Danielle Assenheimer

It Matters: 2016 Mazda CX-9

Driving Matters. It’s a simple sentiment that Mazda has taken to heart. Here at Limited Slip Blog, we have the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of vehicles, from fair weather two-seaters to  comfortable daily drivers. Some of them are not driver’s cars. We take that in stride, since it isn’t the primary purpose of many segments and models. But it’s pleasantly surprising to come across a driver’s car that you didn’t expect. The 2016 Mazda CX-9 may be considered practical in the sense that it’s a full-size crossover, but it turns out to be one of the most exiting new offerings in its segment. After a trip from Upstate New York to New Hampshire and back, we were hard pressed to find much to critique about Mazda’s newly redesigned CX-9.

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Segment styling can often feel derivative. That cannot be said for the new CX-9; it has character. Mazda is one of the few manufacturers that carry a cohesive design language across every model without looking like someone has hit “enlarge” on the copy machine. The bold front grille transitions into a long, raked hood. The CX-9’s sophisticated lines and swept-back shape give the Mazda a luxury-car appeal. On our Signature trim tester, the grille outline is accentuated with LED lighting. It’s also equipped with LED lighting, additional chrome body molding, and 20-inch wheels instead of the standard 18s.

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If you aren’t sold by the exterior of the CX-9, the superior interior quality will certainly win you over. The attention to detail is impeccable; each genuine rosewood trim piece and stitch of nappa leather align perfectly. Quality is held to the highest standard and it’s refreshing to see. The focus should always be on quality, not quantity. Although the CX-9 is a great family vehicle, its sophistication makes it perfect for a date night too. With 53 pounds of sound deadening material, a laminated windshield and front windows, the interior is quiet regardless of speed and road quality. The CX-9 Signature is also handsomely equipped with all types of technology. The heads-up display includes the usual basics but also blind spot monitor notifications. Instead of having to look at indicator lights on or around the mirrors, you can just look at the heads-up display. Mazda Connect is a fairly intuitive infotainment system with all the bells and whistles you come to expect. It’s integrated with Pandora, Stitcher and social media.

Unlike its competitors, the CX-9 is equipped with a four-cylinder turbo engine which produces 310 lb-ft of torque. Interestingly enough, the crossover can be fueled with 87 octane and produce 227 hp or with 93 octane which boosts output to 250 hp. Due to its size, there was some skepticism over Mazda opting for a four cylinder instead of the traditional six. However, they did their homework before making the change. The 2016 CX-9 has dropped 198 pounds and, with peak torque arriving at 2,000 rpm, doesn’t feel underpowered in the slightest. Fuel economy has significantly improved over the last generation as well. Our all-wheel-drive CX-9 is rated 21 city and 27 highway. It’s comfortable to drive with similar steering to its sibling, the CX-5 – light and precise. Behind the wheel, the CX-9 feels much smaller than it is. There’s a nimbleness that you don’t often find in large cars.

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We put the CX-9 through its paces around town, on long highway runs, and even over some soggy gravel roads. In meeting all the basic needs of a full-size crossover; comfort, capacity, efficiency, and safety, it already is a standout. It also provees to be a great value compared to its competitors; our tester just topped $45,000 while the Honda Pilot Elite comes to $47,470 and the Ford Explorer Platinum costs a whopping $54,180. But what truly impressed us was Mazda’s attention to detail. The interior quality and materials are like no other in its class. Real textures of aluminum, rosewood and nappa leather are expected in a Mercedes, not a Mazda. Combine that with the CX-9’s handling and punchy new turbocharged engine, the CX-9 leads its class. We might go so far as to call it the best new car of 2016.

-Danielle Assenheimer

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
$44,015
Machine Gray Metallic $300
Auburn Nappa Leather $0
Destination Charges $990
As Tested MSRP $45,215

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