The First Impression car review of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 from the experts at Edmunds. Edmunds editors Carlos Lago and Mark Takahashi take the 2016 Mazda CX-9 for a drive and share their impressions on everything from its comfort to handling, even the need for Sport mode.
[MUSIC PLAYING] CARLOS LAGO: Hey, Mark. MARK TAKAHASHI: Hey, Carlos. CARLOS LAGO: How you doing? MARK TAKAHASHI: I'm good, how are you? CARLOS LAGO: I'm doing great. MARK TAKAHASHI: Good to hear. CARLOS LAGO: I just got back from a road trip. MARK TAKAHASHI: I know. CARLOS LAGO: In this large, three-row SUV, probably similar class as Honda Pilot. You'd think maybe that's a little bit bigger. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I mean, it's out of the price range, but something like a Volvo XC-- CARLOS LAGO: 90. MARK TAKAHASHI: --90? CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. Yeah, so-- MARK TAKAHASHI: Three row-ish-- [MUSIC PLAYING] I give it really high marks for comfort. I like the seats. I like the way they're shaped. I don't know if these are heated, or if they're-- CARLOS LAGO: They're heated. MARK TAKAHASHI: Where's-- CARLOS LAGO: Not ventilated. MARK TAKAHASHI: Where's the button for that? CARLOS LAGO: It's right here. MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh, OK. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah, I wish they were ventilated. I get a little swampy in LA. But-- CARLOS LAGO: Swampy in LA. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. That's actually the name of my band. CARLOS LAGO: The hit single. MARK TAKAHASHI: But ride quality, it's actually really smooth, considering how well it handles for a three-row SUV. What's your take? You actually logged a whole bunch of miles last week in this. CARLOS LAGO: Yes. Yeah, I spent eight hours driving to Tahoe and eight hours driving it back. I generally liked the seats, even though I couldn't find the lumbar controls. I didn't look that hard, apparently. But I remember driving this thing going, man, I wish I could adjust lumbar. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: That said, eight hours on the road's a long time to drive. I didn't feel fatigued afterwards, not more than you normally would from focusing on the road for that amount of time. The seating position was comfortable, except for the fact that my natural seating position puts me kind of close to the wheel. Not close where, like, the steering wheel's in my chest, but close enough where my knee was up against the dash. And I had to adjust a few times to make sure I was comfortable. These are very, very small complaints. On balance, I liked it. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: There's one thing that sets this car apart from the competition. CARLOS LAGO: Actually, it's three things. MARK TAKAHASHI: What's the other two? CARLOS LAGO: (SINGING) Zoom, zoom, zoom. MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh, you're dead to me now. CARLOS LAGO: (SINGING) Zoom, zoom, zoom, zoom. MARK TAKAHASHI: Stop. Oh, stop. Its handling. CARLOS LAGO: (SINGING) Zoom, zoom, zoom. MARK TAKAHASHI: Handling. It handles really well for a car this size. Now, I'm not going to be tearing up this Canyon Road like I'm in a Miata or anything, but it's really quite good. I mean, we're not getting all these residual bumps and stuff. It feels solid. It's kind of confidence-inspiring. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah, the sporty handling is good for roads like this, of course. But what people often forget is that it also manifests when you're driving around town, when you're on an on-ramp, when you have to make an emergency lane change. There's a lot of things that happen in your day-to-day experience that you may not realize are benefited by good handling. If a car is sloppy, if it's got bad steering, it never feels confident regardless of the road that you're driving it on. Steering in this is pretty precise, nicely weighted. So when you're flying up an on-ramp, as you are because you have plenty of power, this feels good in the process, and give you lots of confidence. [MUSIC PLAYING] We're in the back seat of a Mazda CX-9. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: This is where it gets real. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: Real comfortable. MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh. It actually is, though. CARLOS LAGO: There's a lot of leg room. MARK TAKAHASHI: There is. And. CARLOS LAGO: Whoa. MARK TAKAHASHI: Slidey-- look how far it goes. CARLOS LAGO: That's like-- so it slides that far forward because people need access to the third row. Do I have-- I do. MARK TAKAHASHI: You do. CARLOS LAGO: This is how you can really annoy your parents, by doing this. [SEATS SLAMMING] (SINGING) We are professionals. This is the professionals' song. MARK TAKAHASHI: But the good thing is all that travel kind of gives you a little more flexibility cargo versus passenger-wise, too. CARLOS LAGO: For sure. MARK TAKAHASHI: And headroom-wise, I'm totally fine. I'm 5'10". I don't have, like, crazy long torso or totally short legs, so average adult is going to be totally fine back here for a road trip. CARLOS LAGO: The front seat, the passenger seat was in the position I was sitting in when I was there-- MARK TAKAHASHI: As is mine. CARLOS LAGO: --so I'm effectively sitting behind my virtual self. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. CARLOS LAGO: I have a couple of inches of leg room, no problem. Could you slide that back a little bit? Because when you're forward, it's-- OK, and let's put this guy down. You've got-- ooh, you've got two USB ports here, which is really nice. