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2015 Mazda CX-9: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader December 2014

The 2015 Mazda CX-9 crossover is the enthusiast driver's answer to the boring minivan or gas-guzzling SUV. Capable of accommodating up to seven passengers, the CX-9 is more than up to the day-to-day tasks required by most families, but it makes getting from point A to point B much more enjoyable. While the vehicle is not considered a luxury model by any means, many owners have been known to compare the CX-9 to more luxurious models such as the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GL. Of course, the CX-9's $31,000 starting price undercuts both luxury brands by wide margins.

Beyond its sleek styling and firm suspension, the CX-9's popularity is bolstered by its reasonable price, an extensive list of comfort and safety features and a strong reputation for reliability and resale. If the CX-9 has one shortfall, it may be the limited cargo space offered when the third-row seat is in use. This is a problem that plagues many 3-row SUVs, so we can't really ding Mazda for it.

What's New for 2015?

A new Recreational Accessory package is added to the options list and includes roof rails, cross bars and a stainless steel rear bumper guard.

What We Like

Sporty handling; smooth ride; confident V6; usable third-row seat

What We Don't

Limited cargo room behind the third-row seat; so-so fuel economy; tow rating is low at 3,500 pounds

How Much?

$30,865-$40,000

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Mazda CX-9 offers only one engine and transmission: a 3.7-liter V6 rated at 273 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive CX-9 is rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, with the all-wheel-drive version earning a slightly lower 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Mazda CX-9 is offered in three distinct trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All three can be ordered with either front- or all-wheel drive.

The entry-level Sport ($30,865) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear wiper/washer, rear side privacy glass, 3-zone automatic climate control, AM/FM/HD/CD stereo with six speakers, auxiliary and USB audio input, Bluetooth, cruise control, multi-information display, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and cloth seats.

The Touring ($33,360) adds heated side mirrors, auto on/off headlights, leather seating, heated front seats, an 8-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar support, 4-way power passenger seat, a rear backup camera, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system.

The top-level Grand Touring ($35,915) brings 20-in alloy wheels, tilt-in reverse side mirrors, fog lights, HID headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a power lift gate, memory for driver's seat and mirrors, driver's side power lumbar support, Mazda's Advanced Key keyless entry and push-button start, and an anti-theft alarm.

Options for the Sport trim include an 8-way power driver's seat, heated cloth front seats and heated side mirrors. The Touring trim can be equipped with a 10-speaker Bose Centerpoint audio system, fog lamps, keyless entry and start, a power moonroof, navigation and a power lift gate. The Grand Touring can be equipped with an 11-speaker Bose Centerpoint system, a 115-volt outlet, navigation, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a tow prep package and a power moonroof.

With its third-row seat folded down, the CX-9 offers a generous 48.3 cu ft. of cargo space. However, with the seat up, the CX-9's cargo space shrinks to a modest 17.2 cu ft.

Safety

Mazda understands that occupants are the most important cargo its drivers will ever carry. Therefore, the automaker has equipped the CX-9 with front, front-side and side-curtain airbags covering all three rows. To help the driver maintain control in an emergency maneuver, the CX-9 offers electronic traction control, dynamic stability control and roll stability control.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the CX-9 three out of five stars in the frontal crash test, five stars in the side-impact test and four stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CX-9 a Good rating in the front moderate overlap and side crash tests, but only a Moderate rating in the roof-strength, head-restraint and seat tests.

Behind the Wheel

With four passengers on board, the CX-9 demonstrates strong acceleration and controlled handling. If you push the occupant number to seven and add a bunch of cargo, the performance diminishes noticeably. The added weight seems to compact the rear suspension, taking away its ability to respond as quickly as when it's lightly burdened. To be fair, this is the case for any vehicle pushed to its weight limit, but it is worth mentioning since the CX-9 is more likely to carry its maximum weight regularly than a vehicle such as the BMW 3 Series. Despite the CX-9's size and weight, it is still amazingly spry when rounding corners or darting through traffic. Credit goes to the car's rigid frame, MacPherson strut front suspension and independent multilink rear suspension for the sports-car-like ride and handling.

At highway speeds, the CX-9's interior remains quiet and free of rattles or road noise, and the ride is smooth and controlled. The big V6 hums along with little fuss or commotion, delivering its power in a smooth, linear fashion without hesitation or strain.

Other Cars to Consider

GMC Acadia -- The Acadia may not be as sporty as the CX-9 is, but it offers more room for its third-row occupants and a much larger cargo area behind the third-row seat.

Honda Pilot -- The Pilot is not as powerful as the CX-9 is, nor can it handle as well. It does get slightly better fuel economy with its 5-speed automatic transmission and 2-wheel drive. It also has more cargo space (18.0 cu ft.) behind its third row of seats.

Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- A 2009-2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid won't handle as well as the CX-9 does, but it offers the same interior space with vastly better fuel economy and resale numbers.

AutoTrader's Advice

If you can live without rain-sensing wipers and HID headlamps, go for the front-wheel-drive Touring. This nicely equipped CX-9 starts at just over $33,500, but it can be equipped with many of the Grand Touring's high-end options, such as a Bose audio system, a power rear lift gate and a power sunroof. Even with all-wheel drive, the Touring still starts under $35,000.

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Used 2015 Mazda CX-9 AWD Touring
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Certified 2015 Mazda CX-9 AWD Touring
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Used 2015 Mazda CX-9 FWD Sport
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Used 2015 Mazda CX-9 AWD Grand Touring
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mazda CX-9: New Car Review - Autotrader