Mazda’s 2013 CX-9 AWD crossover has undergone a styling update on its exterior while the interior received a larger LCD screen display, new electronics and the addition of Pandora radio for you Internet listeners. All these plus one of the rare few crossovers that offer not only attractive styling, but outstanding handling.
The CX-9 falls into the highly contested full-size crossover market where the choices go from moderately to exorbitantly priced. The former relates to the CX-9. And it seems the only reason Mazda hasn’t sold more than they have (which is quite a few), it’s because they haven’t advertised CX-9s outstanding attributes.
Size wise, the CX-9 borders on compact to full-size since it can seat seven passengers in comfort, three of which are kids in the third row seat.
CX-9 is offered in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. We tested the Touring that comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels whereas the Sport comes with 18-inchers. With the Touring, buyers also get automatic headlights, leather, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat rearview camera, GPS nav, blind-spot monitoring, 5.8-inch touchscreen, HD radio and a bunch more niceties.
Power wise, the CX-9 comes standard with a 3.7-liter, V6 that generates 273-hp and 270 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission, dead stop acceleration is spirited and passing power adequate in that it’s still a relatively heavy vehicle. Like all crossovers, the CX-9 is also offered in FWD and AWD, the latter of which was tested.
CX-9s cabin sports a stylish and elegant look, despite the use of faux wood and brushed aluminum trim scattered throughout. The front seats are supportive with sueded seat inserts top and bottom, as are the door panels. HVAC controls are large rotary, easy to use dials and Mazda is to be applauded for resisting the trend to complicated mouse controls. My only complaint with the cockpit is that the sides of the vertical stack should be padded for many of us rest our knees against it when driving.
Second row seats are likewise comfy and supportive but don’t fold flat when flipping them. As in most crossovers, ingress/egress into the third row seats is somewhat tight with scant legroom.
With the third row seats upright, the cargo area measures 18.5 inches deep, 46.5 wide and 31.5 high. Enough for several grocery bags. Need more space? Flip both the third and second rows and depth extends to 78 inches. The second row reclines and slides fore/aft 11 inches for either more legroom or cargo space.
Incidentally, step-in is an easy 18.5 inches while cargo load height is a knee high 30.5 inches.
As for ride and handling, the CX-9 is the car you’d want for a trip to Orlando with the kids. It’s a comfy, smooth, quiet ride. We tested a Chevy Transverse the week before the CX and it rode like a minivan whereas the CX felt like a luxury sedan.
The CX-9 handles likes a compact (like Mazda’s compact CX-5) in that steering is tight and precise and parking is easy. The humps and bumps of unimproved railroad crossings are nicely dampened and absorbed by CX-9s compliant suspension system. And when taking sharp turns, the CX hugs the road with only a touch of body lean.
With a long list of standard features and amenities (like a sunroof) that most car buyers want, the CX-9’s sticker reflected only two extra cost items. A rear bumper step plate added $130 and the GT Tech package another $2,435 to the base price of $36,375. With delivery, the nicely loaded crossover bottom-lined at $39,755. That’s an attractive price for this much content and a sporty handling crossover.
In addition, the Institute for Highway Safety awarded the CX-9 “Good” ratings for frontal-offset and side impact crash and four stars for rollover.
If there’s one style item missed it’s the rectangular tailpipes on earlier models. The round ones on the 2013 look dated and don’t add any pizzazz to the rear end.
To test drive a CX-9 stop by Scott Mazda on Lehigh Street in Allentown or Young Mazda on Commerce Drive in Easton. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.