|The Mazda CX-9 is a sleek, almost svelte-looking vehicle. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
I realize that as of late I have very few bad things to say about Mazda, and there has to be a reason for that; oh right, because they design cars that aren't just appealing to the eye but get the job done, too. They engineer their cars with a purpose in mind (something I think several manufacturers tend to ignore), and it shows. Case in point: the 2011 Mazda CX-9 GT.
Let's get the “practical” stuff out of the way first. Yes, this cute 'ute sports room for 7 passengers. And that would be 7 fully-grown, adult passengers (yes, we tested that). The rear-most row is almost too easy to fold up and down, and with both second the third rows up, cargo space in the trunk is still 487L. Top it off with the fact that this people-packer sports AWD and you've got it all.
But how does it look, you ask? It seats seven, you think, so it must be horribly disfigured in the back; bulbous, boxy, big, blah. But, you'd be wrong. The Mazda CX-9 is a sleek, almost svelte-looking vehicle that hides its third row option quite nicely in a back end that's perfectly proportioned to the rest of its body. A subtle wing juts off the roof in the back over the rear window, and the rectangle dual exhaust pipes mimic the shape of the rear taillights, giving the CX-9 a uniform look that's sure to please.
In the front, the Mazda CX-9 carries the Mazda grin with a kind of sophisticated demeanour, keeping the smile to a minimum thanks to its size. Slim, angular headlights keep the sporty look, and almost imperceptible ridges on the hood, again, allude to the CX-9's speedy nature. With a sporty stance that sees the rear sitting slightly higher than the front, the CX-9 casts the illusion that this kid-carter is actually quite quick on its wheels continues.
Sit behind the wheel of the CX-9, and that speedy illusion suddenly becomes a reality. Before I talk about the fabulously modern and stylish interior design, let's talk driving dynamics and engine specs for a moment. Mazda has proven with the CX-9 that an SUV doesn't have to be drab and dry, and can actually offer a great driving experience when the time is right.
|In the front, the Mazda CX-9 carries the Mazda grin with a kind of sophisticated demeanour, keeping the smile to a minimum thanks to its size. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
Outfitted with a 3.7L V6, the CX-9 pushes out 273 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Add to that the 6-speed automatic transmission with a responsive, quick sport shift mode and you've got an SUV that drives very much like a car when asked to.
|Outfitted with a 3.7L V6, the CX-9 pushes out 273 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
Taking it on twisty, uneven roads is a breeze, even at speed. The Mazda CX-9 handles itself very well when pushed. Body roll is minimal and the CX-9 manages to feel light on its wheels, despite the 2,062-kg (4,546-lb) curb weight of the AWD version. This SUV is no lightweight, and yet I never felt like I was lugging around that extra heft on the road.
Braking on the CX-9 is stable and enhanced by Mazda's advanced Roll Stability Control (RSC), a plus for anyone who has qualms about top-heavy rollovers while driving larger vehicles. The RSC system monitors the body-roll rate and wheel speed sensors to take corrective measures when necessary to keep you upright on the road at all times.
Should you run into a spot of trouble (read: misjudge that corner and come in too hot), the CX-9 will apply a bit of momentary torque reduction combined with an automatic brake application to keep you out of the ditch and your Mazda right-side-up on the road.
The interior of the 2011 Mazda CX-9 is, perhaps, my favourite part about this vehicle. The beige leather seats with light grey inserts coupled with the beige wood trim and chrome dash give the CX-9 a sophisticated and luxurious interior feel often reserved for the more opulent brands on the road today. The middle console, sporting a touch screen and easy-to-navigate buttons and knobs, is straightforward and cleanly designed. Again, this is something I've come to expect from Mazda.
The bells and whistles are there, but they aren't deafening you in the process. On my GT model, I had all the gadgets: blind-spot monitoring system, back-up camera, BOSE audio system, and even a rear entertainment packaged with a drop-down screen to keep the kiddies in check on long trips.
With a price tag of just under $50,000 (as tested), some might say the Mazda CX-9 is a bit too pricey for what it is. After all, it's just a Mazda. At first, I was inclined to think the same thing.
|The middle console, sporting a touch screen and easy-to-navigate buttons and knobs, is straightforward and cleanly designed. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
But then I got behind the wheel for a week and lived with the CX-9 on both city and rough, dirt, country roads. I loaded it with groceries and grown men (not at the same time though), and even took it on long highway jaunts. I filled it up at the pumps (after seeing an average fuel consumption rate of 12 L/100 km), and I even used it as a stylish taxi for a bachelorette party, as somehow I always end up being the designated driver…
|With a price tag of just under $50,000 (as tested), some might say the Mazda CX-9 is a bit too pricey for what it is. After all, it's just a Mazda. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour/Auto123.com)|
And in all cases, the CX-9 performed fantastically and I got to thinking that if I was ever in need of a larger vehicle with that much room, the Mazda CX-9 would definitely be in my top 3 list of contenders for the spot.