Text and photos by Donny Halliwell
When I last wrote about Mazda’s full-size SUV, it was after a 5000km road trip and I was impressed by its capabilities as a comfortable, well-appointed family mobile. That was in the outgoing model. In the year since then virtually everything about the CX-9 has changed, for the better, leaving Mazda with a runaway hit for the segment.
During my week with the all-new redesigned Mazda CX-9 I did everything I could to put it through the ringer. I braved the airport to pick up family with their copious amount of luggage in tow, I tackled a two-hour plus Waterloo-Downtown Toronto commute, and I completed countless mundane tasks and errands. Driving the CX-9 was a silver lining on even the most routine outings. You know the Snapchat filter that removes your imperfections and adds an angelic glow? That’s how life with the CX-9 felt.
A friend said something that very-accurately describes what a fantastic vehicle Mazda has created. “I wasn’t even in the market for a new car, but after seeing this, I want a CX-9.” They went to the dealership that day, and are now proud owners.
Bold new look and feel
The bold new look and class-leading interior has a noticeable impact on people. It’s clear that Mazda is aiming up market with this vehicle and they succeed in providing a truly premium design and feel. In the CX-9 you get those “all eyes on me” moments, which is a sense that I don’t get in similar vehicles from Honda or Toyota. It’s something special and it’s all in the details.
The aggressively angled lines leading from the bullnose grill are certainly unique and these design elements help to give the exterior a poised but elegant look. Based on the reactions of those I showed the vehicle to, one would think I pulled up in something a lot pricier and a lot more German. The pictures I managed to capture speak for themselves, but I can say in no uncertain terms, this is about as gorgeous as a three-row SUV gets.
Premium interior with class-leading technology
The striking appearance carries through the interior. Opt for the signature package and you get leather and high-touch finishes throughout. The tech-interface is very strong, simple to use and driver-focused. A heads up display provides the driver with a customizable data set including navigation so eyes can stay glued to the road, which is always key. For those comfortable enough, the optional adaptive cruise control system is a very nice feature.
Simply set the distance from lead vehicle with the max speed and the Mazda CX-9 will keep pace with traffic, taking over acceleration and braking duties above 30km/h. The driver is alerted within ample time of Emergency Braking situations and is quickly prompted to take over, though the vehicle does a fantastic job of initiating a slow-down. This add-on is a must for those spending any time in traffic.
There are a ton of other bells, whistles and tech features available here including lane departure warning, backup cam, blind spot monitoring, and a very capable surround sound system. The Mazda CX-9 is a glimpse into the near future, and the future is an exciting one for drivers.
As a company, Mazda is for drivers and enthusiasts. If you need proof look no further than the fact that the newly refreshed Mazda6 midsized sedan can still be equipped with a manual transmission or the mere existence of the MX-5.
The emphasis on the driver is not lost on the CX-9. It is firmly planted and ready to carve up the boulevards, onramps and cottage roads that it will certainly call home. The engine gets up to speed quickly and the passing power that I gushed about in my review of the previous generation is even better in this model. I am convinced you will not find a better driving SUV with three rows this side of the premium market.
The SUV market is saturated with choice. This is a fantastic time to be a buyer, because manufacturers are focused on making options to suit virtually any need. The entire Mazda CX line is a perfect example with size and variety to satisfy anyone. As the marquee vehicle in that line, the CX-9 sets the bar high not only for Mazda, but for the entire industry. It’s no doubt that it has been awarded SUV of the year by a number of publications. This iteration of the Mazda CX-9 is the benchmark by which the segment should be measured.