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: A lot of storage there, which is good. Cup holders. MARK TAKAHASHI: Ooh, I recline, too. CARLOS LAGO: Auto-- ooh, nice. Looks like some weird workout exercise equipment. MARK TAKAHASHI: It's my core. CARLOS LAGO: Vents for the back passengers, which is really nice. And also you can have some climate controls. So you can do auto, off, temperature up and down, and adjust the fan speed, too. That's really nice stuff to have-- MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. Triple zone. CARLOS LAGO: --for backseat passengers. MARK TAKAHASHI: Automatic climate control. CARLOS LAGO: This car pays more attention to back passengers than I normally do. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: This is the cargo area behind the third row seats, which is a little limiting, but not much more than any other three-row SUV, right? CARLOS LAGO: I'm gonna Vanna White this like you've never seen it before. MARK TAKAHASHI: Ooh. CARLOS LAGO: I'm a bad Vanna White. I'm a bad Vanna White. MARK TAKAHASHI: Most people probably aren't going to be using third-row seats that often. It's not something-- you know, they call it for occasional use. So that's actually really good. It's a little high. I mean, there's not a whole lot of vertical space. But let's see, is there anything in there that's-- yeah. Another spot for smaller, flatter stuff, laptop bag like this. Look at that. It's out of sight now. CARLOS LAGO: Load height could be better. Like, you might get-- like a CRV comes to mind, because this is-- you could drop this in a CRV. But you still have plenty of space. When I went to Sacramento, I picked up a rolling toolbox. So it's, you know, yay tall. And I was able to fit it in here no problem because the second row-- MARK TAKAHASHI: Go on. CARLOS LAGO: Oh. Wrong way. MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh, I did it wrong. CARLOS LAGO: Almost folds completely flat. And you can do that. MARK TAKAHASHI: And it goes all the way forward, too. Not bad, Mazda. [MUSIC PLAYING] CARLOS LAGO: So a couple things I really appreciate, first thing I noticed specifically out of this thing is the way they've tuned the engine. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: This engine feels grunty and powerful in a way you would not expect from a three-row SUV. MARK TAKAHASHI: But the funny thing is, when you look at the output numbers, it really isn't. CARLOS LAGO: Yes. MARK TAKAHASHI: It's the way they worked the turbos, where those kind of-- those turbos get spinning way earlier than a typical turbo would. CARLOS LAGO: The way engine development typically works, speaking as a master engineer in engine development, you see a horsepower rating, but you often don't see or don't recognize when that horsepower is happening. And it typically happens at an engine speed that is way higher than you will ever get during your commute, like 6,000 RPM. What they've done with this car, this vehicle that's very smart, is they've optimized the power to happen at the low part of the power band. So between 1,000 to 4,000 RPM, where you're typically-- where the engine's typically at when you're driving to work, that's when this engine is working the hardest and producing the most power. And the effect is, when you roll onto that gas pedal, you feel this immediate surge. MARK TAKAHASHI: It's got a little punch off the line. CARLOS LAGO: Like it's a diesel-- not like it's an electric car, but closer to that sense of acceleration than you'd otherwise get from a gasoline turbocharged engine. MARK TAKAHASHI: And I love it. I love that responsiveness. And you know, a lot of other cars have this throttle tip end or this slight hesitation right off the line. And that kind of bothers me, but I also realize that most people driving a three-row SUV don't need that kind of response. CARLOS LAGO: Absolutely. MARK TAKAHASHI: They're not sportily inclined. That's a real world-- word. CARLOS LAGO: Sportily inclined, yeah. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: So I'm gonna hit Sport Mode and see what happens. CARLOS LAGO: Like you expect from your large three-row SUV. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: A sport mode. MARK TAKAHASHI: I'm not feeling that much of a difference. CARLOS LAGO: I'm feeling pretty sporty right now. MARK TAKAHASHI: So I'm guessing that this doesn't have adaptive dampers. So that isn't going to affect the ride quality. CARLOS LAGO: Mhm. MARK TAKAHASHI: But it will affect how it shifts, how late it stays in gears, and probably the responsiveness of the throttle, and maybe a little bit of steering effort or something. Who knows. CARLOS LAGO: Do you care? MARK TAKAHASHI: I don't care about-- I care about steering effort, but if it's not a really tiny sports car, I don't really care so much about steering feel. CARLOS LAGO: When I saw that sport dial, I just thought, why? MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh, yeah. CARLOS LAGO: Why? MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah, it doesn't make too much sense for this. CARLOS LAGO: This car in its key up settings, without Sport Mode or anything, feels punchy enough, feels responsive enough that-- MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: --this sport dial just felt like, oh, that's-- why'd you do that? MARK TAKAHASHI: Is that necessary? CARLOS LAGO: Yeah, is this really-- MARK TAKAHASHI: It's not-- oh, but it is staying in gear longer. CARLOS LAGO: [INAUDIBLE]. MARK TAKAHASHI: It's running past 3,000 there. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. MARK TAKAHASHI: But yeah, how many drivers outside of our staff or any other kind of automotive journalists really need a sport button? CARLOS LAGO: I don't plan on taking this to a curvy road, engaging Sport Mode, and trying to set a lap record. [MUSIC PLAYING] Generally, this interior is pretty nicely laid out. Like, from my experience, physical controls feel good, are laid out in a place that makes sense. