Driven: Mazda’s CX-9 is a Car of the Year contender
MAZDA has waved a magic wand over its big seven seater and the result is a stunning transformation.
It looks classy inside and out, it drives so much better and the refinement is remarkable.
The CX-9 can be genuinely cross-shopped against the best SUVs from luxury makers Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz.
Westco Mazda staff say owners are trading in the old model and buying the new one without even test driving. But I would recommend a drive to appreciate how good it is.
Mazda has a lot of ground to make up with sales of the model down 44 per cent year to date, although since the latest arrived in showrooms, sales were up nearly 50 per cent in July.
The second-generation CX-9 has been fully redesigned. It’s 5075mm end-to-end, 1969mm across and 1747mm high, 31mm shorter, 33mm wider and 19mm taller. It’s shorter overall but the new model’s wheelbase is 55mm longer at 2930mm.
The bonnet and front guards – made of aluminium, plus the new four cylinder – have helped drop the weight of the CX-9 by about 100kg to 1924kg.
The 2016 CX-9 is less curvaceous than before, but it’s stunning with its paper creasesharp lines, the long, broad bonnet and a dramatic grille.
The rear has stylish and sleeker taillights with a smaller rear window.
Inside is conservative but classy. The sloping dashboard is a nice touch with a great centre computer screen, superb instrumentation and a well thought out centre console.
Fit and finish are excellent from the leather-stitched steering wheel to the door trim plastics and leatherupholstered seats but an annoying buzz emanated from the front passenger seat side of the review vehicle.
Upfront legroom has been increased for a spacious cockpit with all touch points from the armrests to the seats feeling comfortable.
The seats are leather, storage is great all through the cabin with a large centre console bin under the centre armrest, a deep hidey-hole under the dash in front of the gear lever and a box for books and tablets (with two USB ports) in the fold-down armrest in the second row.
There are two cupholders in the front centre console and two in the second row armrest, while the third row has a cupholder for each seat.
All doors have bottle holders big enough to fit a 1.25-litre.
The review car was the $61,976 front-wheel-drive GT with machine gun grey premium paint.
Four-wheel-drive is $4000 extra and could be worthy if you use dirt and gravel roads or are a frequent user of our range roads, which can be slippery in the wet.
The CX-9 range kicks off with the $46,370 front-wheeldrive Sport, which includes three-zone climate control with a digital display in the second row, sat nav, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED headlights and keyless start.
The GT adds an eight-inch screen, black leather seats, a centre armrest in the second row with storage and two USB ports, heated and power adjustable front seats, auto headlights and wipers and LED foglights, black leather trim, 20in alloys, advanced keyless entry, a remotely controlled operated power tailgate, front parking sensors, a windscreen heads up display and digital radio.
The previous CX-9’s thirsty 3.7-litre V6 has gone, replaced by a fuel-efficient 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, which makes more torque at 420Nm and 30kW less power at 170kW. A sixspeed torque converter automatic is the only transmission.
The previous CX-9 consumed an optimistic 11L/100km according to Mazda. The new engine on 91 RON is rated at 8.8L/100km.
That’s optimistic too but I achieved 10.9 over 430km, a mixture of suburban, city and highway driving.
The CX-9 is a large SUV but doesn’t feel that big to drive most of the time. It only felt larger when in parking situations.
The steering is light, the reversing camera very useful and there’s the hill hold function which stops you rolling back.
The engine is smooth with good punch for overtaking.
While handling is not a priority for SUV drivers the CX-9 is impressively dynamic, tackling the Kuranda Range easily with little body roll or understeer.
The ride is outstanding with the type of comfort and control delivered by a suspension expected from high-end European SUVs.
Matching this refinement is a serenely quiet cabin thanks to better insulation material on the floor, thicker glass and seals.
Road noise on all Mazdas has been a major flaw for many years but it is all but gone in the 9.
On the safety front the CX-9 has scored the maximum fivestar ANCAP rating.
The CX-9 is Mazda’s best passenger vehicle and arguably the best SUV in its sector and will even give the luxury European brands a fright too.
It ticks all the boxes from styling and presentation inside and out, practicality, value, safety and driveability.
Best of all is its refinement with low levels of road, wind and engine noise.
The CX-9 must be considered by buyers of large SUVs.
I am tipping the car will come close to, if not, win
Carsguide and other car of the year awards. So far it’s up against Audi A4, BMW M2, Ford Mustang, Honda Civic and Kia Sportage.
CLASS LEADER: The Mazda CX-9 SUV is priced from $46,370 drive away in Cairns.