2021 Mazda CX-9 First Test Review: Twice-Baked Goodness

You’re sitting alone in a well-lit eating room. The one factor maintaining you firm is a cup of espresso and 12 empty desk settings, all of that are for you. Behind a set of double doorways tucked within the again nook is all of the banging, clattering, and chaos of a really busy bakery. “All for me?” you is likely to be questioning. Oh, sure. Behind these doorways Mazda is cooking up the 2021 CX-9, and it (just like the 11 different manufacturers which have a 3-row SUV within the oven) hopes and prays its crossover will fulfill your urge for food.

And what an urge for food it’s. In 2019 Individuals devoured greater than eight million SUVs, and each automaker has its personal method to the 3-row phase. Its personal recipe, if you’ll. Chevrolet’s Traverse is a hearty pound cake. Maybe a bit bland, however palatable, nonetheless. The Kia Telluride is a brand new tackle the Battenberg. It has flare and the flavors to back it up. The 2021 Mazda CX-9 we have here is a barely punchier tiramisu.



In our 3-row SUV Big Test last year, a 2020 CX-9 was solely adequate to safe seventh within the battle with one of the best from Honda (Pilot), Subaru (Ascent), Ford (Explorer), and 5 others. For 2021 Mazda didn’t change the recipe an excessive amount of. The Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD we now have right here will get a barely extra regal grille and recent wheels on the surface, plus a bigger 10.3-inch infotainment show, quilted Nappa leather-based, and a few extra USB ports on the within. That’s it.

The $395 Snowflake White paint on our $48,100 CX-9 tiramisu (the one optionally available further this automobile had) resembles mascarpone whereas the deep chestnut Nappa leather-based inside mimics the skinny layer of cacao powder that rests above the Kahlua-soaked woman fingers. Just as it was last year on my trip to Las Vegas, these Nappa leather-based chairs proved to be a superb place to spend time. Up entrance they’re each heated and ventilated, they usually’re splendidly mushy to the contact.

Though the first controls don’t differ from these of the 2020 CX-9, the larger 10.3-inch show is crisp and way more nice to make use of than the previous automobile’s 9.0-inch unit. For no matter motive, its scroll-wheel-only operation can also be simpler to get used to within the CX-9 than in, say, the CX-30. Perhaps that’s right down to the larger display screen or the cabin’s ergonomics, however within the CX-9 the truth that I couldn’t faucet the display screen didn’t displease in any respect. Different niceties just like the heated steering wheel, encompass view cameras, adaptive cruise management, and dual-zone local weather management bolster Mazda’s case to be seen as a near-luxury model.

However have the adjustments made the Mazda any extra delectable? In brief, no. However it’s solely as soon as you chop by way of all of its layers that you simply see the place the CX-9 units itself aside from the 11 different SUVs in its phase—and most of that’s right down to its scrumptious dealing with. Motivation comes courtesy of Mazda’s now ubiquitous turbocharged 2.5-liter I-Four that makes 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque on 87 octane. On 93 octane, energy rises to 250 hp and 320 lb-ft.

Since this automobile is mechanically similar to each different CX-9 we’ve examined since 2016, subsequent to nothing has modified when it comes to efficiency. The large 3-row nonetheless hits 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and runs by way of the quarter mile in 15.Four seconds at 90.Zero mph. All that actually means is the Chevrolet Traverse,  and Honda Pilot (each of which use a V-6 as their top-of-the-line powerplant) are faster to 60 mph and quicker by way of the quarter mile.

Transfer from the dragstrip to the skidpad, although, and issues get a complete lot tastier within the Mazda. The 4,365-pound, 16.6-foot-long CX-9 handles like one thing a lot smaller, and the numbers show it. Round our determine eight, the large 3-row managed a 27.2-second lap at a 0.62 g common. Not solely is it faster than the aforementioned Pilot, it’s really faster than the smaller Audi Q3, Acura RDX with SH-AWD, and Lincoln Corsair 2.3T—all of which have far superior weight-to-power ratios.

“Loads of energy to get the CX-9 going and surprisingly good brakes to gradual it down,” highway take a look at editor Chris Walton mentioned. “Good turn-in with delicate understeer, then regains stability on the skidpad, and really begins to rotate properly, cool! Then ESC ruins the enjoyable by grabbing a brake or taking throttle away till the steering wheel is centered. There’s much more sportiness right here than is allowed to point out …  however non-defeat ESC ruins the get together.”

Regardless of the common intervention of an undefeatable stability management system, Mazda’s largest passenger-hauler  in some way nonetheless subscribes to the model’s now long-forgotten “zoom zoom” ethos despite the fact that it’s largely lacking from the remainder of the model’s mature, virtually sedate lineup. Despite the fact that it instructions an electrically power-assisted rack, the steering wheel nonetheless tingles with treasured suggestions over busy highway surfaces and displays wonderful physique management over undulating ones. The CX-9 is much extra nimble that its dimensions would suggest, and from behind the wheel it’s each partaking and tactile in a approach no different SUV in its class is.

It may not be a “driver’s automobile” within the truest sense of the time period, however it’s the sub-$50,000 SUV for the driving force who used to personal a Golf GTI, began a household, and had to surrender the recent hatch. From behind the wheel, the CX-9 goes from merely satisfying to delicious. However like having caffeine after dinner, it’s not with out its drawbacks, and there may be one main challenge that may maintain you awake lengthy after those that opted for the poundcake or the Battenberg have known as it an evening.

The issue is portion dimension. Though the entrance of the Mazda is spacious and opulent, the identical can’t be mentioned of the third row. Any totally grown human being merely received’t match again there—and even the tiniest of tots would wrestle to seek out it snug. And the captain’s chairs that take the place of the second row’s bench on this Signature-spec mannequin, whereas heated and comparatively luxurious for its class, imply the CX-9 can actually solely seat 4.

Including to this explicit frustration is the truth that the CX-9 has is a pitiful quantity of cargo area for what is meant to be a big SUV. Behind the so-called third row, there may be solely 14.Four cubic ft of area. That’s approach down on one thing just like the Kia Telluride, which provides a minimal of 21 cubes of unoccupied air to work with. Not solely that, however the CX-9’s slim dimensions imply that stuff needs to be piled excessive within the again, and that may find yourself severely limiting rearward visibility, with no camera-view mirror possibility provided to “see by way of” the cargo.

Spatial issues are one of many causes the CX-9 solely managed seventh out of the 9 SUVs we examined final 12 months. I used to be one of many judges on that take a look at, and I fought like mad to attempt to inch it up the rankings, however alas, extra skilled heads prevailed. And you understand what? They have been proper. Consumers in search of an enormous SUV don’t desire a driver’s automobile; they need, effectively, an enormous SUV. And the CX-9’s largest flaw is that it isn’t giant sufficient to comfortably swallow six (or seven if you happen to go for a decrease trim with a bench within the center row) and their gear, too.

On the finish of the day, the Mazda CX-9 is a scrumptious SUV made with high-quality substances and a dollop of the previous Mazda we used to like. However there simply isn’t sufficient of it to go round. As such, it must be shared in smaller parts however will little doubt be loved totally by everybody who will get a chunk.

2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
BASE PRICE $47,705
VEHICLE LAYOUT Entrance-engine, AWD, 6-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.5L/227-hp/310-lb-ft* turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed computerized
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,365 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 115.Three in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 199.Four x 77.2 x 67.6 in
0-60 MPH 7.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.Four sec @ 90.Zero mph
BRAKING, 60-Zero MPH 121 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/130 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.87 lb/mile
*Unleaded common gas ranking; 93 octane ranking: 250 hp/320 lb-ft

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