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: There's nothing that you kind of slap your forehead and go like, why did you do this. And I think a lot of that has to do with that there isn't any capacitive stuff. Like, there's no touch-sensitive stuff. It's all physical buttons and knobs and dials and switches, which means you can adjust stuff without having to look at it. MARK TAKAHASHI: Mhm. CARLOS LAGO: That's really good. That's a good thing. Capacitive switches are terrible across the board. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes, they really are. CARLOS LAGO: Stop doing them. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: Yes. MARK TAKAHASHI: And it's even worse here in the Midwest, and it's cold, and you're wearing gloves. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. MARK TAKAHASHI: They're not gonna work. CARLOS LAGO: Nothing works. MARK TAKAHASHI: I know. Now, I'd like the way-- I totally agree with what you just said, but I also want to add that they put the buttons in places that make sense. And they're grouped together well, too. Even on the steering wheel. I mean, I like cruise control buttons on the right, and I like the volume and skip stuff on the left. And yeah, I mean, everything's just kind of laid out smartly. CARLOS LAGO: Small point. You want volume control on the steering wheel on the left. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: If it was on the right, why aren't you just adjusting the volume with your right hand on the knob anyway? MARK TAKAHASHI: There you go. CARLOS LAGO: Right? MARK TAKAHASHI: There you go. I want it on left, though, because if I'm doing a manual shift, like I should be right now on this road, it frees you up. [MUSIC PLAYING] CARLOS LAGO: This Mazda CX-9 has a technology like most of the new cars, Bluetooth. What if I were to tell you, though, that everybody I called on this Bluetooth system said this was the best Bluetooth system I'd ever called anybody on. MARK TAKAHASHI: Really. Where are the mikes? CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. I don't know. It might be these guys up here. Maybe. MARK TAKAHASHI: Maybe that right there. CARLOS LAGO: Maybe that. But I called my girlfriend as I was driving back, because I'm stuck on I-5 and it smells like cow poop and everything is terrible on that road. But I called her and she says, are you on Bluetooth? And I say yeah. She says it sounds like you're using a headset. The Bluetooth system was that good. MARK TAKAHASHI: Wow. CARLOS LAGO: That's not something you often think about, because when you're driving the car, you make the Bluetooth call, you don't have to suffer through the road noise and all that. MARK TAKAHASHI: And it's not something we evaluate, either. CARLOS LAGO: Exactly. MARK TAKAHASHI: One thing I really like from Mazda on the premium level is this dial infotainment controller. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. MARK TAKAHASHI: They're the only ones in the non-premium, I think, that use a dial. Well-- well, no, I guess nobody else does, do they? Everyone else is mostly touchscreen. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah, that's an interesting point. To that point, though, I do wish this had Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. CARLOS LAGO: The navigation system, while it works, it's fast, it's easy to use, it just looks dated. MARK TAKAHASHI: And on top of that, after Apple CarPlay started getting more prevalent, I started relying on it-- CARLOS LAGO: Yes. MARK TAKAHASHI: --a lot more. And it's so much easier if you're an iPhone user because it's the same interface. Everything kind of works same and has this familiarity that's kind of nice about it. [MUSIC PLAYING] CARLOS LAGO: And this is a good-looking SUV. MARK TAKAHASHI: It really is. CARLOS LAGO: Wow, right? MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. I mean, Mazda's current design on the whole, from the Mazda 3 all the way up to this, I really, really like. It's graceful, it's sleek, it's got some nice edginess to it. But it's not-- I don't know anyone that doesn't like this design. Everyone seems to gravitate towards it. CARLOS LAGO: My favorite part is the front end. The front end has this very sculpted-- not aggressive, but a standout, like, design feature that looks like no other large three-row non-premium SUV out there. Like, this is easily the best-looking one in the class. MARK TAKAHASHI: I agree. CARLOS LAGO: It gives this car a presence. You know, I park this car to get gas, I go into the place to grab water, walk out, I'm like, wow, that's a really striking-looking car. MARK TAKAHASHI: This is one of those rare SUVs where you walk up to it and you start feeling kind of good about it. CARLOS LAGO: Yeah. Absolutely. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. CARLOS LAGO: And I think the design somewhat gets less interesting to the rear. The rear 3/4 kind of gets a little bit more generic. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yeah. CARLOS LAGO: But I still feel good about the front end. And when I pulled up to people's houses that I was going to visit along my road trip, the most common thing I got was, is that an Infiniti? MARK TAKAHASHI: Oh. CARLOS LAGO: Which was a really interesting point of comparison. I explain, no, it's a Mazda, this is the CX-9, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But people immediately jumped to the premium brand vehicles for a point of comparison. [MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: If you want to see more on the CX-9 or any of its competition, hit Subscribe. We've got a ton of videos. Seriously. Tons. CARLOS LAGO: And more coming. MARK TAKAHASHI: Yes. CARLOS LAGO: More videos are coming. [MUSIC PLAYING]