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2016 Mazda CX-9 GT Review

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It isn’t very often that a large, practical SUV is capable of threatening the Lamborghini Huracan’s long-standing spot as my screensaver, but the 2016 Mazda CX-9 did just that. Almost.

While it may not be a hunkered down rear-engined sports car with scissor doors, the CX-9’s sleek design and athletic proportions is just as attractive. In a different sort of way. It is arguably Mazda’s best interpretation of the KODO design since it made its debut on the smaller CX-5.

However, style is one thing and no amount of fancy sheet metal can make up for rubbish handling.

With that in mind, let’s find out how Mazda’s first all-new CX-9 in nearly a decade fairs.

The new model is available in four grades for the first time, including the entry-level Sport, core-grade Touring, high-spec GT tested here and the range-topping Azami. All are available in front- and all-wheel drive.

Priced from $42,490 plus on-road costs, the new-generation CX-9 is $1,280 cheaper than the entry-level model of its predecessor.

Design and Comfort

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Mazda’s styling has always been one of our favourites and the CX-9 takes this one step further. Its bold proportions, careful surfacing, subtle interplay of lines and sophisticated detailing imbue the crossover with an undeniably premium good looks.

The car’s imposing stance and proud corporate grille coupled with expensive looking LED head and taillights further accentuate the car’s classy styling.

The CX-9’s cabin is a masterstroke, too, and exudes the kind of quality feel that challenges the much dearer Lexus RX; from the skilfully crafted dashboard to the expensive looking steering wheel and high-tech head-up display system.

Everything you feel and touch scream class and quality.

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There is a wide variety of well thought-out storage space to meet the needs of the modern, connected family, including four USB ports.

The leather seats are supportive and comfortable, and the driving position is spot on. The third row is large enough for children although lacking air vents.

Built on a stretched CX-5 platform, the new CX-9 is actually 31mm shorter overall than before, but has a 55mm longer wheelbase and larger door apertures.

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Its second row of seats move forward and down to ease access to the third row and is operated by a simple lever that allows children to let themselves in and out easily. The second row seat can even slide forward without the need to remove an affixed baby or child seat.

The electric tailgate on our GT test car opens up into a 230 litres boot space. When not in used, the third row tumbles down with the headrests folding neatly away to form a flat boot floor, producing 810 litres of space and a 1,282mm long load floor. This can be further expanded by folding down the second row of seats to liberate a total of 1,641 litres. The resulting space is also a practical 2,158mm long and 1,489mm wide – enough to swallow a pair of mountain bikes.

Performance and Handling

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At the heart of the all-new CX-9 is Mazda’s innovative SkyActiv suite of technology. It is an all-encompassing label applied to fuel and weight-saving improvements made to everything from the power and drivetrain to the body and chassis.

As a result, the CX-9 is up to 130kg lighter than its predecessor yet is stiffer and more rigid. The thirsty 3.7-litre V6 has also been ditched in favour of the first application of Mazda’s turbocharged SkyActiv 2.5-litre four-cylinder direct injected petrol engine.

It delivers 170kW at 5,000rpm and a generous 420Nm at 2,000rpm – 34kW down on the old V6, but has 53Nm more torque that is accessible from a lower rpm.

The new engine is a smooth and responsive unit, delivering its muscles with hardly any turbo lag and a good dose of sporty induction noise. It is also supremely quiet, even on the outside, and together with an overall improvement in sound deadening; the CX-9 has a newfound level of refinement not seen before in a Mazda.

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The powertrain is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, driving the front-wheels in our test car. It is smooth shifting and delivers its ratios with near twin-clutch level of efficiency. Drivers can also take over full control via the steering wheel-mounted paddles that obey their commands with crisp precision.

The CX-9’s suspension is similar in concept to the layout employed in the Mazda6 and CX-5. It is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back.

It feels agile for a big car and has decent body control. There is minor body roll as expected due to its higher centre of gravity and grip from the handsome 20-inch alloys wrapped in 255/50 R20 tyres is adequate. We would shell out $4,000 for the all-wheel drive for better road holding and to banish the mild torque steer, if budget permits.

