2016 Mazda CX-9: Monthly Update for February 2017
by Jonathan Elfalan, Senior Road Test Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
What do you do when more than 42 feet of snow has accumulated on a mountain just 355 miles from your front doorstep? You drive toward it as quickly as possible, with snow gear in tow. And this month we did just that in our 2016 Mazda CX-9.
When California takes on a load of snow, it can be a harrowing experience, because we don't often deal with loads of snow. But with the Mazda CX-9 and its i-Activ all-wheel drive, we really didn't have any concerns about the drive, short of a road closure.
Mazda's AWD is clever because it's predictive. Under normal driving conditions, the CX-9's system is primarily front-driven to save fuel. But it can also send up to 50 percent of its power to the rear when needed. There are 27 sensors relaying information — steering angle, weather, engine factors, yaw, etc. — 200 times a second to the central control module, which determines how power should be distributed. Rather than merely reacting to a slipping wheel, i-Activ tries to anticipate the slippage and avoid it altogether.
Even with California's tire-chain requirements in effect — which in certain conditions requires cars without all-wheel drive and decent cold-weather tires to don steel cables or chains around their wheels for traction — the Mazda CX-9 needed nothing to motor through the entire snow-capped weekend without issue.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
Our 2016 Mazda CX-9's monthly fuel economy slipped to an average of 21.2 mpg in February, down nearly a full mpg from January despite a couple of long weekend road trips. We were hampered by a mysteriously bad 16.6-mpg tank — a new low for the test.
Lifetime mpg: 21.7
EPA mpg rating: 23 combined (21 city/26 highway)
Best fill mpg: 24.5
Best range: 414.7 miles
Current odometer: 6,429 miles
Maintenance and Upkeep
"The Mazda CX-9's gas pedal reminds me somewhat of our BMW 340i's. There's some resistance to the pedal, but a fair amount of power becomes available as soon as you deliberately dig into it. The response isn't as pronounced as with the BMW's more powerful turbocharged inline-six, of course, but the CX-9's turbo-four proves muscular when you open it up." — Cameron Rogers, Associate Editor
"After putting in some time behind the wheel of our CX-9 on L.A.'s choppy 405 freeway, I'm impressed by the ride quality. It's well-controlled yet still able to soak up potholes without jarring the passengers. Compared to our Honda Pilot, the Mazda has a sharper feel and delivers more feedback through the steering wheel. These may not seem like important factors for a family hauler like this, but they give you confidence that the CX-9 will go where you point it."
— Ed Hellwig, Senior Editor
"Condensation sometimes covers the windows and mirrors of the CX-9 when I get into it in the morning. In most cars I can lower and raise the windows to wipe the excess water and clear the view, but not in this CX-9. I have to remember to wipe them with a towel first. Otherwise I am beset by blind spots until the wind at speed eventually dries them off." — Mike Schmidt, Senior Manager, Vehicle Testing
"I love that the seat heaters remain on when you restart the car, but this won't help much unless you have a way of turning the car on remotely. Mazda offers a remote start/lock app as a dealer-installed option for the CX-9 at $550, and it comes with a year of complimentary service ($65 thereafter)." — Jonathan Elfalan, Senior Road Test Editor