PLUSH HOUR

Driven: Mazda’s CX-9 is a Car of the Year con­tender

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

DE­TAIL­ING

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

DE­CID­ING

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.

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