2017 Mazda CX-9

2017-mazda-cx-9

The Good:
– Attractive inside and out
– Cabin trim and features
– Ride and handling
The Bad:
– Limited offroad ability
– Less space than rivals
– Few key options not offered

It’s not often we get excited about trying out a crossover, even if mildly. But Mazda has been on a roll lately in terms of producing mainstream cars with enthusiast appeal, and the only one that was left out in the cold so far was the flagship CX-9. Festering with only minor facelifts for the better part of a decade, it was a good vehicle but was clearly showing its age. So when the CX-9 finally debuted, we were glad to see that it wasn’t simply a mild reworking, but rather a completely new vehicle.

Mazda was brave in going for an extroverted style for their redone midsize crossover, with a jutting shark-like nose and an intricate chrome panel between the Ferrari-style tail lights. It is shorter in overall length now, but wheelbase has actually increased to improve interior room. Believe it or not, while it looks small, the CX-9 is slightly longer than the massive-looking Ford Explorer. Oddly enough, most of the car’s length is still over the front wheels, with a sizeable front overhang. Still, it’s looks great, especially with the 20-inch alloys on the top model. Fancy LED lighting both front and rear give it a European air, kind of like a Japanese Alfa Romeo, but without the latter’s confusion. However, we’ve met conservatives who get offended by its looks, preferring the appliance-like neutrality of Korean designs.

2017-mazda-cx-9-7

The interior is a bigger revelation. The cheap hard plastics have been dramatically reduced, replaced by extensive soft-touch panels on the dash and upper doors, and even part of the centre console near the knees. A tablet-like screen cleanly sits on the dash-top, with tastefully-done metallic embellishments and soft leather upholstery creating a cabin that makes the pricier, smaller Land Rover Discovery Sport look like the waste of money it really is.

Stepping into the car is easy as the doors open all the way to the floor. In terms of space, it’s fairly good in both the first and second rows, though nothing class-leading, even with the second row slid all the way back. Access to the third row is somewhat complicated, but once you figure out how to squeeze back in there, you’re greeted with a split-folding bench that can just about fit average-sized adults, but with their toes slipped in below the second-row seats, and they get hard-plastic armrests. The second-row seats need to be slid forward a bit and kept more upright if you want to give third-row passengers more breathing room, but yes, it is manageable for at least hour-long trips. For more space, you’ll have to look towards the Nissan Pathfinder, the Chevy Traverse or the Honda Pilot.

There’s tons of cubbies, pockets and cup-holders, even for last-row riders. And the boot is huge with the third row folded down (and van-like with the split-folding second row folded down), and still enough for a week’s worth of groceries with the third row in use. The two grocery-bag hooks on the boot’s sidewalls are especially useful.

The multimedia tech is simplified, although it’d take weeks to fully figure out where everything is. The colourful LCD screen is controlled by a rotary knob below the gear-shifter, while there are separate physical controls for the a/c and stereo volume, both of which we appreciated as many other carmakers seem to be replacing these with dangerously-distracting touch icons on a screen. The gauge cluster still has stylish physical dials, with an integrated full-colour info display as well.

The stereo is pretty good, but the a/c is somewhat average, taking a while before it starts blowing cool air. Features in our tester included a tri-zone a/c with rear central vents and digital controls, smart keyless entry and start, power front seats, adaptive cruise control with emergency auto-braking, electronic parking brake, rear camera, blind-spot monitors, heads-up display, a full set of airbags and, among other items, a small sunroof. There is no panoramic glass roof or rear-seat entertainment offered.

