This week I am behind the wheel of the 2019 Mazda CX-9, the granddaddy of Mazda’s SUV lineup with three rows and seating for up to seven passengers.
The current CX-9 generation has been around since 2016 and it competes In a segment with a lot of choices that include tried-and-true heavy hitters like the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Chevrolet Traverse along with popular newcomers like the Subaru Ascent and VW Atlas. The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade will also join the fray soon.
That said, is the CX-9 doing everything it can to keep up with competition?
OVERVIEW AND TRIMS
The CX-9’s highlights are its Turbo engine, near-luxury trim level and fun driving dynamics. There are four trims starting with the base Sport model and ending with my test model the top of the line Signature that comes standard all-wheel-drive.
PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING
Unlike some competitors with a V6 under the hood, the CX-9 features a nice turbocharged 2.5-liter four cylinder that delivers 250 horsepower with premium fuel, and 227 if you use regular. You get 310 lb.-ft of torque regardless. Acceleration is good and it keeps up the pace well on the highway, and while there is some engine noise, overall once cruising the cabin delivers a fairly quiet ride.
As with the CX-5, you’re looking at Mazda’s 6-speed automatic transmission when I’d really like to see an updated one with at least two more gears.
Handling is good, especially for a large SUV, and certainly a Mazda strength. Mazda worked on smoother suspension for 2019, but it’s still on the sporty side (which I like) and I was quite happy with the confident braking. My all-wheel drive model also features G Vectoring Control that shifts power where it needs to go during cornering to reduce need for steering corrections. It handled roundabouts nicely.
The cabin is impressive. Inside, the Signature trim gets you Auburn Nappa leather heated and cooled front seats along with aluminum trim and real rosewood inlays. The dash is soft touch but I would like to see some stitching. The power adjustable driver’s seat is comfortable with bolstering and the right amount of cushioning. The center stack is well laid out with the controls for the climate and heated steering wheel.
The center console looks clean surrounded by a glossy black and aluminum and rosewood accents. It houses the leather gear-shifter, sport button, electric parking brake and Mazda Connect controls. Inside a fairly small center console you find two USB ports.
The tachometer and 7 inch driver display are easy to read. You can scroll through driver info on the screen via controls on the he power tilt and telescopic leather wrapped steering wheel. Above, you find a one-touch power moonroof.
Roominess and cargo space is top of mind for car shoppers in this segment and while not a class-leader, the CX-9 felt roomy to me. I had plenty of legroom up front and in the 2nd row as well as and plenty of headroom throughout. (The 2nd row seats are heated as well and you get sunshades back there, too.) While of course the 3rd row was tighter, it wasn’t bad and I am nearly 5’6. As for the third-row seats you have to manually fold those up and down.
Open the power liftgate with the key fob and you may be disappointed with cargo space. It lacks the space of competitors. You get 14.4 cubic feet of cargo area behind the third row. Fold down the third row and you’ll get a better 38.2 cubic feet.
The CX-9 tows 3,500 pounds but some competitors can tow 5,000 (when properly equipped.)
Now let’s talk technology. Simply put, it is not the CX-9’s strong suit. The Signature comes with an upgraded 8" full-color touch-screen display with navigation and a backup camera. But the camera could use some work like in the mazda CX-5. Also Mazda Connect is not my favorite system and seems a bit outdated with its graphics, especially mapping, and it’s also bit overly complicated to use. You use a knob controller to go through the options of Mazda Connect. It does now offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Voice activation worked well when I followed the prompts. My tester has the upgraded 12-speaker Bose sound system an an optional $1,995 entertainment system with headphones.
The entire CX-9 gets a bunch of great driver assist technology standard like collision mitigating/avoidance braking, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Advanced technology like pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and lane assist are only standard on the three upper trims. My signature also comes with front and rear parking sensors and the new 360 degree camera, along with a great heads up display with traffic sign recognition.
My CX-9 AWD model achieves 20 city, 26 highway for a combined 23 MPGs. Rear-wheel drive improves it by one MPG to 24 combined.
The base Sport model starts from around $32,000. My top of the line model takes you to $49,680 as equipped and that includes an extra $200 for its paint color.
While the CX-9 has some great qualities, its fun, sporty-like handling for starters followed by its impressive Signature trim interior, I do think Mazda’s going to need to step it up in the technology and cargo areas to stay competitive; However, it remains a stylish and comfortable SUV that is sure to please a crowd.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
- What I liked most: The interior and driving dynamics.
- What I would change: Overhaul entertainment system/technology.
- MSRP: Base price $45, 36; as equipped $49,680 with transportation.
- Fuel Economy: 20 city/26 highway/ 23 combined.
- Official Color: Snowflake White Pearl.
- Odometer reading when tested: 8,981 miles.
- Weight: 4383 pounds (AWD).
- Spare Tire: Temporary.
- Length-Width-Height: 199.4” long/ 77.5” wide/ 69” high with sharkfin antenna.
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 19.5 gallons with the filler on the driver side.
- Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds.
- 2019 CX-9 in a few words: An SUV with some outstanding attributes but in need of a few updates needed to keep it competitive.
- Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile new vehicle warranty; 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty; 3-year/36,000 mile roadside assistance.
- Final Assembly Location: Hiroshima, Japan.
- Manufacturer’s website: Mazda