by Roger Biermann
Highly rated in the three-row crossover class, the Mazda CX-9 provides a blend of utility and drivability. Available in four trims, the CX-9 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine rated at 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims are offered in either front or all-wheel drive whereas the top of the range Signature trim is AWD only. The CX-9 boasts stimulating driving dynamics that cater for drivers adjusting to having a large family, but it also brings to the segment a sense of luxury with high-quality finishes and premium styling across the range. The question buyers will need to answer, however, is whether or not keen driving dynamics and a premium interior are enough to justify the CX-9’s lack of cargo space and cramped third-row seating when rivals like the Honda Pilot offer more in both regards.
The integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard on all trims except the sport. Vehicle insulation has been improved, reducing cabin noise and the suspension has been improved as well. New optional features include a 360-degree exterior camera, a digital gauge display, ventilated seats, a frameless rearview mirror, and electrically folding exterior mirrors. The ‘Signature’ model now features exclusive exterior badging and the option for a new wood trim finish for the interior.
All CX-9’s come standard with LED headlights, daytime running lights and combination tail lights. Sport and Touring trims have 18-inch wheels and black molding on the lower front, back and sides, while Grand Touring and Signature trims have 20-inch rims and chrome molding on the lower front, back and sides. All trims are equipped with power side mirrors that have built-in LED turn signals as well as rear privacy glass. The Grand Touring and Signature have aluminum roof rails and the Signature trim is detailed with exclusive badges.
The CX-9 has a curb weight of 4,217 lbs on the front-wheel-drive trims and 4,383 lbs on all-wheel-drive. Both drivetrain variants weigh more than the Honda Pilot, a main competitor to the CX-9. The CX-9 is longer than the Pilot at 199.44 inches and has a longer wheelbase of 115.3 inches. It also has a higher ground clearance of 8.8 inches but has a lower overall height of 69 inches. The Pilot is wider than the CX-9’s 77.5 inches which results in more cargo space.
The 2019 Mazda CX-9 is available in the same colors as the previous model with four base colors: Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue, Sonic Silver Metallic and Titanium Flash Mica. Three extra optional colors of Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Machine Gray Metallic and Soul Red Crystal Metallic are available at a cost of $200, $300, and $595 respectively. The Sport model is available in all colors except Soul Red Crystal Metallic; Touring and Grand Touring models are offered in all colors; and Signature is only offered in Jet Black Mica and Sonic Silver Metallic from the standard colors. Snowflake White Pearl Mica and Machine Gray Metallic complete the limited palette on the range-topping model.
Where most competitors offer various engine, transmission, and drivetrain configurations, the CX-9 is powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine and six-speed automatic transmission across all trims. The CX-9 produces a maximum output of 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque and is offered in either a front-wheel or all-wheel-drive drivetrain. In a V6 dominated market, Mazda’s 2.5-liter engine performs better than its rivals with a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds. While this may not seem impressive on paper, the CX-9 is quicker to 60 mph than the 2019 Toyota Highlander (7.6 seconds). The all-wheel-drive system is much the same as what many rivals in this segment offer, with very few catering to a low-range transfer case that relegates the CX-9 to crossover status.
From a practical performance perspective, the Mazda CX-9 offers below-par towing capacity compared to the segment leaders. Regardless of whether front- or all-wheel drive is equipped, the CX-9 can tow a maximum of 3,500 lbs, which lags severely behind the 5,000 lbs towable by the Ford Explorer.
All CX-9 trims are offered with the same 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G gasoline engine that develops 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed via a six-speed automatic gearbox as the only transmission to either front- or all-wheel drive. The Signature trim is available in all-wheel-drive only.
Although the CX-9 produces less horsepower than most rivals, it offers more torque that peaks lower down in the rev range. The turbocharged engine combined with the six-speed transmission provides sporty performance with minimal lag and good responses overall. The powertrain compensates for the lack of horsepower with an abundance of torque and the CX-9 performs better than many of its rivals. Most vehicles in this class have more gears but the responsive six-speed is a fitting match for the engine. Acceleration is sharp and immediate off the line and the throttle is easy to manage. Merging onto the highway is effortless, without running out of puff at higher engine speeds and when overtaking, the gear changes are fast and accurate to match the throttle input.
