One does not have to look far if they are seeking the ‘Zoom-Zoom’ factor in Mazda’s lineup. We have all become accustomed to the sporty and fun vehicles that Mazda produces such as the Mazda MX-5, the legendary (but now-defunct) Mazda RX-8, and the compact Mazda3. This list also includes the Mazda5 that proved even the family man (or woman) could have fun with a manual transmission. The Mazda CX-9 however, has always been the grown-up that watched over the kids. This does not mean the 2015 Mazda CX-9 GT is boring by any means – when you want a healthy shot of driving fun, this seven-seater is more than happy to rise to the occasion.
The Hiroshima based automaker’s decision to create a crossover SUV that could seat seven and yet still not behave like it should, is nothing short of brilliance. It is true, driving the CX-9 feels like driving a compact hatchback with a huge backpack attached. Compared to other SUVs in its class such as the Honda Pilot which feels massive to drive, the CX-9 is nimble and actually quite fun to boot around town in. Like the Honda Pilot, the CX-9 has not changed its formula all that much since its introduction in 2007. Other than a few facelifts, some extra interior niceties, and swapping to the Ford-sourced engine back in 2008, the CX-9 is essentially the same.
On the outside, the Titanium Flash Mica 2015 CX-9 GT has adapted to Mazda’s latest ‘Kodo’ design language that was first introduced on the 2014 Mazda6. The hawk-eye headlights are still prominent, and the additions of LED Daytime Running Lights are just a sign of adapting to the times. Unlike its competitors, the CX-9 avoids any boxiness. The long, tapered front end and steeply raked front windshield keeps the CX-9 looking aerodynamic and sleek. If you were to take a tape measure and stretch it from nose to tail on the CX-9 you will quickly realize that the CX-9 is longer than Toyota’s Highlander, Honda Pilot and even the Ford Explorer. The only seven seaters longer than the CX-9 are the GM trio of Traverse/Acadia/Enclave.
But when you get behind the helm and take her out to sea, the CX-9 is sharp and crisp. Suspension dampers that keep body roll minimal, and the throttle response to the 273 horsepower V6 is smooth, linear, and responsive. As I mentioned before, under the hood, the CX-9 is Mazda’s last vehicle that borrows parts from the Blue Oval. While this CX-9 has been tweaked and balanced around Mazda’s ideology, the 3.7-litre is completely Ford. Pulling the dipstick out would read ‘FoMoCo’ or Ford Motor Company. While the CX-9 is no speed demon, I did find that the 6 cylinder had plenty of torque for passing, and paired to the Aisin F21 six-speed automatic transmission, it almost felt like it was running on whipped cream – something that is rare in this segment.
However, I still hope the SKYACTIV application begins to make its way to this car, simply for the reason that although this engine is sublime, it unfortunately suffers from poor fuel economy. Hauling around 4500+ pounds is no easy task and over my test week with an equal blend of highway and city driving, I averaged a measly 14.1 L/100km. These numbers are daunting for anyone worried about fuel efficiency, but still, I think there is potential for improvement if Mazda decides to use SKYACTIV technology in the CX-9 for future generations.
Entertainment wise, my Mazda CX-9 GT came fully loaded with practically every interior option ticked off. The 5.8 inch display, while on the small side, was very easy to use, but I found the navigation system to feel really outdated. The 10-speaker Bose system was very nice to listen to and pairing to my phone via Bluetooth was really quick and easy. This CX-9 also came with an advanced keyless entry and start system, with a key that looks just like any other ordinary Mazda key fob, much like the one you would get on a Mazda3 or a Mazda6. However, when looking for the push-to-start button that is found in other Mazdas you won’t find one. Instead, Mazda has opted to use a module that is placed in the ordinary ignition switch on the steering wheel column, and just requires a twist.
Potential buyers will be happy to note that thanks to the added length, rear legroom is more than both the Toyota Highlander and the far-more-premium Acura MDX. I found it extremely comfortable to sit in the second row. Although, if I had to spend a majority of my time here on a road trip, I would have liked the implementation of some kind of rear entertainment here in the Grand Touring model. It would likely keep the kids quiet and avoid the dreaded “are we there yet!?” line of questioning. Luckily, Mazda lists this as being available as an option. I was somewhat surprised though as the third row legroom was not as cramped as the MDX’s or the recent Mitsubishi Outlander GT I tested. Again, this is all likely thanks to the added length of the CX-9.
Pricing for the 2015 Mazda CX-9 GT starts at $33,995 Canadian for the GS model and tops out at $45,995 for the GT model I drove. This number is hard to swallow at first, but if you have an attraction to the 20 inch wheels and all the extra bells and whistles I would say it’s a good purchase. Just be wary that the fuel economy is not exactly on par with industry standards at the moment, but for an SUV that is still sporty enough to get your blood flowing, I’d say the CX-9 is definitely worth a look and test drive when shopping in the seven-seater market.
2015 Mazda CX-9 GT Gallery