The car’s CX-5 derived electric power steering is well weighted and accurate, although a tad dull on centre. The massive brakes have a good feel to them and is nicely progressive.

Quality

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The new CX-9 feels and looks solid. There is good heft to the doors and most switchgear has a robust and quality feel to them.

Fit and finish is also excellent and we found no annoying squeaks or rattles in the vast cabin.

Most contact points are suitably crafted in soft touch plastics, while our GT also gets classy leather stitching on the centre console. 

Economy

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Mazda says the front-wheel drive CX-9 is capable of returning 8.4L/100km of unleaded.

In the real world however, this translates to 10.5L/100km of approximately 70 per cent urban commute and 30 per cent freeway driving; a still respectable figure for a car weighing nearly two tonnes excluding any cargo.

Features and Equipment

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The new CX-9 is generously equipped, especially for our GT.

There is three-zone climate control, one touch up and down power windows, rear door window sunshades, leather-wrapped, power adjustable and heated front seats with 2-positions memory for the driver, powered tailgate, 8-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation, DAB+, Bluetooth and internet radio integration, a 294W, 12 speakers Bose sound system and head-up display.

On the safety front, 6 airbags, Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM), keyless entry and push-button start, ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Traction Control System (TCS), Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Reverse Camera, Roll Stability Control (RSC) and Smart City Brake Support – forward and reverse (SCBS) are all standard.

One notable omission however, is the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which are becoming increasingly common in most vehicles.

2016 Mazda CX-9 full specification here.

Verdict 

Design and Comfort: 9.0/10

Performance and Handling: 8.5/10

Quality: 9.0/10 

Economy: 8.0/10

Features and Equipment: 8.0/10

Our Score: 4.3/5

The 2016 CX-9 is a premium vehicle at down-to-earth pricing.

While it is no Lamborghini Huracan, it is one of the sportiest full-sized SUVs on the market today and is infinitely more practical than most Lamborghinis.

Its premium good looks, newfound refinement, generous equipment and all round comfort and practicality should earn its place on any buyer’s shortlist.

Watch out Lexus. And Volvo. And Audi.

Pros:

  • Premium-level of looks and quality
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Agile handling
  • Sweet and responsive new turbocharged engine
  • Excellent built quality

Cons:

  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

2016 Mazda CX-9 pricing and specification

Pricing (Excluding on-road costs): From $42,490

Sport: $42,490

Touring: $48,890

GT: $57,390 / As tested: $57,390

Azami: $63,390

Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres
Warranty Customer Assistance: N/A
Country of Origin: Japan
Service Intervals: 12 months/10,000km
Engine: 2.5-litre turbo in-line 4 cylinder direct-injected petrol with i-stop and i-ELOOP:

170kW @ 5,000rpm, 420Nm @ 2,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (optional)
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg) (FWD/AWD): 94.4 / 91.2
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km): FWD – Claimed: 8.4 / Tested: 10.5

AWD – Claimed: 8.8

RON Rating: 91 or E10
Fuel Capacity (L): FWD: 72

AWD: 74

Safety: 5-star ANCAP, 6 airbags, daytime running lamps, front fog-lamps (LED), auto LED headlamps, Active Driving Display, ABS, DSC, EBD, EBA, ESS, HLA, ISOFIX, RCTA, RSC, ABSM, SCBS TCS, TSA Reverse Camera, parking sensors
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm: 5,075 / 1,969 / 1,747 / 2,930
Ground Clearance (mm): Laden: 220 / Unladen: 222
Kerb Weight (kg): 1,845 – 1,924
Towing Capacity (kg): Braked: 2,000 / Unbraked: 750
Entertainment: 8-inch MZD Connect touch screen (7-inch on Sport) with satellite navigation, AM/FM tuner/ AUX, Bluetooth, DAB+ (GT and Azami only), internet radio, USB

Competitors: Holden Captiva, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota Kluger, Volkswagen Touareg

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