Engine: Skyactiv-2.5T turbo – 227 horsepower, 310 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Skyactiv 6-speed sport mode
EPA Ratings: 21/city, 27/highway, 23/combined
Base Price: $44,015
As Tested: $44,915
Overview: We’ve driven this vehicle several previous times and really enjoyed it. Other than minor evolutionary items, there are virtually no changes for the 2017 model year after a major revision and upgrade in 2016. Integrating Mazda’s zoom-zoom personality into what has become America’s new minivan — the three-row crossover SUV — Mazda engineers have delivered a well-balanced, practical, multipurpose machine.
Walkaround: The CX-9 mirrors the design cues of Mazda’s CX-5 and seemingly borrows some of its elegance from the Infiniti QX70 as well. Some of what gives the CX-9 its luxury appearance is actually restraint in its design. While the large, shark-like chrome grille with LED lighting inside it projects menacingly forward, it also commands a presence and style that rivals the Acura MDX and Infiniti QX60.
Interior: Mazda’s interior materials look and feel upscale. The plastics are soft to the touch and almost appear to be leather. Our top-of-the-line Signature test model featured soft Nappa leather seats and rosewood trim with aluminum accents. Fit and finish are excellent, with consistently tight gaps, and what appears to be an obsessive attention to detail.
Instrumentation is round, with one of the gauges actually being a color LCD screen that displays trip-computer information and a compass. There’s also an 8-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard where all control functions can be accessed.
Second-row legroom comes at the expense of the kid-friendly third-row seat — common in three-row SUVs. There’s 14 cubic foot of cargo space and 38 when folding the third row. With both rows folded flat, it’s 71.
Behind the Wheel: Thanks to Mazda’s dynamic pressure turbo system, even for a 4-cylinder, throttle response is excellent, with boost that builds instantly. To deliver acceleration when it’s needed, the CX-9 boasts 310 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm that translates into a firm kick from low revs. Handling is excellent; steering is light and accurate, with strong, solid braking.
Bottom Line: The Mazda CX-9 is a highly practical SUV that comes pretty well-equipped. In our view, it’s also perhaps the most engaging vehicle in this class, delivering practicality without giving up handling or style.