Mazda has always prioritized the drive and feel of their vehicles when compared to the competition.
On January 30, 1920, a cork manufacturing company in Hiroshima was formed by a man named Jujiro Matsuda. Little did anyone know that almost 11 years later, this company would produce its first vehicle. The company name would come from this product, the Mazda-Go. Mazda would officially enter the Canadian market in 1968, and this is just a peek into Mazda’s 100 years of history. We spent time behind the wheel of their largest vehicle currently offered, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 100th Anniversary Edition.
In celebration of this milestone, Mazda has introduced a 100th Anniversary Edition in several models such as the Mazda3, CX-5, MX-5, and the CX-9 we have here. They all share the same anniversary cues and colors. If you are not a fan of white exteriors and red interiors, the 100th Anniversary Edition definitely isn’t for you.
Outside, a Snowflake Pearl White paint separates this from other traditional white paints. The hue pops and looks fantastic in the sun. 100th Anniversary wheel center caps and special badging also add to this CX-9’s unique exterior cues. We wish Mazda added badging to the rear rather than only on the front fenders; if you are going to celebrate an anniversary, let it be known to those sitting behind you at the lights.
The CX-9 has always been one of the more handsome three-row sport utility vehicles on the market and even with no major changes this year, this trend still continues. Clean lines create a very sporty looking design in an SUV world where most of the competition resembles boxes more than anything else. LED headlights, fog and taillights add to its sharp looks. Massive 20-inch light gray alloy wheels help fill out the wheel wells.
To be this good looking, the overall design prioritizes form over function. First and second row occupants will fit comfortably, however, the third row is useless for any teenager or adult. Cargo space behind the third row is snug, at 408-liters, if considering long road trips with a family of six. A Kia Telluride or Toyota Highlander would be a smarter family companion if cargo space is priority.
Interior design is where Mazda has surpassed other Japanese brands without having to introduce a luxury brand of their own, like Lexus or Acura. The fit, finish and materials used are truly some of the best in the industry. In most cases, Mazda’s Signature-trim interiors exceed some luxury brands base trims, and this Anniversary Edition is one notch above that.
The CX-9 is an attractive space to travel in and with the 100th Anniversary Edition, they have added embossed headrests and badged floor mats among other small changes. And yes, even the key fob has the unique logo on it. The seats are covered in red Garnet Nappa leather, while the armrests front and rear come layered in white leather to add contrast. The interior can do without the white as it distracts from the overall interior appearance, and the red carpets seem a bit much and I doubt they will age well.
Other than these visual changes, there is not much difference from the Signature, which is the “normal” top-trim model. For the $1,500 difference, buyers need to decide if subtle elegance is their preferred choice over the unique 100th Anniversary Edition.
The 100th Anniversary Edition retains the same powerplant as the other CX-9 models. The SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT) brings 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft. of torque, when using premium fuel. Those wanting to save a few bucks and use regular fuel will cause a drop in horsepower to 227, though torque remains the same. Additional power or improved suspension would be a nice upgrade to separate this edition from lower trims.
Mazda has always prioritized the drive and feel of their vehicles when compared to the competition, and that tradition continues. Even with the six-speed automatic transmission, while other rivals have moved to eight, nine and ten cogs, the CX-9’s performance is sporty and even fun. It shifts smoothly and always seems to be in the right gear. With all of the torque available low in the power band, the CX-9 launches with authority.
Ride quality is sporty but not firm enough to be uncomfortable. Over rough patches, there is little intrusion to those inside and road noise is kept to a minimum. Don’t expect MX-5 Miata handling and you won’t be disappointed. Families that are looking to tow extra toys up to cottage country should be aware that the CX-9’s towing capacity is limited to 3,500-pounds, significantly behind its competition which averages around the 5,000 pound mark.
Fuel consumption for the CX-9 is rated at 11.6L/100km in the city and 9.1L/100km on the highway. During our frigid winter temperatures and mostly city commute, we observed a reasonable 12.2L/100km. As mentioned, the CX-9 recommends premium fuel for maximum performance and efficiency, but being a three-row mainstream crossover, 87-octane regular is just fine as well.
There is much to love about the 2021 Mazda CX-9 100th Anniversary Edition with looks, interior and driving engagement being at the top of the list. However, the competition has been moving at a steady pace over the last couple of years, and therefore the CX-9 is in need of a refresh. The biggest competition comes from Kia’s latest Sorento and the Toyota Highlander. If the current model is any indication, the next generation CX-9 should be the driving engagement champion of the bunch.