The CX-9 offers sporty driving dynamics that set it apart from rivals with quick and responsive steering making the CX-9 feel lighter than it is. Enthusiastic drivers will appreciate how agile and nimble the CX-9 feels, as with many models in the current Mazda range. The engine is also responsible for the engaging driving experience. Plentiful torque helps the CX-9 maneuver through city roads without feeling sluggish or weighed down and the transmission changes gears without delay.
The suspension is well tuned to provide a smooth ride both on and off the road. With an 8.8-inch ground clearance, the CX-9 is capable on all types of terrain without inflicting damage to the undercarriage. However, the 20-inch wheels on the higher trims can make driving on bumpy roads unpleasant. Mazda focused on improving insulation and reducing cabin noise in the 2019 model. Combined with a firm suspension the result is a smooth and quiet ride, even on the highway, but on rougher surfaces may be a little firm for some. The CX-9 tackles winding roads significantly better than most rivals. Its chassis maintains composure around long corners and body-roll is kept to a relative minimum for a crossover of this size and ride height. Through turns, the G-Vectoring system cleverly increases levels of grip and composure aiding the compact feel of the CX-9 that maintains a constant connection to the driver providing confidence and control when behind the wheel. The brakes are sturdy and are dependable under high pressure.
The 2019 Mazda CX-9 boasts claimed gas mileage figures of 22/28/24 mpg on the city/ highway/combined cycles for the FWD variants, dropping to 20/26/23 mpg for AWD models. This makes it one of the most fuel-efficient cars in its class and is five miles-per-gallon higher than the Volkswagen Atlas. Front-wheel-drive trims have a 19-gallon fuel tank and all-wheel-drive trims have a 19.5-gallon capacity, which, in mixed driving conditions, will see the CX-9 attain a driving range of 456 miles in front-wheel drive guise and 448 miles with all-wheel drive.
One of the Mazda CX-9’s best aspects is the seven-seater cabin, which is well assembled with securely fitted panels. Luxurious finishings and a variety of features make traveling more comfortable, while the steering wheel and transmission shifter are both covered in leather and feel great in your hand. The infotainment controls and shifter knob are raised to a more comfortable position and the controls are securely assembled. The infotainment screen is well in the driver’s line of sight and the optional digital cluster display provides information to the driver. Seats are supportive and the narrow center console provides adequate leg-room. For 2019, the CX-9 receives optional front ventilated seats the front passenger seat gets height adjustment as standard. Adults can sit comfortably in the first and second rows but the third is restricting. On the Signature trim, the high-quality Nappa leather and aluminum trimming rivals luxury SUV interiors.
The CX-9 seats seven people across three rows. The driver’s seat has six-way manual adjustment with power seats for the front as an option while the second row folds and reclines and the third only folds. As with most three-row SUVs, the first and second rows are spacious and comfortable. Seats are shapely and supportive but the front seats are quite firm which may not be to everyone’s taste. Overall the smooth ride and luxurious seats will be more than satisfactory and adults can ride in the second row with room to spare. Limited head and legroom in the third row means it’s ideally suited to children but if push comes to shove average sized adults will be fine on short drives. If you plan on using the third row often, consider the Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Traverse which boasts more room.
The entry-level Sport trim is the only trim with black cloth seats and plastic interior trims. Touring and Grand Touring are available in either black or sand leather and the top of the range Signature is equipped with the premium Auburn Nappa Leather upholstery. All trims have leather wrapping on the steering wheel and shift knob, as well as cloth floor mats. Touring and Grand Touring are fitted with aluminum trims and the exclusive Santos Rosewood is available on the Signature only. Door and dash panels are generally soft touch, with higher trims receiving matching leather-upholstered panels in addition to their various inlays.
The CX-9 has 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, 38.2 cu ft with the third row folded and 71.2 cu ft with all the seats stored. It is definitely an area where the CX-9 falls behind its rivals and the flat cargo floor only slightly compensates for this. The space behind the rear seats can accommodate a small suitcase or large backpack from all occupants. Folding and reclining second row seats can be split 60/40, and the third is split 50/50 moving and folding effortlessly to suit your needs. Base trims all have a power liftgate, and several small-item cubbies are present throughout. Buyers also have the option of a $100 cargo and storage net package as well as a $325 retractable cover for the cargo space.
