When Mazda designers put pen to paper and rendered the CX-9 Mazda flagship SUV – they kept in mind company “Soul of a Sports Car” philosophy. The result is one of the nicest SUV packages I’ve driven in the price range, with road manners befitting a nimble sports sedan.
Deftly blending a sporty driving spirit with 7-passenger mid-size SUV practicality is a challenge the CX-9 achieves, a natural and fun expression of “Zoom Zoom.”
Designed to evoke an emotional connection, a pride in ownership, CX-9 achieves the sophisticated appearance of a vehicle costing at least twice as much. Its smooth, flowing silhouette and prominent wheels and tires fixed into muscular fenders create a dramatic-but-refined look. With an elegantly sculpted sporty five-point grille and wide, bold bumper, the CX-9 is unmistakably Mazda.
Once inside, you are greeted by a neatly organized combination of cylindrical shapes and blacked-out instruments on Mazda’s familial T-shaped instrument panel design. Brightly-edged gauges and indirect blue illumination set a mood of calm and cool. Indirect lighting also is embedded in the ceiling for a warm glow. Riding on a 113.2-inch wheelbase, the CX-9 is one of the longer vehicles in the segment, offering easy access to its three rows of comfortable seating.
The 2012 CX-9 is powered by a 3.7-liter V-6 engine, which makes even the most complex pursuits as easy and as pleasurable as possible. Its power peak of 273-hp at 6,250 rpm offers impressive acceleration and passing performance. Gearbox is the Aisin-made 6-speed Sport AT automatic with a manual mode. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel-drive available.
The 2012 CX-9 is offered in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All models include air conditioning with pollen filter, three-zone automatic climate control, anti-pinch power windows with one-touch up/down operation for front windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry with retractable key, a trip computer, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, Bluetooth hands-free audio and phone connectivity and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The Sport model is equipped with 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and adds 8-way power-adjustable driver seat with manual lumbar support, heated front cloth seats and heated outside mirrors are available as an optional package. Stepping up to the Touring model adds leather seat trim, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support, a power front passenger seat and auto off headlights.
The top-of-the-line Grand Touring (tested) rolls on 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and adds bright exterior door handles, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an anti-theft alarm system, exterior mirrors with turn indicators, a three-position memory driver’s seat, Blind Spot Monitoring system, HomeLink, auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless entry and starter, wood-patterned interior trim, indirect blue interior lighting and a silver finish for the side surfaces of the rear console.
Pricing starts at $29,725 and up. Our test model (nicely equipped Grand Touring) had a price tag of $38,760. Fuel economy ranges from 16-mpg to 24-mpg depending on model, driving habits and conditions. Included is a 3-year 36,000-mile warranty, covering every part except those subject to normal wear, a 5-year 60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Rivals include Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse.
In other automotive news:
Disneyland has set the opening of Cars Land at Disney California Adventure for June 15, according to Tom Skaggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Disney has long connected with the car culture, ranging in ways from the vintage cars and busses on Main Street Disneyland, to Autopia, to the Cars film and attractions franchise.
Automotive writer Patrick C. Paternie passed away Saturday, March 10 in Southern California. A prolific writer and AutoWeek contributor, he also enjoyed vintage racing in his 1968 Porsche 911. He died of a heart attack following a vintage racing event at Willow Springs, CA. A private family service will be held soon, followed in a couple weeks by a public celebration of life to include his racing and journalism friends.