2012 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD: The Evolution Continues

2012 Mazda CX-9 GT

Mazda’s CX-9 was first introduced in 2007, and regardless of what category one chooses to place it in, it was recognized as one of the best SUV / Crossover / Minivan / Station Wagons in its class. Mazda incidentally, categorizes the CX-9 as a 7-passenger, 3-row crossover SUV.

The Japanese company’s addition to the crossover category actually differs from the majority of its competitors — in that it displays a level of styling that is not only distinctive, but purposeful as well. In terms of its functionality and versatility, it is not unlike many other crossover segment entries. The real difference comes from its roots or DNA — beneath its appealing exterior skin, lies what the Mazda folks like to refer to as the” soul of a sports car”. It is certainly appropriate to refer to the CX-9 as a “Zoom-Zoom vehicle with More Room” just as its smaller stable-mate, the CX-7 was tagged as “Zoom-Zoom with Room.”

The CX-9 was engineered with Mazda’s “Soul of a Sports Car” philosophy, combining a sporty driving spirit with SUV versatility and functionality. For 2010, the CX-9 continued with its high level of performance delivered by the standard 3.7-liter DOHC V6 engine, which generates 273 horsepower along with 270 pound feet of torque. The engine connects to a 6-speed Sport automatic transmission with Sport Shift, which allows for either totally automatic or manual gear changes to be made by the driver.

The design concept conveys a sense of dynamic movement, even when at a standstill. The profile exhibits an aggressively rising belt line, topped by a boldly curved roof structure. The tapered greenhouse of the CX-9 sports blacked-out “B” and “C” pillars that are outlined by a bright surround, offering the visual impression of a singular glass area. The front fenders are pronounced, and flank the sculpted hood, which holds court over the new grille residing in a highly sloped nose. The windshield is sharply raked as well, adding to the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the CX-9. The large, bright dual exhaust outlets hint suggestively at the vehicle’s performance prowess.

For the 2012 model year, the CX-9 continues to be offered in the same three levels of trim as its smaller CX-7 sibling: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. All models are available in either FWD or with Mazda’s Active Torque-Split AWD configuration. Stopping power is provided by four-wheel vented disc brakes with 4-sensor, 4-channel ABS, DSC, and EBD. This year’s CX-9 gains new 20-inch performance tires mounted on stylized multi-spoke wheels, along with improved fuel economy.

The interior serves up a sporty feel, with a two-tone trim featuring accent stripes bordering each seat cushion. Switchgear and controls are well thought out for optimum ease of use, while gauges are ideally placed and legible. Storage capacity is plentiful, with the center console able to stash a compact laptop.

The CX-9’s exterior featured new upper and lower front end styling last year, with new headlamps, tail lights and fog lights, along with a new outside mirror design. The interior design was also new including: GT wood and silver decoration; a new steering wheel design; chrome plating on high touch areas; a center console lid; leather seats for Touring and GT models; cloth seating for Sport models; new rear HVAC controls; active headrests are added to all trim levels; and Hi/Low adjustment heated seat controls.

Packages and options include: a multi-information display and back up camera available with Moonroof and Bose Audio Package with Sirius; Trailer tow prep comes standard on Navi equipped FWD models; Hitch receiver and cover available as Port or Dealer installed options; Power Lift Gate Package available (includes Mazda Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System and Power Open/Close rear door); Grand Touring Power Lift Gate Package available (Power Open/Close rear door); Navigation Package available on GT (includes 7″ voice activated touch screen DVD based Navigation system).

Also continuing for the 2012 model year is an available Blind Spot Monitoring system, which helps to see and prevent the unexpected, available on Grand Touring models. The Trip Computer remains as standard fare on all trim levels. Essentially, even though the CX-7 and CX-9 look very much alike, the CX-9 obviously delivers more in every respect — it is longer, taller and comes with a bigger engine, and costs more. FWD is standard, with an Active Torque-Split AWD system optionally available.

My test 2012 CX-9 was a Grand Touring model with AWD finished outside in Stormy Blue Mica (metallic), and inside in Black, with charcoal accents and wood-like trim accents. The base price was set at $34,785, with the price as tested totaling $40,850 after adding the rear bumper step plate, power open/close lift gate, RDS based navigation with real time traffic, rear entertainment system, and Bose audio with Centerpoint surround.

Despite its visual similarities, the Mazda CX-9 is not simply an extended, three row version of the CX-7 — it is actually based upon the modified underpinnings of the Ford Edge, with some componentry borrowed from the Mazda6 as well. Handling attributes deliver a surprisingly agile feel, reflective of its “Zoom, Zoom” sports car heritage. Even the ride quality provides a firm enough damping quality to be ranked with many sports cars. In overall terms, the CX-9 has a higher mission statement than smoking the tires off the line — it is intended for use as a stylish, roomy and comfortable transportation pod for a family and gear to support their activities.

Given its attractiveness, value and equipment content, price point, power output and serviceability for both passengers and cargo, the 2012 CX-9 continues as one of the top contenders to compete on the Crossover SUV playing field, with several grades and equipment and feature choices offered to suit individual budgets and requirements.

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