The 2017 Mazda CX-9 might not be what many buyers think of when they think about Mazda. Because with tag lines like “Driving Matters” and “Zoom Zoom,” Mazda’s recent marketing has centered around how fun the company’s vehicles are to drive — and that’s generally not what defines a three-row SUV. But while Mazda might be known for sporty efforts like the glorious MX-5 and the sleek Mazda3 hatch, no automaker can afford to ignore the lucrative crossover and SUV segment.
So having had plenty of seat time in Mazda’s cars, we were curious about how its driver-centric ethos would translate to something where the mandate was less about carving corners, and more about practical people moving. Read on to find out what we thought about the 2017 Mazda CX-9.
2017 Mazda CX-9 Exterior:
Mazda’s design team has been on a tear the last few years. For example? The Mazda3 hatchback is a gorgeous car whose lines far outshine its humble price point. And it’s no secret that we find the latest version of its venerable MX-5 far sexier, and frankly more Italian looking, than its FIAT counterpart. So we’d have been surprised if the CX-9 disappointed in the looks department. Predictably, it doesn’t.
A three-row SUV isn’t exactly the easiest platform to sculpt, but everything works on the CX-9 — and the front fascia is a particular triumph. The lip which rides over the prominent grill is simultaneously delicate and aggressive, and in profile — it sticks out a good two inches from the rest of the bodywork — conjures images of some of Maserati’s better work. The lower vents are framed by sharp chrome accents, and blend into the sheet metal via sexy creases which beautifully bisect the area between the head lights and lower lip, while the muscular arch of the hood completes the package. A sloped, almost coupe-like roof carries the lines to the tail section, which sports a subtle spoiler over the rear glass, and even the black accents in the wheel wells — which we don’t generally like —work wonderfully with the lower black cladding.
SUVs aren’t supposed to look this good. But apparently, somebody forgot to tell Mazda.
2017 Mazda CX-9 Interior:
The only options on our tester were all-weather floor mats and the gorgeous Snowflake White Pearl Mica paint, but the cabin was hardly what you’d call bare bones. The seats and touch points were all covered in upscale-feeling leather, the 12-speaker Bose audio system rocked, and the eight-inch touchscreen was easily seen and not distracting.
The aluminum trim was also a great accent, and contributed to the cabin’s high-end feel. While our schedule didn’t permit any long road trips, we found the seats supportive and comfortable, and the infotainment system was intuitive. With both rows of seats folded, the interior easily swallowed around $1200 worth of IKEA furniture and accessories, so those looking for cargo capacity will undoubtedly be pleased with the CX-9.
2017 Mazda CX-9 Performance:
Mazda’s defining directive has been that “driving matters,” and that’s apparent from the first moment behind the wheel. The CX-9 manages to feel much smaller than it is, and while the 2.5-liter turbo only puts out 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, it never felt overtaxed, even though it’s tasked with motivating an SUV which tips the scales at nearly 4500 pounds.
The steering was also precise, so whether we were punting the CX-9 through a corner or navigating a busy parking lot, we retained confidence that this three-row beast would go wherever we pointed it. Of course, the CX-9 is no MX-5, and nobody is going to buy one to take to track days. That said? Building an SUV that’s as practical as it is fun to drive is no small feat, and Mazda has pulled it off here. Drivers hesitant to embrace moving up to a big people mover will be impressed with how the company’s sporting heritage is present. It’s wizardry of the highest order.
2017 Mazda CX-9 Safety:
The CX-9 scored well on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, earning on a score of “Good” on the full bevy of crash simulations. Of course, the best accident is the one which doesn’t happen at all, so features like blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist are all welcome here — especially in heavy urban traffic. Overall, we found visibility to be great, though we kept the third row seats folded down during our time with the CX-9. Unless you’re actually carrying passengers, we’d recommend doing the same, as this technique makes seeing out the rear hatch easier, and improves cargo room.
2017 Mazda CX-9 Overall:
At the risk of sounding fawning in our praise, the Mazda CX-9 checks all the boxes. It’s beautiful. It’s practical. It’s fun to drive, and it’s remarkably affordable. Unlike Japanese competitors Honda and Toyota, Mazda has never launched a luxury division, but the CX-9 makes it obvious the company isn’t afraid to play in that sandbox, so savvy buyers should take note. If you’re in the market for a three-row SUV, definitely schedule a test drive at your local AutoNation Mazda dealer today, because once you’re behind the wheel, it won’t take long to realize this vehicle is something special.