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2020 Mazda CX-9 Review

As the company’s only 3-row SUV, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 has some heavy lifting to do. It competes with an ocean of competitors, many offering more interior room and horsepower. To compete in such a difficult market, the CX-9 offers a unique blend of styling, performance and luxury that combine to make this family-friendly crossover feel far more expensive than it really is. Coupled with a good reputation for reliability, excellent fuel economy and admirable crash test scores, the CX-9 certainly belongs on the test drive list for anyone shopping a 7-passenger SUV.

Continuing Mazda‘s trend away from large displacement engines, the 2020 CX-9 derives its power from a SKYACTIV turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops an impressive 250 hp and 320 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 and 310 lb-ft of torque.

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

What’s New for 2020?

For 2020, the CX-9 gains a new second-row captain’s chair seating option, an additional 10 lb-ft of torque and a new off-road traction assist system for AWD models. The iActivsense suite of driver assists is made standard and includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. The Sport trim gains new standard equipment including heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers and heated side mirrors. Touring and higher trims gain a new 9-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. The Grand Touring gains a hands-free power lift gate, while the Signature gets heated second-row captain’s chair seating. See the 2020 Mazda CX-9 models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Strong acceleration
  • Good fuel economy
  • Impressive AWD ability
  • Handsome interior
  • Great handling

What We Don’t

  • Seating limited to seven passengers
  • Third-row seat still only fit for kids
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not offered on Sport trim
  • 3,500-lb max tow rating

How Much?

$34,835-$47,500

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 320 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 and 310 lb-ft of torque.

A 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode is also standard on all trims. Fuel economy for the front-wheel-drive models is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The i-ACTIV AWD models get 20 mpg city/26 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 ($34,835 FWD, $36,735 AWD) comes with 18-in alloy wheels, cloth seats, auto-off LED headlights, iActivsense driver assists (automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and lane-keeping assist), heated front seats, heated side mirrors, power driver’s seat with lumbar support, rain-sensing wipers, 18-in alloy wheels, 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, the MazdaConnect infotainment system, a 60/40 split folding second-row seat, a 50/50 split folding third-row seat and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with cruise, audio and Bluetooth controls.

The CX-9 Touring ($36,655 FWD, $38,555 AWD) adds leather seating, second-row power tilt and slide seating, 9-in infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a power rear lift gate, Advanced Key keyless entry and push-button start, 6-way power passenger seat with lumbar support and two rear-seat USB ports.

The Touring trim offers the Touring Premium package, which adds Bose audio, LED fog lights, navigation, a power moonroof, SiriusXM satellite radio with Travel Link, front and rear parking sensors and rear-door sunshades. When ordering this package, buyers can opt for a second-row bench or captain’s chair seating.

The CX-9 Grand Touring ($42,495 FWD, $44,395 AWD) adds 20-in alloy wheels, adaptive front headlights, LED fog lights, a power glass moonroof, a head-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, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer, 360-degree View Monitor, hands-free power lift gate, power folding side mirrors and no-charge, optional heated second-row captain’s chair seating.

The CX-9 Signature ($47,160) features Mazda’s i-ACTIV AWD, LED grille lighting accents, heated second-row captain’s chair seating with center console, Nappa leather seating and rosewood interior trim.

Standalone options include three paint color upgrades, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a 3,500-lb trailer hitch.

Safety

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 comes standard with a long list of safety features, including Advanced Smart City Brake Support with low-speed collision warning and avoidance and pedestrian detection (at up to 19 miles per hour), adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, electronic traction and stability control and anti-lock brakes. Also standard is lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and Smart Brake Support with highway-speed forward-collision warning and avoidance. A full complement of airbags includes front, front side-impact and side-curtain airbags covering all three rows.

In crash tests, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the CX-9 top marks of Good in every test and a Superior rating in the crash-avoidance and mitigation test. The IIHS also awarded the CX-9 a Top Safety Pick+ rating.

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 320 lb-ft of torque right around 2,000 rpm.

Using some nifty exhaust management, engineers coaxed a 20%-25% quicker throttle response when revving below 1,500 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 as 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

2020 Honda Pilot — The Pilot has seating for eight people, a larger cargo area, standard driver assists on every trim and a V6 engine, but it’s not as elegantly styled, and its fuel economy isn’t as good.

2020 Toyota Highlander — The Highlander is a sharp-looking SUV that offers a 295-hp V6 as standard, which is great for towing but not so good on gas. Like the Pilot, the Highlander can seat eight passengers, although its third-row seat is rather small. There’s also a hybrid model, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the range.

2020 Ford Explorer — The Explorer offers a choice of powerful engines, including a turbocharged EcoBoost 300-hp 4-cylinder, a 3.5-liter 365-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 and a 3.3-liter hybrid model. The Explorer also offers a more advanced AWD system and more upscale features.

2020 Nissan Pathfinder — The Pathfinder offers a similarly sleek exterior and a modern cabin filled with high-tech options. The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds versus the CX-9’s 3,500-lb limit.

Used Infiniti QX60 — A 2015-2018 Infiniti QX60 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

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