2017-mazda-cx-9-4

The standard engine is now a 2.5-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder instead of the previous gas-guzzling 3.7-litre V6. There’s already backlash over this decision since, on paper at least, the new motor appears to have less power than before, now producing 227 hp at 5000 rpm and 420 Nm of torque at 2000 rpm using “EPlus” RON91 petrol (although in America, it is advertised as being capable of 250 hp using “Super” RON98 too). But Mazda’s self-developed “Dynamic Pressure Turbo” engine is great, with very minor turbo lag but otherwise offering instant throttle response, strong low-end torque and pretty good overtaking power at highway speeds, while sounding good as well. It offers much more practical kick than the V6, and the CX-9 is just as quick as before, since it has now lost 130 kg in AWD trim. We managed a 0-100 kph time of 8.8 seconds during our cool December test, with no wheelspin from the quick-acting all-wheel-drive system.

More beneficially, the fuel consumption hovered around 13.1 litres/100 km in our real-world test, which is 20% better than the old V6 we tested in 2013. And that’s simply with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic, rather than resorting to confused 9-speeds or annoying CVTs.

Even better, the ride quality has improved considerably over the loud firm-riding older model. The new CX-9’s suspension soaks up bumps very well, and it’s fairly quiet up to 120 kph, aside from a hint of road noise. The steering is also lighter than before, with a soft brake pedal as well. Adding to that is much better outward visibility than the likes of the Ford Explorer, making for a pleasurable daily driver.

The previous CX-9 was probably the most fun handler in its class, and this new one is no different. The top-spec 2017 CX-9’s wide 255/50 tyres provide ample grip in corners, with limited body roll and no untoward motions on abrupt manoeuvres. It can probably keep up with the underwhelming Jaguar F-Pace in the twisties, even though the latter is being billed as “the sports car” of crossovers.

But the CX-9 has some deficiencies of its own. The steering is overly light while offering limited feedback, but while it can be firmed up slightly in “sport” mode, we had problems on the highway as the car constantly kept turning off sport mode after some 10 seconds. We don’t know if it was doing that by design, or due to some computer fault. Also, the soft brake pedal can be a bit overly-sensitive, although the brakes themselves are very good. As for offroad ability, we believe the all-wheel-drive system will do well on soft sand, but the lack of low-range gearing and a low front bumper means it will be relegated to flat beaches and easy gravel trails.

However, considering most people don’t buy a crossover for extreme offroading anyway, the CX-9 remains a massively compelling product that will give its owners a taste of luxury-car ownership without breaking the bank. If cabin space for seven tall adults is a top priority, the CX-9 loses to more practical rivals, but if that compromise is acceptable, we don’t see what else is better. And therefore, it is entering our recommended list.

Price Range:
Dh 119,900-160,000

Current Model Introduced in:
2017

Body Styles:
5-door wagon

Engines:
2.5L 227 hp Inline-4 turbo / 420 Nm

Transmissions:
6-speed automatic

Setup:
Front-wheel-drive
Four-wheel-drive

Suspension:
Front: independent
Rear: independent

Brakes:
Front: discs
Rear: discs

Curb Weight:
1842-1870 kg

Length:
5075 mm

Wheelbase:
2930 mm

Top Speed:
225 kph

Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
8.8 sec.(AWD)

Observed Test Fuel Economy:
13.1 litres/100km(AWD)

23 comments to 2017 Mazda CX-9

  • FarukDoha

    Any idea of when its sibling CX-5 is going to be launched (all new design)?

  • samer

    Good car, but they need to lower the price a bit, and it is strange to know that the AC is not strong while the test was done in december, so how would it perform in July? that is a reason not to buy in my opinion

    • Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury

      Takes a while before it gets going, like all other Mazdas we tested. After that, it’s fine.

  • Shibu Daniel

    Humm, having problems with JLR mate??

  • Mudhasir

    Cx5 somewhere mid of 2017 as per dealer

  • Vivek

    Don’t like the F-Pace? What’s wrong with it?

  • Modi

    Kia Sorento wins for the price. Top spec 120k aed. With a more powerful engine.
    But cx9 interior is nice

  • Zao

    I haven’t seen u mentioning about the head up display…it has a really good colour head up display even better than some German cars….

