Toronto Star

Mazda has high hopes for CX-9

- STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT

LOS ANGELES— Mazda chose Los Angeles as the venue for unveiling its newest CX-9, a logical move given that the company expects its flagship threerow crossover to tally 80 per cent of its sales here in North America. The second-generation CX-9 boasts a wide swath of updates both inside and out, but the most important details are the least evident and hardest to quantify on paper.

On the exterior, a more aggressive grille with a confident, forward-leaning stance leads to an active upper body that sits on a planted base. The show car is painted in machine grey, a quadruple-layered finish that Mazda calls its new signature colour. (This is a refreshing developmen­t, as not everyone was certain that Mazda still makes cars in colours other than red.) The inside revolves around the luxury tactile experience with finishes laid out in hand-shaped aluminum, open-pore rosewood and highqualit­y leather.

But the most important aspect of the new CX-9 is the simultaneo­us reveal of Mazda’s new 2.5-L turbocharg­ed inline four-cylinder SkyActiv engine, which replaces the very thirsty 3.7-L V6. Though some enthusiast­s will mourn the demise of yet another naturally aspirated engine, they’ll have no choice but to welcome the new one with open arms if it can deliver on its promises.

Mazda says it performed extensive studies on how SUV owners typically operate their vehicles and tuned the new engine to meet the everyday needs of the driver.

Peak torque of 420 Nm is reached at just 2,000 RPM, which doesn’t necessaril­y look great when comparing spec sheets side-by-side but can be expected to make a remarkable difference in real-world performanc­e.

The new engine is also said to herald a 20-per-cent improvemen­t in fuel economy over the outgoing powerplant, thanks to a 100-kilogram overall loss in vehicle weight, lower mechanical friction due to smaller engine size, and a cooled exhaust gas recirculat­ion system that dramatical­ly reduces the need for fuel enrichment.

For the non-car-geeks, all of that boils down to this: the new engine is said to use less fuel overall but give a smoother ride and more power in a rev range where you can actually use it, which is an overwhelmi­ngly good thing if it works.

The new CX-9 is expected to arrive in the United States this spring. While nothing official has been announced for Canada as of yet, our launch is likely to coincide with that of the U.S. either immediatel­y or shortly afterward.

No pricing hints have been given, though the 2015 CX-9 started at $33,995 in Canada and went north of $48,000. The new model has more in the way of up-market finishes, but Mazda won’t want to stray too far from that pricing structure to remain competitiv­e. Freelance writer Stephanie Wallcraft is a regular contributo­r to Toronto Star Wheels. For this story, her expenses were paid by Mazda. To reach her, email wheels@thestar.ca and put her name in the subject line.

 ?? STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT FOR THE TORONTO STAR ?? Mazda unveiled the CX-9 in machine grey, its new signature colour that takes four layers of paint to produce.
STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT FOR THE TORONTO STAR Mazda unveiled the CX-9 in machine grey, its new signature colour that takes four layers of paint to produce.

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