2017 Mazda CX-9

Presence, ambience and efficiency

"The best part of the new CX-9 is the way it looks!"

"Is it time to put an end to the search for the best SUV around?" said Ershad.

Powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating close to 250 horsepower, the new Mazda CX-9 is a sure-fire combination of show and go."

"The new CX-9 is lighter compared to previous versions, which plays a part towards improved agility and efficiency."

Pedal to the metal, the big SUV drops a gear and the speedo needle climbs up pretty quickly. Powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine generating close to 250 horsepower, the new Mazda CX-9 is a sure-fire combination of show and go. If the numbers seem uninspiring, let us consider the requirements for a real-world day-to-day usage SUV. According to the Mazda guys, it is presence, ambience and efficiency. Neck-wrenching acceleration and 'g' figures are never a consideration for a daily drive SUV. The new CX-9 is lighter compared to previous versions, which plays a part towards improved agility and efficiency.

The CX-9's clock showed 5:45 pm and we had four adults and two kids heading towards Outlet Village for a quick meetup with friends. The climate was beautiful and we were comfortably seated in the CX-9, enjoying crisp music flowing out of the 12-speaker Bose audio system. Adding to the comfort is the fact that the new CX-9 has almost 25 kilograms of sound-deadening material stuffed into its floor. No unnecessary sounds in the cabin results in a much more relaxed travel experience.

The six-speed automatic transmission is a proven unit and helps in easy overtaking at highway speeds. Being a turbocharged unit, you may expect some turbo lag as usual. But, Mazda has a clever solution to minimize the lag feel. At lower rpms, the exhausts are guided to the turbocharger through smaller ports at higher pressure, which helps the turbo to spool up quickly. At higher rpms, secondary ports open up to provide a higher flow of exhaust gases into the turbocharger. This is termed as a Dynamic Pressure Turbo and is claimed as a world first. It was pretty dark when we reached our destination, and the entire surface around the place was paved with interlock tiles. Even at moderate speeds, the suspension seemed to filter out road unevenness. It came as a surprise, as the CX-9 felt very flickable and I was expecting a super hard suspension.

Meetup finished and it was time to head back home. En route to our parked car, we could feel the wind picking up and see rain clouds scattered across the sky. Ten minutes into the journey and it started raining like crazy. The super bright LED headlamps gave ample visibility even in this adverse weather and the all-wheel drive on our test car bolstered my confidence while steering through the super wet roads. The i-ACTIV All-wheel Drive system manages data from 27 sensors on the car to predict road conditions and transfer power between the front and rear axles. The top version CX-9 we drove comes shod with 20-inch wheels, lending it excellent on-road manners. Braking is taken care of by 320mm ventilated discs up front and 325mm solid discs on the rear, which is unchanged from the yesteryear model.

My only concern on the CX-9 would be the off-road worthiness considering the dimensions, engine size and tire configuration. I could not test the CX-9 for this, however, due to hostile conditions. Too much rain and too much water everywhere!

It is always good to know that the car you drive hosts a variety of updated safety features which can assure the safety of the car and its passengers. Mazda provides features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Radar Cruise Control which automatically controls throttle and brake inputs according to traffic conditions ahead, Lane Keep Assist which helps you keep in track, High Beam Control which automatically dips the high beams if it detects oncoming traffic or brake lights in front, and Brake Support Systems which intervene to stop the car if there is the chance of a collision. A long list but complete peace of mind!

The interior of the CX-9 is best described as airy and well managed. As expected from a three-row SUV, there is loads of space available at every possible angle you can imagine. Legroom, headroom, shoulder room…there is just lots and lots. The new CX-9 is close in outer dimensions to the previous versions but has a longer wheelbase. This translates into more leg space for second-row passengers. The front seats are now even thinner for improved leg space for second-row guys. Our top spec tester comes with leather treatment for the first two rows of seats. Speaking of seats, a great deal of improvements has been made which translate into a comfortable ride even with stiff springs. As a Mazda first, the seats feature high-damping and low-rebound urethane filled in the seat backs to filter out all those rough road patches.

A 4.6-inch display on the center console acts as the command center with controls for audio, navigation and all other equipment. In every three-row vehicle, one of the hardest or trickiest things to do is flipping down the second row to gain access into the third row. The new CX-9 features an easy release lever on the second-row seats, which can help even small kids to operate easily. A/C blower vents for all the rows ensure that all your passengers remain cool even in the hottest summer. The second-row seats also get two USB charging ports. Adding to the driving experience is the heads-up display, which gives you speed, temperature and navigation readings. The rest of the interior is pretty simple and tough – ready to take on all those harsh usage and environments very popular on a GCC spec family SUV. One thing worth a special mention is be the usable third-row seat where people can actually sit. Even with the last row down, there is sufficient loading area available for the occasional long drive.

The best part of the new CX-9 is the way it looks. With a sleek and aggressive front end, flowing roofline and tight overhangs, it can easily give a run for the best-looking car in its segment. The long hood and large wheels induce a sense of Mazda 6 wagon-ness into the CX-9 design. The front grille with the signature new Mazda lineup shape splits the CX-9 into a solid bottom half and a sleek upper portion. Overall, Mazda designers have been able to offer the best features in a tight, good-looking package. Our test car came in a special shade called Machine Gray, which is painted over a black base coat for added depth feel. The amount of detail for this color is comparable to the quality of paint jobs on concept vehicles.

The Mazda CX-9 is a very inspiring and complete package recommended for anyone interested in a value-for-money full-size SUV. It offers real-world driveability, efficiency and flexibility to ferry around a large family plus a decent amount of goods. It is time to put an end to the search for the best SUV around!

Pros: Cabin comfort and high-end material, striking appearance, decent handling, perfect family car
Cons: Not ideal for off-road driving
Rivals: Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevrolet Traverse, Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
one word: bang for the buck!
4 stars

2.5L inline-4 turbo, 250 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 420 Nm @ 2,000 rpm
AWD, 6-speed auto
0-100 km/h: 9 sec, top speed: 225 km/h, fuel consumption: 13.2 L/100 km
weight: 1,870 kg

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