The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is powered by a 2.5 liter turbocharged inline-4 engine with an output of 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. That is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and delivers the power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive is an option available for all trim models. Mazda has tuned the engine to minimize turbo lag and provides plenty of torque at the low end. It accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds, and there is enough midrange grunt to overtake at speed. Given its street-oriented turbo characteristics, the power wanes out near at higher revs. On the road, the CX-9 handles like a smaller vehicle. It remained well composed through the corners and felt planted on the pavement. Since the body sits well above the ground, body roll was still there but did not deter from its superb handling. The steering was responsive and the vehicle turned at will with no problems. The brakes complemented the handling with its consistency. They were strong but not abrupt and the pedal action was intuitive. They delivered in spades for driving in busier streets and the stopping distance of 115 feet from 60 mph puts it above average in the midsize SUV category.
The base Sport trim has automatic climate control, infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system. The Power Driver’s Seat and Heated Side Mirror package adds auto on/off headlights, power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, and heated side mirrors and advanced safety and driver aids. The Touring trim builds off of the Sport with power-adjustable front seats, automatic wipers, heated mirrors, power liftgate, keyless ignition and entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, power-adjustable front seats, 8-inch touchscreen display, two USB ports and more safety and driver aids. The Premium package adds LED fog lights, satellite radio, navigation and a 12-speaker Bose sound system. The Grand Touring and Signature are the two high-end trims which have all standard and optional equipment from the Touring trim. They also include adaptive headlights, driver-seat memory functions, heated second row seats, heated steering wheel, and additional interior lighting. The Signature however, comes with more premium interior appointments.
The 2018 model has been tested by the IIHS and received a “Good” rating for Crashworthiness and “Superior” for Front Crash Prevention. The headlights were rated “Average” in Crash Avoidance and Mitigation. Overall, the CX-9 garnered a 2018 Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Even for the base trim, advanced safety and driver assist technologies can be opted for, such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and intervention, and a rearview camera. When upgrading the midrange trim, automatic high beams and front and rear parking sensors are added. For the high-end trims, a heads-up display with traffic sign recognition comes standard along with all the advanced safety and driver assist technologies Mazda offers.
The 2018 model has a 199.4 inch length, 77.2 inch width, 67.6 inch height, and a 115.3 wheelbase. Visually, the 2018 model has no revisions from the 2017 model. Throughout Mazda’s lineup, the CX-9 shares the same design cues with flowing body lines and sharp angles in its silhouette. It looks sleek compared to its competitors in the midsize SUV class that have boxier aesthetics. Only the Grand Touring and Signature have bigger 20-inch aluminum wheels, while the rest of the trims feature 18-inch wheels. They also come standard with aluminum roof rails and roof spoiler, giving it a sportier look.
Entry through the front and rear doors was effortless, and the headroom and legroom is generous. Getting to the back required no contorting since the second row of seats opens up well when folded down. At the backseats there is less headroom than those seating in front, given how sloped the rear window is. Legroom is decent too even if the knees are raised. The CX-9 can seat up to 7 people and with the tested Signature trim, the leather seats are cushioned well and remained comfortable on the longer trips. They didn’t flatten out and offered good support. The backseats however, are more firm to avoid that sinking feeling given how low the seat is. Comfort has been prioritized for the ride quality and the suspension was refined enough to absorb all the bumps. Inside the cabin, noise from the engine was attenuated well and wind noise in the highway was barely heard.
Behind the third row seats, there is 14.4 cu. ft. of space and it expands to 71.2 cu. ft. when the second and third row seats are folded down.