I’ll start this review with an admitted bias: I love products from Mazda. The Japanese company as always bucked the Honda/Toyota “safe” trend, by coming out with vehicles that are edgy and technologically savvy. Consider the RX-8. It utilizes the only mass production application of the latest Wankel Rotary Engine, and sports a cult following worldwide. Also consider the Miata MX-5, perhaps the world’s most widely raced production vehicle. I’ve always longed to drive this pure sports convertible, but at 6’9”, I simply do not fit.
For 2012, Mazda has wisely left their premium SUV, the CX-9, alone. That means those who plunk down hard earned cash will be rewarded with a super stylish people and gear hauler, that also doubles as a fun-to-drive tall sportscar.
Power for the CX-9 comes from Mazda’s proven 3.7-liter V6 that makes 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It moves smartly off the line in stoplight acceleration, and powers quickly from 50-70 mph for highway lane change maneuvers. Motive force is channeled through a six-speed sport automatic transmission, and tires are controlled through active-split All-Wheel Drive (AWD). My AWD tester came standard with stylish 20-inch wheels. Handling is safe, predictable, and sure-footed no matter the weather. If you live in heavy snow areas, get a good set of winter snow tires are you are set. Think Billy Goat on the side of a mountain.
Inside is a pleasant mix of sport and luxury that’s also a defining hallmark of the brand. Leather trimmed seats provide bun comfort. The multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel houses controls for Bluetooth hands free calling, audio selection, audio volume and cruise control. Through the wheel is a four gauge cluster with speedometer and tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel gauges. At night, the cluster is bathed in reddish orange lighting with blue accents. It’s quite impressive. Move over to the center console, and you’ll find a nice blend of faux wood and aluminum with piano black accents. Sounds busy but it works quite well.
At the top of the center console is a small horizontal readout for climate, time and audio selections. Just below are HVAC vents, and just below that are either controls for CD, SIRIUS/XM Satellite Radio, and terrestrial AM/FM radio, or the optional ($1,665) navigation system with real-time traffic updates that is intuitive to use (my tester was outfitted with this option) and spot on accurate. I purposely tried to confuse it but it always got me back on course quickly. Just below the nav screen were buttons for heated seats and defrost controls.
A center armrest provide requisite storage areas and of course, cup holders big enough for your American sized drink from 7-Eleven.
Rear seat passengers also get a good deal, with available rear DVD entertainment system. The CX-9 is a true seven seater, with adequate accommodations for third –row passengers of reasonable size.
Most Japanese automakers now have a high level of safety built into their cars, but I consider Mazda the “Volvo” of the bunch, as it instilled safety features into its vehicles long before it was a sales tool.
The CX-9 is built with “Triple H” body construction. Triple H construction gives superb strength to the 9’s unit body. Unit body construction supports structural loads by using an object’s exterior. Mazda also adds higher strength Boron steels in locations of high stress to increase strength and rigidity without adding weight. To compliment Triple H, the B-pillars are made of high-tensile steel. The side sills and B-pillars have large cross-sections for extra strength and reinforcements were put in below the B and C-pillars to strengthen their joints to the side sills.
Advanced front, front side, and side curtain airbags protect in severe crashes. Dynamic stability control combines with a roll stability control and traction control system.
My Grand Touring AWD trim level came standard with a blind spot monitoring system that in my opinion should be standard equipment on all vehicles. It’s a useful, helpful bit of safety technology. Base price for the Grand Touring with AWD is $34,785. Destination charges add another $795 while options pushed the price to a reasonable $40,850. Front-wheel drive models start at $29,725.
Keep up the great work Mazda. The 2012 CX-9 is as a good as a premium SUV gets.