2020 Mazda CX-9 review: When fashion trumps function

    Sure is a beaut!
    Craig Cole/Roadshow
    This often is the best-looking three-row crossover on sale in the present day. Even although it is getting on in years, the Mazda CX-9 remains to be an exemplar of fine style, lovely to behold each inside and outside. 

    LikeBuckets of low-end torqueImpressive refinementLuxury-car interiorSultry styling

    Don’t LikeMediocre infotainment systemEngine might be smootherLimited cargo area

    But ought to fashion actually matter when it is time to buy a family-schlepping utility car, one which can be full of youngsters and their related paraphernalia, tenting gear, items of furnishings and outsized hauls from month-to-month Costco runs? Probably not. Things like gasoline financial system, pricing and particularly capaciousness are much more vital elements to contemplate. And in a few of these areas, the CX-9’s magnificence is really solely pores and skin deep.The CX-9 competes in a crowded area, one rife with wonderful choices. It squares off instantly with automobiles just like the Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Toyota’s redesigned Highlander and the brand new Hyundai Palisade in addition to the Chevy Traverse and the Ford Explorer. Those two Korean choices are in all probability its strongest opponents, having received essential reward, although the Highlander will definitely siphon off risk-averse drivers who need long-haul reliability above all else, whereas the Explorer will in all probability draw within the patriotic type who need one thing just a little extra crimson, white and Blue Oval.

    Providing consumers with a pleasant menu of decisions, the CX-9 is obtainable in 4 fashions: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. As in aggressive fashions, front- and all-wheel drive can be found, although four-corner traction is normal on the top-shelf variant, which is what I’m reviewing right here. 
    Making even the bottom model worthy of consideration, the CX-9’s checklist of no-extra-charge gear is lengthy and consists of issues like rain-sensing wipers, heated entrance seats, automated excessive beams, LED head- and taillights plus three-zone local weather management. In addition to all that, Mazda’s i-Activesense suite of driver aids is included, with stuff like adaptive cruise management, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping help and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert — a veritable smorgasbord of driver-assistance tech. 

    As you’d in all probability count on, capping off the CX-9 vary, Signature fashions are fitted with essentially the most goodies. In addition to all these normal fripperies, Nappa leather-based, aluminum accents and Santos rosewood trim propel this mannequin’s inside to luxury-car heights. Beyond that, my tester can also be fitted with heated, second-row captain’s chairs, 20-inch wheels and a Bose sound system with 12 audio system, which in in the present day’s world actually is not that many sound emitters, however it can nonetheless tickle even essentially the most jaundiced audiophile’s ears. 

