes the evacuation of exhaust gases through adjacent streams within the manifold, for a more efficient turbocharger.
The last main component to Mazda's new engine is a cooled EGR, or exhaust gas recirculation. Running the recirculated exhaust gases through a heat exchanger significantly reduces engine temperatures. Mazda says this allows the turbocharged engine to operate at a relatively high compression ratio (10.5:1) and also increases the consistency of fuel economy that consumers will see in real-world driving.
Edmunds says: Crossovers in this category seldom look this aggressive or use small, turbocharged engines. We'll see soon enough if this is a winning strategy or a flawed approach.