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2016 Mazda CX-9: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader June 2016

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 takes everything we loved about the original 7-passenger family SUV and adds even better handling, style, comfort and safety features. This sleek 3-row crossover rides on a longer wheelbase, providing more room for the rearmost passengers as well as improved cargo space.

Compared to the aging GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse, the CX-9 pulls off a more contemporary look that places it in the same league with such worthy competitors as the Toyota Highlander, the Honda Pilot, the Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder. Under the hood, the previous V6 engine has been sent packing, replaced by a SKYACTIV turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops an impressive 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Of course, you'll need to use premium fuel to achieve those numbers; filling the CX-9's gas tank with regular drops output to 227 hp.

From its modern, upscale interior to its nearly clairvoyant i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, the new CX-9 provides families an efficient, safe, powerful and attractive way to get around, while offering the driver the kind of sportlike handling rarely found at this price point.

What's New for 2016?

Mazda has completely redesigned the CX-9 for 2016, with a longer wheelbase, a new engine and more interior space.

What We Like

Strong acceleration; good fuel economy; impressive AWD ability; handsome interior; great handling

What We Don't

Turbocharged engine is untested as far as reliability and longevity; seating limited to seven passengers; third-row seat still only fit for kids; no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay

How Much?

$32,420 - $45,500

Fuel Economy

No matter which trim you purchase, they'll all be powered by a SKYACTIV turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, which produces 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque when using 93-octane premium fuel. When burning 87-octane regular gas, the CX-9's power rating drops to 227 hp, but torque remains the same.

A 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode is also standard on all trims. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive (FWD) models is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The i-ACTIV AWD models get 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Mazda CX-9 is offered in four well-appointed trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. The first three are offered with a choice of FWD or AWD, while AWD is standard on the Signature trim.

The CX-9 Sport ($32,420 FWD, $34,220 AWD) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, auto-off LED headlights, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, rear privacy glass, tri-zone automatic air conditioning, HD Radio with six speakers, two USB ports, a 7-in full-color touchscreen display, remote keyless entry, a MazdaConnect infotainment system, a 60/40-split folding second-row seat, a 50/50-split folding third-row seat and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with cruise, audio and Bluetooth controls.

The CX-9 Touring ($36,870 FWD, $38,670 AWD) adds leather seating, heated side mirrors, a power rear lift gate, heated front seats, Advanced Key keyless entry and push-button start, an 8-way power driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 4-way power passenger seat, an 8-in full color touchscreen display and two rear-seat USB ports. Additional safety features include a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

The CX-9 Grand Touring ($41,070 FWD, $42,870 AWD) adds 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive front headlights, LED fog lights, a power glass moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, a heads-up display, a Bose Centerpoint 2.0 Surround Sound system with 12 speakers including a subwoofer, driver's-seat memory, navigation, second-row retractable window sunshades, a Distance Recognition Support System, lane-keep assist, auto high beams, rear backup sensors, adaptive cruise control and Mazda's Smart City Brake Support.

The CX-9 Signature ($44,915) features Mazda's i-ACTIV AWD, LED grille lighting accents, nappa leather seating and rosewood interior trim.

The Sport trim can be equipped with the heated front seats, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support and heated side mirrors.

The Touring trim offers the Touring Premium package, which adds auto on/off headlights, Bose audio, LED fog lights, navigation, a power moonroof, a rear backup sensor, rain-sensing wipers, SiriusXM satellite radio, rear-door sunshades and Smart City Brake Support.


The CX-9 comes standard with a long list of safety features including electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, trailer-sway control and Roll Stability Control. A full complement of airbags includes front, front side-impact and side-curtain airbags covering all three rows. Available safety equipment includes a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist and forward-collision warning and avoidance.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have crash-tested the 2016 Mazda CX-9.

Behind the Wheel

Given the CX-9's size and weight, we were expecting the 4-cylinder turbo to struggle when fully loaded and exhibit some turbo lag at low speeds. Boy, were we wrong. The 2.5-liter SkyActiv engine is quick off the line and develops most of its 310 lb-ft of torque right around 2,000 rpm.

Using some nifty exhaust management, engineers coaxed a 20- to 25-percent quicker throttle response when revving below 1500 rpm. Not only does this provide satisfying acceleration when launching, it also all but erases turbo lag. Power off the line is strong, but it does fade away somewhat at the tachometer passes the 5,000 range. The 6-speed automatic works seamlessly and always seems to know just when to hold a gear and when to let go.

Where the CX-9 really impresses is behind the wheel. The steering is amazingly precise and on center, and the ride is smooth over most surfaces. However, that ride does get noticeably stiffer on models wearing 20-in tires. The cabin is well-isolated from exterior road noise, and wind and engine noise are barely noticeable even at high speeds. We found the CX-9's front seat incredibly comfortable, although the third-row seats offer little room for adults and are best left to the 8-and-under crowd.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Honda Pilot -- The Pilot has seating for eight people, a larger cargo area and a V6 engine, but it's not as elegantly styled and its fuel economy isn't as good.

2016 Toyota Highlander -- The Highlander is a sharp-looking SUV that offers a rather weak standard 4-cylinder engine and an optional 270-hp V6, the latter being great for towing but not so good on gas. Like the Pilot, the Highlander can seat eight passengers, although its third-row seat is also rather small.

2016 Ford Explorer -- The Explorer offers a choice of powerful engines including a turbocharged EcoBoost 270-hp 4-cylinder, a 3.5-liter 290-hp V6 and a 3.5-liter 365-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. The Explorer also offers a more advanced AWD system and more upscale features.

2016 Nissan Pathfinder -- The Pathfinder offers a similarly sleek exterior and a modern cabin filled with high-tech options. The Pathfinder can tow up to 5,000 pounds versus the CX-9's 3,500-pound limit, but it doesn't feature the latest accident-avoidance systems.

Used Infiniti JX35/QX60 -- A 2013-2015 Infiniti JX35/QX60 (the name changed for 2014) offers exceptional style and comfort, a stunning interior and impressive ride and handling characteristics.

Autotrader's Advice

For the money, we think most people will be quite happy with the Touring trim. It comes with the most desirable features and can be upgraded to include many of the Grand Touring's add-ons, should you want to spend the extra cash. Thanks to its smaller 18-in wheel and tire package, we prefer the Touring's ride to that of the Grand Touring.

Find a Mazda CX-9 for sale

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.
2016 Mazda CX-9: New Car Review - Autotrader