    A dashboard-mounted display screen spanning 7 inches is normal, however Touring fashions and better acquire a 9-inch show. They additionally profit from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Thank goodness, as a result of the infotainment system is a large number. Not solely is its person interface confounding, however lots of the icons look ridiculous. Did Mazda design this, or was it carried out by the parents at Playskool? This utility car’s entrance buckets are moderately snug, although they are not my favourite chairs within the enterprise. Still, nice information for drivers in colder climates: The car’s seat heaters are so scorching that gents motorists are positive to worry for his or her capability to have kids. On excessive, they’re actual giblet roasters. This three-row crossover is graced with an inside that would not look misplaced in a luxurious car. 
    Craig Cole/Roadshow
    Regrettably, the CX-9’s second-row buckets, that are additionally heated, will not be notably snug, both, although a helpful heart console divides them, housing a pair of all-important USB ports and sufficient room to retailer loads of stuff.As for the third-row bench, it is tight on each head- and legroom. At 6 ft tall, my noggin will get jammed proper into the ceiling if I attempt to sit again there. As I at all times say, the third-row seat in automobiles like that is greatest left to youngsters. At least Mazda supplies one other pair of USB ports as a comfort prize. You could find yourself with just a few dislocated neck vertebrae, however not less than your telephone can be charged so you possibly can name a chiropractor.The CX-9’s inside could also be prodigiously premium, however though in dimension it is just like its main rivals, it affords considerably much less storage capability behind every row of seats. For occasion, the Volkswagen Atlas, which is about as unexciting a three-row crossover as you will get, is greater than an inch shorter total, but it surely has practically 26 extra cubic ft of most cargo quantity. Space effectivity isn’t this Mazda’s forte.Fortunately, refinement is. Even at freeway speeds, the CX-9 stays hushed, with little or no wind or highway noise penetrating its NVH defenses. This crossover’s experience can also be dialed in; it carries itself higher than some “luxury” automobiles. Impacts are effortlessly absorbed and digested, which, in a phrase, makes all the chassis really feel slick. When hitting bumps or potholes, there isn’t any grittiness or vibration to this Mazda’s responses. There’s a sure precision to this cabin, and also you get the impression each little element was agonized over by complete groups of designers and engineers. The common design is elegant and clear, plus the supplies used are impressively premium. Assembly high quality is flawless.The second-row bucket seats might be extra snug and the aftmost lodging are a decent squeeze for grownup passengers. 
    Craig Cole/Roadshow
    There’s  lot of equipment and caboodle to maintain observe of right here, however issues are a lot easier forward of the firewall as a result of only a single powertrain is obtainable within the CX-9. This one-and-done technique is welcome as a result of it retains issues easy, although some consumers may admire just a little extra alternative underneath the hood.Pushing the CX-9 and its contents round is a 2.5-liter turbocharged I4. This forced-induction four-cylinder has been tuned for larger responsiveness as a substitute of whopping peak numbers. It delivers a Kilimanjaro’s price of low- and midrange torque, precisely what you need in a midsize crossover like this.Fattening up this a part of its powerband is a restricted exhaust outlet that helps enhance the rate of exiting gasses, to spin the turbo sooner. At increased engine rpm, a secondary valve opens to permit larger circulation and assist generate extra increase. With direct gasoline injection onboard, that will get you 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque in case you put 93-octane gasoline within the tank. Cheap out and fill ‘er up with 87 and you may count on 227 hp and 310 lb-ft.Bolted to that engine is a six-speed automated transmission. In a world the place eight-, nine- and 10-ratio gearboxes are the norm, solely having half a dozen gears appears downright old style, like churning your personal butter or darning socks. On paper, this transmission could also be outmoded, however in apply it really works just about flawlessly, shifting easily and intelligently, dropping ratios as wanted, although there’s a lot torque downshifts usually aren’t mandatory.Torque. This engine provides you loads of it within the decrease rpm vary.
    Craig Cole/Roadshow
    This car’s turbocharged engine is nice sufficient, delivering a wallop of low- and midrange torque as marketed. Still, the CX-9 does not really feel all that quick. Acceleration is fast sufficient, but it surely nonetheless leaves me wanting extra. The car appears a step or two behind the tempo set by some rivals, and I’m not even speaking about outright efficiency fashions, like Ford’s 400-hp Explorer ST.Another draw back is that this Mazda’s powerplant feels a bit gritty. The CX-9’s experience high quality could also be creamy-smooth, however its engine vibrates greater than anticipated. It will not shake your dentures out or make your palms go numb, but it surely definitely might be higher remoted.As for gasoline financial system, with normal all-wheel drive, this mannequin stickers at 20 miles per gallon metropolis and 26 freeway. Those scores end in a mixed ranking of 23 mpg, which should not blow your funds.But one thing? The base worth simply may. A bare-bones CX-9 Sport begins at about 35 grand. That makes it hundreds of {dollars} costlier than many main opponents, although an entry-level Highlander does come near that and the brand new Explorer is a little more. The Mazda CX-9 feels costly, possible as a result of it’s.
    Craig Cole/Roadshow
    The luxurious Signature model I examined checked out for a whisker lower than $48,000, together with vacation spot prices. Is it price that a lot? Well, it’s important to determine if fashion, a premium inside and fancy options are extra vital than versatility. This Mazda is certainly an emotional possibility within the three-row-crossover section, however it’s certainly not essentially the most sensible.

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