2016 Mazda CX-9: Monthly Update for December 2016
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
Where Did We Drive It?
Our new 2016 Mazda CX-9 only arrived in mid-December, but it finished the month with 2,931 miles on the clock. That's because it set out on a whirlwind road trip before anyone had time to do a proper photo shoot or write the customary introductory article.
I blame myself. I needed a good-size crossover to make this long, present-laden journey bearable, and the all-wheel-drive Mazda's arrival could not have been better-timed. It spent a few days locally settling in before I pointed it north the morning of Christmas Eve.
We used a different route out of Southern California because Interstate 5's Tejon Pass had been closed due to a heavy blanket of overnight snow. Our longer route on Highway 101 proved to be a wise move, and we made good time as we headed north along this more scenic coastal route.
Santa made his appearance in the Bay Area, then we loaded up once more and continued on to the southern Oregon coast for Christmas II, The Sequel, with my parents. A few days and at least one Dungeness crab feed later we reversed course and headed home, but this time we used our usual Tejon Pass route, beating another approaching snow-laden storm that closed the pass less than three hours after we summited. After that the Mazda sat idle in front of my home while football dominated the TV on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, so the entire 1,754-mile round trip belongs to December and 2016.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
The Edmunds family was at full strength this time, and my two daughters are now full-grown adults who stand taller than my wife. Add in the fact that the cargo hold was packed with four suitcases, winter coats and numerous gifts, and you've got one fairly well-loaded CX-9.
As for the driving, the route consisted of plenty of freeways and two-lane highways, with a smattering of suburban city traffic at our destinations. The going is mountainous in Northern California, and the road up to my parents' hilltop lair climbs from sea level to 1,600 feet in less than 4 miles. The CX-9 ran up and down that hill about four times.
The five tanks that made up those 1,754 miles came at an average of 23 mpg, which exactly matches the CX-9's 23 mpg EPA combined rating. As is usual for this route, the Mazda's best tank of 24.3 mpg was the last one of the trip, and that tank lasted for 414.7 miles.
I'm not complaining, but I'd have thought the CX-9 would have edged a bit closer to its 26 mpg EPA highway rating, especially after I got accustomed to how easily our Mazda MX-5 Miata equaled its own fuel economy ratings. But there were four of us, our cargo was not insignificant and I wasn't holding back. Still, I wonder if the CX-9's new small-displacement 2.5-liter turbo will be as sensitive to driving style and topography as others of that ilk seem to be. Time will tell. This is only its first two weeks with us; there are at least 50 more to come.
Average lifetime mpg: 22.4
EPA mpg rating: 23 mpg combined (20 city/26 highway)
Best fill mpg: 24.3 mpg
Best range: 414.7 miles
Current odometer: 2,931 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
None. The new car smell is still strong with this one.
"The new 2.5-liter turbo engine does a decent job, and it makes a good amount of torque [310 pound-feet], but it doesn't feel as strong on the hills as other competitors. But it is worth noting that I was running it exclusively on 87 octane fuel. It is perfectly fine to run this new motor on 'the cheap stuff,' but it is rated at 227 horsepower on this grade of fuel. Mazda publishes a second rating for 93 octane, and that figure is 250 hp. The best we can do here in California is 91 octane, but the math suggests that'd be 242 hp. I think we should alternate after a couple of months and see how our opinion changes." — Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing
"This thing handles great. It feels light on its feet, and the steering is pretty spot-on in terms of feel and feedback. And the 20-inch rubber on our Grand Touring seems much more absorbent than the 20-inch tires that were fitted to the last generation. Not only is the ride better than I remember from the last generation, the cornering grip feels more secure on uneven surfaces." — Dan Edmunds
"My wife kept saying how weak her seat heater felt, but mine felt pretty quick to warm up. I wonder if the front passenger one is weaker than the driver's side. Also, Tracy doesn't like how the seat heater stays on after the car is shut off, and she doesn't like thinking that it could run indefinitely even when unoccupied if the driver didn't notice the wee little lights. Hard to argue with that." — Dan Edmunds
"The driver's seat felt fairly comfortable and supportive over the long haul. No complaints. But I don't think I'd buy the light-colored interior. I wear blue jeans often — especially on family trips like this — and the tan leather took on a blue tint by the time the trip was over." — Dan Edmunds
"The cruise control system is interesting. It's easy to switch between adaptive and normal cruise control at the flick of a button, and each type remembers the set speed you selected the last time you were in that mode. I found myself switching between modes as the traffic volume fluctuated, choosing the best type for the conditions. My biggest gripe: The adaptive system downshifts on downgrades to control descent speed, while the normal system overshoots the set speed like any 1990s-era cruise control. They should be the same. The ability to downshift to control speed on a downgrade has nothing to do with adaptive cruise control or its nose-mounted sensor. This level of performance should be the norm on all cruise control systems, period." — Dan Edmunds
"A really great navigation and audio interface. Mazda continues to out-iDrive BMW with a simple and effective system. But where is the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support? This is an all-new car." — Dan Edmunds
"We loaded four suitcases and two of those flip-top storage boxes behind the second row, and then piled in our coats and a couple of backpacks. And there are numerous other gifts hidden in an underfloor compartment. The numbers suggest there is less cargo space than the last generation, but it doesn't feel like it." — Dan Edmunds