2007 Mazda CX-9, Grand TouringPosted on August 25th, 2007
Mazda’s long-wheelbase crossover vehicle seats seven and is bicycle-friendly.
By Nina Russin
The CX-9 is Mazda’s seven-passenger crossover: it straddles the murky waters between sport-utility vehicles and minivans. To me, the CX-9 seems more like a minivan. It’s front-wheel drive, has a unit-body construction, and drives like a passenger car.
Styling is more like a minivan as well: perhaps a little sportier. The rear spoiler, high beltline, and narrow greenhouse give the car a muscular, planted look.
It also has some accoutrements that many minivans don’t have, such as available all-wheel drive. The Grand Touring model (tested) comes with an optional navigation system that includes a rearview backup camera. It also has a power rear lift-gate: a godsend when carrying loads of heavy cargo to and from the vehicle.
Mudguards are available as an option, but the CX-9 is not a car to take far off the beaten path. The 113-inch wheelbase is too long for serious off-road driving, and there isn’t enough ground clearance. Approach and departure angles of 17 and 21-inches respectively aren’t high enough for the CX-9 to move over extremely uneven terrain. Large boulders or roots in the road would also be a problem.
The CX-9 has a different powertrain than Mazda’s five-passenger crossover: the CX-7. The CX-9’s standard 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 263 horsepower and 249 lbs.-ft. of torque: about 20 horsepower more than the four-cylinder engine in the CX-7. Despite a relatively high curb weight of 4300 pounds, the CX-9 has enough power to accelerate hard from a stop, and pass other cars on the freeway.
Does it zoom?
Mazda’s reputation is based on sporty performance across its vehicle line; what the manufacturer calls “zoom-zoom.” While the CX-9 doesn’t suffer from lack of power, it’s too big and heavy to have the light, nimble feel of a sports car.
The car’s best attribute is its balance. The front-wheel drive test car doesn’t feel nose-heavy, as many such vehicles do. Perhaps that’s because the aluminum engine block keeps weight on the front end to a minimum. Nor does the car push in corners, or dive hard during braking. The average person can drive the CX-9 hard and make the occasional emergency maneuver, confident that he will be in complete control.
Twenty-inch aluminum wheels, standard on the Grand Touring model, produce a large footprint, and keep the vehicle stable. I noticed very little roll on decreasing radius turns. A fully independent suspension smoothes out bumps in the road: stabilizer bars are standard front and rear. Engineers maximized torsional stiffness throughout the unit body for better steering response and a good on-center feel. Four-channel antilock brakes are standard on all models.
The car’s long wheelbase translates to a larger interior, and more legroom for people in back. A lever on the second-row seatbacks releases the seats so they can move forward, making it easier for passengers to climb into the third row. The second-row seats also recline, and have separate climate controls. Head and legroom in the third row isn’t as generous as the second row, but kids and smaller adults shouldn’t have a problem.
All three rows of seating get overhead reading lamps and power points. There are two, 12-volt points up front: in a bin in the center console, and on the center stack. A 115-volt inverter on the C-pillar allows rear passengers to plug in a computer or other electronic devices. There is also a 12-volt outlet in the cargo area, to the right of the liftgate.
There isn’t much room for cargo behind the third-row seat: enough for some groceries, small boxes or duffle bags. But the seats are exceptionally easy to fold flat, by pulling on straps on the seatbacks. Bikes with the front wheels removed can fit in with the second-row seats in place.
The second-row seats also fold flat without removing the seat cushions or headrests, producing an even longer cargo floor. There are tie-down hooks to either side of the cargo floor for securing larger items. There is also storage under the cargo floor behind the car jack.
Map pockets in all four doors hold paperwork. The front two doors have molded bottle holders. The cupholders in the center console are large enough for big drinks or water bottles. There’s also a nice storage shelf behind the gated shifter, which is big enough for a cell phone or PDA.
A power driver’s seat on the test car has three memory settings: a nice feature if two or more drivers are sharing the car. A tilt and telescoping steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag. The steering wheel has cruise control settings and redundant audio controls.
The front passenger seat also has power adjustments, and both front seats are heated. Dual temperature controls ensure that both front passengers ride comfortably.
Keyless ignition is standard on the touring model (tested). In this case, the key is a credit card-like device that fits nicely inside a wallet. The driver turns the ignition switch to the “on” position, similar to a traditional system, but without inserting a key.
An optional Bose stereo system comes with an in-dash 6-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio. The 5.1 surround sound produces excellent sound throughout the car. A MP3 jack in the center console bin allows passengers to download their own music libraries. The audio system is Bluetooth compatible.
A rearview camera displays a wide-angle view in back of the car on the front navigation screen. It eliminates blind spots around the D pillars and below the rear window, making parallel parking and backing into smaller parking spots easier. The same option package comes with the power liftgate that operates by depressing a button the key fob.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags that protect all three rows of passengers. Antilock brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system, roll stability and traction control are also standard. The test car has side mirror markers and rain sensing wipers.
Pricing for the front-wheel drive CX-9 begins at $29,035; $30,235 for the all-wheel drive model. The Grand Touring front-wheel drive model begins at $32,675. An available towing package ($450) boosts the car’s towing capacity to 3500 pounds: our ALV minimum standard. Buyers can also add a factory roof rack for $250.
The CX-9 is on display at Mazda dealerships nationwide.
Likes: Very spacious interior with a lot of head and legroom, especially in the second row. Despite its size, the CX-9 is a well-balanced car, with better-than average performance at speed.
Dislikes: The car’s base price of $29,035 puts it out of range for many potential customers. The five-seat CX-7 is a much more affordable option.
Base price: $32,675
Price as tested: $38,760
Horsepower: 263 Hp @ 6250 r.p.m.
Torque: 249 Lbs.-ft. @ 4500 r.p.m.
0 to 60: N/A
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: No
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/24 m.p.g. city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $595 destination charge.
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