  • Paddy

    I test-drove the CX-9 yesterday. It was the mid-option one. My observations: Moves very well from standstill, the torque is working quite well. Very smooth ride, with very little road noise. Quite spacious in the front and back, with the third row strictly for kids. Adequate shoulder and head room. Seats are firm, wide and supportive. The beige leather has a good feel to it. Seating position is good with good view of the road. Braking is quite decent and the car doesn’t nose-dive. Easy to drive though the steering appears to be too light (I’ve been driving and Infiniti G Sedan for 3 years now and the steering is much better weighted in that). The Sport mode didn’t make much of a difference. The leather covering the steering is slightly slippery, probably since it was new. Disappointed with the boot space, given the fact that this is one of the longest vehicles out there. Mazda should have found a way to reduce the length at the front of the car and add that to the wheel base, thereby offering more interior space. The car audio sounds a bit flat with the bass a bit muted. The air-conditioning is on the noisy side and not as powerful as the one in my G Sedan. My wife pointed this out within a few minutes. The fact that the third row doesn’t have AC vents would make that a somewhat uncomfortable space for kids. The mid-option doesn’t come with front parking sensors which makes it difficult to park the car. The rear view camera is quite adequate though it has only static parking guidelines and not the active ones that respond your steering inputs. The LED auto-headlamps are quite bright. Galadari offers warranty of 5 years / 140K kms and free service for 3 years / 60K kms. Rust proofing of the exterior and upholstery guard. Mid option costs 140K and full option 160K. Overall length of the car (a bit too long?) and the AC were the two main downsides I could see.

    • ahmed

      I think the overall long front overhang is because of Mazda’s painfully long 4-2-1 exhaust system necessary to acheive high compression ratios and fuel efficiency. I happen to have a Mazda 3 Hatchback and i do feel the front overhang is too long too for such a small car.

  • ahmed

    I believe the shortcommings of this nice car will be addressed by Mazda in the next revisions of production. We have the Mazda 6 as a perfect example of how Mazda addressed its shortcommings in their subsequent product revision (also reviewed here on Drivearabia).

    Moreover, im very puzzled by the amount of hate the A/C is receiving, I mean Mazdas have a strong A/C from my experience (2 Mazda 3s, 2009 and 2016, 1 Mazda CX9, 2014, all owned) and the A/Cs in all of them are chill cold…and work immediately. Maybe I just got lucky vehicles hahahahaha :D

  • Paddy

    I also hope the A/C performs well since I’m seriously thinking of buying this vehicle :). Read quite a few reviews on internet and the reference to the A/C crops up a few times. My previous car was a Honda Accord 2008 and the A/C was quite decent. In most of the Japanese cars I have driven, the A/C has been good. Anyway fingers crossed…..

  • Prado

    @ paddy

    good luck and tell us about your experince

  • Yusuf

    Kia Sorento is a viable option

  • Ali

    Hi Mashfique!

    Really interesting review like always.

    could you please explain working of AC a bit more from your testing if possible?

    Also, where do you see CX9 in terms of reliability?

    • farrukh

      Its more reliable as usual and of course MADE IN JAPAN

    • Aadil S.

      I can vouch for the reliability of this car. Currently have a 2014 CX-9 and driven 95,000 kms here in Qatar. No issues reported apart from the power window motor issue (fixed under warranty). Have yet to change the original brake pads! Changed the tires once at 72k and batteries at 60k

    • Prado

      @ Aadil

      Good to know!… currently i have a CX-9 2016 GT, and crossed 32,000 km..

      so far no issues.

  • SMathew

    Was almost in double mind to go for this car. The negative A/C feedback at another site and by some people here made me stay back away from it. Finally managed to trade off my problematic Jeep Grand Cherokee 2011 model (you can see my earlier feedback in the Jeep GC section) and get a Lexus GX460. Glad I made this choice!

  • Sandy

    Want to buy this car, but I am deterred by the negative feedback of AC. In Middle East you cannot risk on AC.
    How is your opinion of Kia Sorento? It has gr8 reviews.

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