After comparing the Acadia/Traverse, Ford Flex, and a few others, I choose the Mazda based on my test drive, available options in my price range, and also based on reviews here. I just took delivery last month so I haven't put on many miles yet, but there are a few things worth noting. One, the performance, handling, ride, etc is everything I read about. It handles like a much smaller SUV, body roll is almost zero, acceleration is more than adequate (how quick do you need to go from stop light to stop light really?), and it stops on a dime. Mileage is what it is, if I wanted 30 mpg I would've got a silly hybrid - no thanks. The car looks awesome from the outside though.
We have had the vehicle for about 3 months, and are very satisfied. Gas milage is consistenly about 19 miles per gallon. We compared most of the 5 and 7 passenger SUVs and Crossovers. The Mazda was great on price and features. We liked the Nissans, but they did not have the seating or the storage areas. My biggest concern is the Ford motor and transmission, but it will be a couple of years before I can know if this was a problem. There are not many Mazda dealers near us, so we will be using Ford for most service and repairs.
After an exhaustive search we finally decided on the CX-9 GT AWD. We looked at EVERYTHING. From Kia to Audi and everything in-between. High on the list was the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7 TDI. The Q7 was the best SUV we tested, and if money wasn't an issue that's what we would have bought. However, after driving the Mazda and seeing all the standard equipment you get for under 40K I couldn't believe it. I thought we would have to give something up in either luxury items, interior material, or ride quality, but we didn't. I really feel like we got it all in this vehicle and saved 30K over the Audi. Hats off to Mazda for making such an affordable, enjoyable vehicle to drive.
After extensive research and test driving, we selected the CX-9. Based upon reviews, and experience with friends' cars, we narrowed it down to the Highlander and the CX-9. Previously we had a Ford Explorer, and opted to not consider Ford due to the problems we had with that vehicle. GM and Honda were eliminated due to the price point (Toyota and Mazda clearly offer more value.) In the end, the Mazda won out due to its handling, and its interior space. We test drove the CX-9 and Highlander back to back, and the difference in handling curves was remarkable. We also checked out the Audi Q7. We felt that the Mazda compared favorably to the Audi in all aspects, and is priced $20k less.
I've had my 2011 CX-9 for about a month, have taken two long road trips in it, and use it to commute in Atlanta traffic about 40 miles round trip. I traded in my 2001 Toyota Highlander for the Mazda, and so far, I'm very happy with the CX-9. The driving experience is great for this size vehicle. The third-row seating is very accessible, and is roomy enough for my 9-year old (my 15 year-old complains it's too tight, but then again, he complains about everything!). I am disappointed in the gas mileage, even when travelling on the interstate at reasonable speeds. I suppose that is the price one pays for this kind of performance. I really like the Bose sound system.