The CX-9 provides adequate storage options throughout the cabin. Door pockets are generously sized and there are sufficient cupholders throughout the cabin. Both the first and second-row armrests have storage bins and there are under floor storage options too.
The CX-9 tops the range as Mazda’s largest vehicle and comes extensively equipped with numerous features. Standard across all models you’ll find push-button start, tri-zone climate control, rearview camera, and remote keyless access. Higher trims equip additional functionality such as a power tailgate, heated front and rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and rear USB ports, while right at the top of the trim ladder, you’ll get a power sunroof, a head-up driver display with speed sign recognition, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a surround-view monitor. Driver assistance features are state of the art, too, with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert standard from the ground up, while higher trims unlock adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and advanced autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The CX-9 Sport trim is equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display and controlled via the touchscreen, the multifunction commander control or voice command. It also features AM, FM and HD radio, dual USB ports as well as a six-speaker sound system, while Mazda Connect software has satellite radio integration and the ability to read your text messages out to you. All trims have Bluetooth. Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature trims all have a bigger eight-inch touchscreen also loaded with Mazda Connect software. The key difference being the integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Grand Touring and Signature trims come standard with the Premium 12 speaker Bose sound system as well as the Mazda Navigation System. Both the seven and eight-inch touchscreens are responsive boasting high-resolution graphics. For safety reasons, the touchscreen function is disabled when driving but can still be operated via the center console controls or voice command.
Mazda does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance for the CX-9, a service that is offered with both the Toyota Highlander and GMC Arcadia. For the past three years, the CX-9 has had little to no complaints regarding faults. However, there is an ongoing investigation into complaints about certain CX-9’s airbags spontaneously deploying in Detroit. There have been two reported cases thus far, but no recalls have been issued. The CX-9 is covered by a limited warranty over three years or 36,000 miles, as well as a powertrain warranty that covers five years or 60,000 miles.
The 2019 CX-9 scored well in its crash tests, and its automated emergency braking met criteria requirements for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). As a result, IIHS awarded the CX-9 a Top Safety Pick award for 2019. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the CX-9 a five-star overall rating.
The CX-9 is equipped with advanced dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags, and the side-impact curtain airbags include rollover protection. A total of six airbags are designed to keep occupants safe, but some rivals offer a seventh in the form of a driver’s knee airbag. Safety features include Smart Brake Support and Advanced Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection, designed to warn the driver of potential collisions with the ability to emergency brake. The SUV also comes with parking sensors (front & back), a surround-view mirror, lane departure warning, lane keep assist and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Compared to other midsize SUV crossovers, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 scores rather well, providing a level of luxury that rivals and even surpasses its German competitors. While the interior is assembled with high-quality materials and craftsmanship, it falls behind the competition in terms of cargo space and third-row seating space. The 2019 model has Apple Carplay and Android Auto capabilities to quickly link your phone to the vehicle, with a premium Bose sound system and a 360-degree surround view camera appearing on higher trims. A high level of safety and driver assistance features include Smart Brake and Advanced Smart City Brake support with pedestrian detection. Offering a unique driving experience with punchy performance and sporty driving dynamics while being fuel efficient, the CX-9 is the driver’s SUV for those with a big family. It achieves premium status without the associated cost of buying a BMW or Audi.
The CX-9’s base price ranges from $32,280 to $45,365. The entry-level Sport has a base price of $32,280, the Touring starts from $35,330, Grand Touring from $40,840 and the fully loaded Signature trim from a base MSRP of $45,365. Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims are available in AWD drivetrains and have base prices in the USA of $34,080, $37,130 and $42,640 respectively. All prices are the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices and do not include tax, licensing, registration and destination charges. The destination charge for the CX-9 is $1,045 in all states except Alaska, in which this fee rises to $1,090.
The Mazda CX-9 range consists of four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature. All trims feature one engine and transmission configuration, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive drivetrains are offered, save for the Signature trim which is available in AWD only.
