Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 12, 2017
Click here for the Chinese (中文) review.
My neighbour just bought one, and I’m beginning to see why.
I spent a good week with the new 2017 Mazda CX-9, a three-row seven-passenger SUV with more driving pizzazz, technological goodies, and people-hauling capabilities that you would ever need. Though the CX-9 has been out for more than a year, this is the first occasion that I’ve actually had some quality time behind the wheel.
I came away with two things: that the CX-9 is more luxurious than its badge suggests, and that it's a proper driver’s car.
The first, though not exactly classified as one, is that the new CX-9 is a proper luxury crossover. I should clarify this actually - the CX-9 Signature is a proper luxury crossover, the fully-loaded model that carries an MSRP of $50,100. Though the Mazda badge may not be storied in racing history or sound as fancy as BMW or Mercedes-Benz, it’s properly refined through and through.
One glance inside the rose-coloured interior will make you realize that the CX-9 Signature punches above its weight class. Everywhere you look, panels are meticulously trimmed, chrome-polished, and shaped in a way that screams Japanese luxury. Quality is on par with the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60, competitors that fall into the luxury segment.
The center console is an ergonomic work of art; a stellar design with deep cubbies and a centralized hub of tech controls, making them easy to reach for and remember where they are. It’s wide, circularly trimmed, and sits at a comfortable armrest height.
There’s more than enough storage space throughout, and Mazda always seems to do infotainment controls correctly, with the volume knob placed right next to the rotary knob that controls the entertainment. This means that after selecting your favourite radio station, you can adjust the volume without moving your arm.
The actual infotainment system isn’t the greatest. Though it is simple at its core and the layout is beginner-friendly, I couldn’t help but feel that the system was initially meant for a touchscreen rather than to be operated by a rotary dial.
This is a three-row crossover after all and hence, it needs to haul seven passengers comfortably. The front seats are supportive but wide, meaning my slender frame slides left to right when putting the CX-9 through hard corners. The second row seats are spacious and roomy, and I’m able to sit “behind” my driving position with enough knee- and wiggle-room.
Can’t say the same about the third row, which is tight and cramped as expected. If adults really need to squeeze back there, the second row seats have the ability to tilt forward to offer that extra space. Don’t expect to carry seven passengers for the long haul, though. Comfortably, it will seat five. Not sufficient? Get a minivan.
The driving position is at a good height, giving you a clear view of the traffic ahead. It’s not easy finding a snug fit, though. I like to sit fairly upright when I drive, and the upward-tilted steering wheel makes for a rather bus-like driving position that I never quite warmed up to. The unadjustable headrests don’t help either.
Visibility is marred by an unnecessarily thick A-pillar, skewing the view whenever you want to make a left turn. I was forced to teeter my neck around to check all my blind spots. Views out the rear quarters are sufficient, and the blind spot monitoring and lane keep assist systems were a great help.
The second thing I came away with was how much fun the CX-9 was to drive. Despite its size, its weight, and its paltry performance figures, the CX-9 holds true to Mazda’s mantra of “Driving Matters.”
The turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine under the hood produces a grim 227 hp (250 hp with 93-octane fuel but really, who is going to be putting premium in their Mazda?) and 310 lb-ft. It has verve and spirit but it’s not enough to stand out in the segment, as it strains and really pushes its limits to replace any V6.
That’s not to say that the powertrain is bad - it could use a bit more juice. However it’s more than adequate for the everyday commute. Just don’t be afraid to hammer the gas if you really need to get it going. Sport mode helps too, letting the 6-speed transmission keep the right gears to squeeze out the pulp.
No, it doesn’t have a fancy 8- or 9-speed transmission, but fuel economy is rather excellent. We averaged an impressive 11.3 L/100km on both city and highway. And on a side note, front-wheel drive is standard on base CX-9 GS models while upper trims (GS-L, GT, Signature) are AWD-only.
The CX-9 begins to stand out when you fling it around the bends. There’s phenomenal ride quality, and the CX-9 is eager to turn directions. Dare I call it darty, but the steering is on point. The wheel needs more effort than normal to rotate, but there is exceptional feedback. You know exactly what the wheels are doing and how much grip you have. There’s a wonderful balance between body roll and stiffness, making this large SUV feel taut and composed. It’s no track star, but there’s enough enthusiasm to get your heart rate racing.
Overall, the CX-9 handles like a champ, better than the Honda Pilot or Chevrolet Traverse, arguably its main rivals. The interior is luxurious and punches way above its weight class, and though it’s sheetmetal doesn’t strike an emotional chord, you have to admit it looks good in white. It only took me a week to realize it, but I understand why my neighbour bought one. He is the family man, and the weekend warrior.
型号 Model: 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
顏色 Paint Type: Snowflake White Pearl ($200)
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $50,100
試車售價 Price as Tested: $50,300
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,930
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,065 / 1,969 / 1,716
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,917
引擎 Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 T 4-cylinder with Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT)
最大馬力 Horsepower: 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm (250 hp @ 6,000 rpm w/ premium grade fuel)
最高扭力 Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.2 / 8.8
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 255/50R20