Driving Does Matter | 2015 Mazda CX-9

November 2015 View more


With a redesigned, fourth-generation model rumored to be coming soon, now might be the perfect time to look at the 2015 Mazda CX-9. Counterintuitive? Only if you have to drive the newest thing. Because in addition to the price drop on the 2015 model when the new model debuts, this model is only two years past its last redesign—and it has a lot to recommend it.

Among the least minivany of the three-row, seven-passenger crossovers out there, the CX-9 does a good impersonation of a sleeker, smaller vehicle. And if the flowing lines aren’t enough to let you know that it’s fun to drive, the CX-9 broadcasts its intentions with its model names.

2015CX95The base CX-9 is called the Sport model. Move up the line and you can choose the Touring or Grand Touring editions. No boring commuting going on here, the CX-9 aims at the enthusiast niche. And Mazda offers front- or all-wheel drive on all of its CX-9 models unlike some competitors, which reserve all-wheel-drive for the more expensive trim levels.

2015CX93This is a big, seven-seat hauler that drives a lot like Mazda’s smaller vehicles. When you turn the steering wheel, for example, the front wheels are quick to point you where you want to go. Other crossovers have steering that is less “quick,” which means less sporty handling. The CX-9’s steering weight and turning radius also endow it with super handling around town. The suspension feels right, too. It absorbs a lot of imperfections, but lets enough of the road through to remind drivers that they are still part of the equation.

Under the Hood

2015CX91And then there’s the engine. The CX-9 is available with just one choice—a large 3.7-liter V6 that produces 273 horsepower. Short of buying one of the few remaining V8-powered crossovers, this represents real power for the segment. The CX-9 feels quick, and acceleration comes with a vaguely aggressive soundtrack emanating from the engine and the exhaust pipe.

There is a manual mode for those who want to control their gear selection, but the six-speed automatic is quick to downshift when you need more power. And here’s another reminder of the CX-9’s focus on driving: Even in full automatic mode, a digital display in the center of the analog speedometer tells you what gear you are in.

Yes, you will make a trade-off—fuel economy versus performance—to drive the CX-9. The EPA estimates that you will see 17 miles per gallon in the city or 22 on the highway with front-wheel drive. Knock two miles per gallon off each estimate if you choose all-wheel-drive. On the plus side, the CX-9 takes regular unleaded.

Interior Comfort

2015CX92Open one of the wide-swinging doors, and the CX-9 is all Mazda inside. From the gauge clusters to the flowing center console, the design is crisp and well executed. Next year’s model will likely see upgrades to the smallish navigation system screen. The front two rows are spacious and comfortable. For better or worse, the CX-9’s third row of seats does not stand out for size or comfort. In this category, all of the third rows are strictly for little ones or, for bigger kids, comfortable only for very short trips. Fold down that third row of seats and the CX-9 will swallow up a road trip’s worth of gear.

The 2015 Mazda CX-9 Sport starts at $29,985 with front-wheel drive or $31,575 with all-wheel drive. In a refreshing bit of price clarity, the stickers on the three model choices do not overlap. The Touring starts at $32,480, and the Grand Touring starts at $35,035.

Photo courtesy of ©Mazda North American Operations