The entry-level Sport trim comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch infotainment system, two USB ports, and a six-speaker sound system. Other features include manually adjusted front seats, cloth upholstery and leather steering wheel and shifter.
The Touring trim comes with leather seats for the first and second row with front row passengers benefitting from heating functionality and power adjustability. The infotainment touchscreen is upgraded from seven-inches to eight-inches and is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. Additional safety features that you would have to pay for on the Sport trim also come standard.
Distinctive 20-inch rims mark out the Grand Touring trim that comes with roof rails and aluminum interior trimming. Front seats have ventilation and the second row gets heating functionality. Other technological features include a surround view camera system, head-up display, navigation as well as front and back parking sensors.
At the top of the range, the Signature trim is offered in AWD only. It has all of the features seen on the Grand Touring with the addition of an exclusive premium Nappa leather upholstery in Auburn Brown complemented by a Santos Rosewood interior trim. Technological features include a heads up display and seven-inch display in the instrument cluster.
|Sport||2.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$30,541||$32,280|
|Touring||2.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$33,425||$35,330|
|Grand Touring||2.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive||$38,633||$40,840|
|Signature||2.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas||6-Speed Automatic||All Wheel Drive||$42,913||$45,365|
A Power Driver’s Seat and Heated Side Mirror Package is a $1,290 option on the entry-level Sport trim that adds a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, heated front seats and mirrors, auto on/off headlights, high beam control, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Smart Brake Support and Advanced City Brake support with pedestrian detection.
One level up, the Touring trim has the option to include the Touring Premium Package at a cost of $2,390. This package includes the premium Bose 12-speaker sound system, LED fog lights, power sliding glass sunroof with one-touch open feature and interior sunshade, front and rear parking sensors, second-row retractable window sunshades, Mazda Navigation System as well as satellite radio capabilities.
Offering substantially more than the Sport trim, we’d have to recommend the value for money Touring trim. It includes key features, such as a power liftgate, leather upholstery, and all the items found in the Power Driver’s Seat and Heated Side Mirror Package, including power adjustability to the driver’s seat as well as heating for the front seats and side mirrors. It also comes with the larger eight-inch touchscreen and additional USB ports in the second-row armrest. The LED headlights get auto on/off functionality and High Beam Control. Additional safety features include cruise control with auto start/stop function, collision warning and emergency brake, rain-sensing windshield wipers, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Touring is also the cheapest trim to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With the ability to use your smartphone for navigation, there is less reason to pay extra for the Touring Premium Package.
Check out other Mazda CX-9 Styles
The Pilot is one of the CX-9’s primary rivals with a base price of $31,450 that slightly undercuts the $32,280 CX-9 Sport. A key difference between these vehicles is the cargo space. The Pilot can accommodate seven adults more comfortably than the CX-9 and has 2.1 cubic feet more space behind the third row. Fold down the third row and the Pilot has 8.6 cubic feet more space than the CX-9. Where the CX-9 is lacking in space, it makes up with interior quality and performance. It also offers a more stimulating driving experience thanks to its sporty driving dynamics and responsive steering. It is more fuel efficient too, and boasts a better infotainment system, while safety tech is about on par. Ultimately it comes down to your seating requirements. The Pilot is better equipped to transport seven people but a family of five will be more comfortable in the luxurious CX-9 interior, while the driver will enjoy the Mazda more.
There a number of similarities between Mazda’s two largest SUVs, with the key difference being the third row in the CX-9. The CX-5 offers the same level of interior luxury but as a two-row crossover SUV. The CX-9 offers 14.4 cubic feet behind the third row and 38.2 cubic feet with the third-row seats folded. The CX-5 offers 30.9 cubic ft behind the rear seats and 59.6 cubic ft with the rear seats folded down. Both vehicles offer premium Mazda interior quality and very sporty driving dynamics. While the CX-5 has better acceleration because of its lower weight, both deliver an engaging and stimulating driving experience. If you’re willing to sacrifice some cargo space and seating for seven, the CX-5 is more suited to a family of five, and at a substantial price difference as well. In the end, it comes down to your budget and seating requirements, but the CX-5 is exceptional.