It was a beautiful few days in South Carolina where Mazda structured their Active Lifestyle Drive Program so the press could experience a cadre of their latest products. I first focused on an adventure in the all-new 2016 CX-9 SUV from the beautiful Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort to Sea Pines Resort, in Hilton Head Island, SC. The family and fitness activity of choice for me was the art of kayaking which paired perfectly with the CX-9 and its active and daring traits.
Since I’m a rower I jumped at the kayaking opportunity with euphoric energy on a day commingling hot, sunny weather, clear blue skies and a playful pod of dolphins on their way down the river. The scene was absolutely incredible with the kayaking being timed to ride with the tide in each direction. The trip to the Salty Dog for lunch with a fleet of about 13 boats took a good 45 minutes. However, only three courageous journalists rowed back in roughly 20 minutes. Still a little wet and gritty from the water experience I took the helm of a top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature (available in four trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature) for the drive back to Montage Palmetto Bluff.
Specifically speaking, the newfangled Machine Gray hue directed designers to manifest the Japanese SUV as if it appeared to be cut from a single slab of sheet metal. The other paint selections include Soul Red Metallic, Snowflake White Pearl, Sonic Silver Metallic, Jet Black Mica, Deep Crystal Blue Mica and Titanium Flash Mica. Moreover, the vehicle’s sleek curves and restrained use of chrome on the exterior helped achieve the design goal. Each hue has the canny ability to enhance the refined expression of the 3-row, 7-passenger midsized utility vehicle.
Inside, the upscale interior featured Auburn Nappa Leather, real aluminum trim on the doors and dash and stunning rosewood trim supplied by first-rate Japanese guitar-maker Fujigen. Mazda also added sound insulation to the list of upgrades to deliver a quality driving experience. The CX-9 can easily handle soccer mom duties as well as date night responsibilities at the Kennedy Center in D.C. (where I reside) parked next to luxury SUVs costing thousands of dollars more.
I found that the new SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine delivered ample torque and power to merge with highway traffic. The 4-cylinder turbocharged motor puts out 250-horsepower when powered by 93-octane fuel, but can run on regular gas as well. The SUV also sees a 21/27/23 (city/hwy/combined) mpg with i-ACTIV all-wheel drive and the 6-speed automatic transmission and 22 / 28 / 25 (city/hwy/combined) with FWD. The CX-9 manages its size, weight and higher center of gravity well and is fun to drive, particularly in sport mode.
Dinner was at a rustic camp on the banks of a river requiring a 25-minute boat ride from the Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort. Cocktails at the dock, a sunset boat ride, another school of dolphins, delicious Lowcountry cuisine under an open pavilion and lots of Mazda car talk made for a spectacular evening after an exciting day of test driving and outdoors sportsmanship.
After dinner and socializing I returned to my luxurious master room in the newly completed property that included turn down service and chocolates on my pillow. Montage Palmetto Bluff is an amazing vacation setting for couples and families alike and features 200 guest accommodations, six inspired dining locations, the Paintbox Children’s programming, Signature Spa Montage and over 16,000 ft2 of meeting and event spaces. Furthermore, at your disposal is the 18‐hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course as well as tennis, bocce and croquet courts and of course the aforementioned boating. Now you see why the CX-9 fit perfectly into our travel plans while visiting this opulent location. Additionally, the resort features six delightful restaurants, a historic motor yacht, stables, a shooting range, a racquet club, biking, hiking and numerous water sports. Jetsetters or investors can purchase private, leisure residences at Montage Palmetto Bluff starting at 1.4-million dollars.
Mazda’s consumer approach makes sense to me. The objective was to deliver a trendy SUV with characteristic design traits, premium technology features, smart engineering and top quality in a line of exciting SUVs at competitive prices. Active and on-the-go families will certainly enjoy a 2016 CX-9 as their primary vehicle of choice. Built with the US market in mind, the second generation CX-9 went on sale back in May to praise and heightened fanfare and starts at $31,520. Yes, driving does matter.