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2013 Mazda CX-9 Luxury AWD Review Photo:
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What's Hot
Spacious interior, commendable build quality.
What's Not
A pricey and thirsty SUV that is becoming dated.
X-Factor
Big engine, seven seats and solid Mazda quality.
Tony O'Kane | Jan, 31 2013 | 4 Comments

MAZDA CX-9 REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $57,485 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy listed: 11.2 l/100km | tested: 13.7 l/100km

 

OVERVIEW

As one last hurrah before it’s replaced with an all-new model, Mazda has taken the brush to its family-sized CX-9.

There’s a few key feature upgrades, but the changes are otherwise largely cosmetic - the big Mazda now sports the company's familiar frontal gape and a revised rear.

But, by virtue of a capacious cabin, there's still has plenty of appeal for buyers looking for a large, versatile seven-seat wagon.

The CX-9’s downside however is a thirsty engine and an interior fit-out that’s now a bit old-hat. So, is Mazda’s big family hauler still a compelling proposition?

 

INTERIOR

Quality: Interior changes extend to a new ‘Bordeaux’ coloured trim highlight that’s similar to that found in the new Mazda6, along with a new gearknob and the addition of a USB input for the audio system.

But by and large, this is still the same CX-9 interior that has served since the model was introduced in 2007.

On the upside, this is a very solidly assembled car, with good materials used throughout the cabin.

Comfort: Space, space and more space. That’s the mantra that must have been pinned to the cubicle wall of whoever penned the CX-9, because this is one big ol’ car.

With three rows of seating, the CX-9 has enough room for seven people. Scratch that. Seven adults.

Yep, the CX-9’s third row is spacious enough to accommodate two adults of moderate size. Slide the middle row forward, and those third-row passengers will be surprised to find there’s even reasonable foot-room there.

The middle row itself can easily seat three across its broad, well-padded cushions. Up front, there are two plush leather-upholstered chairs separated by a very wide centre console/armrest.

The driver’s seat gives a commanding view of the road ahead, and a three-position memory function. Both electrically-adjusted front seats are also heated.

With a steering column that’s adjustable for reach and rake, it’s easy to get comfortably settled in behind the CX-9 Luxury’s leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Equipment: The midpoint in the CX-9 range, the Luxury comes with a healthy feature list.

Besides the tri-zone climate control, cruise control, reversing camera, keyless entry, dusk-sensing headlamps and rain-sensing wipers of the base CX-9 Classic, the CX-9 Luxury also gets sat-nav and a powerful 10-speaker Bose audio system.

Externally, the CX-9 Luxury is equipped with heated wing mirrors, 20-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles and a glass sunroof.

Storage: With all seats raised and in place, there’s only 267 litres of cargo room behind the CX-9’s third row.

Drop the third row (which fold to form a flat floor), and cargo space swells to 928 litres. Fold down the second row, and you could fit an apartment’s worth of flat-pack in there.

 

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The CX-9 is only available with one engine - a naturally-aspirated 3.7 litre petrol V6.

And, with over two tonnes to haul in AWD form, this engine has an immense thirst.

Its listed consumption shows an average of 11.2 l/100km on the combined cycle, but we found that figure more than a little optimistic. No matter how tentatively and frugally we drove, we couldn’t nudge the trip computer read-out lower than 13.7 l/100km.

And that was with one person in the car for the majority of the time.

But, fuel consumption aside, the CX-9’s V6 is both powerful and torquey. Its 204kW and 367Nm is nothing to sneeze at, and the CX-9, despite its colossal weight, can get up to speed with consummate ease.

The six-speed automatic is smooth-shifting and a good pairing with the big V6. It tries its hardest to keep the engine revving low, but as our on-test fuel economy shows, it simply can’t stave off the engine’s prodigious thirst for fuel.

Refinement: The engine is smooth and quiet during regular driving, and so well balanced you’ll wonder if its running when at idle.

Other unwelcome intrusions are also well-deadened. Even though the Luxury model under test here rolls on big 20-inch wheels, there’s enough tyre sidewall to quell road roar.

There’s a bit of wind rustle at high speeds, but with a shape as big and bulky as the CX-9’s, that’s hardly surprising.

Suspension: Comfort around town is excellent. The suspension is soft enough to provide a rattle-free ride, yet the damping tune means it doesn’t wallow too much after encountering larger bumps.

It can feel a bit top-heavy when asked to corner hard, and there is some expected understeer if pushing things along - but for a big car, it’s pretty good. Handling, generally, is predictable and well-sorted for family driving, if not terribly exciting.

Although we didn’t get the opportunity to drive this one in gravel, we found the CX-9’s AWD drivetrain to give excellent grip under power in wet conditions - an important attribute, considering the high output of the V6 under the bonnet.

Braking: Stopping performance is good, but the pedal is a little softer than we’d prefer. Hardware consists of ventilated discs all around, with a foot-operated parking brake.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: Not tested

Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard across the CX-9 range, as is a reversing camera.

The front seatbelts feature pretensioners, while all other seats are equipped with three-point belts. Front, front side and full-length curtain airbags are standard.

 

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres

Service costs: Service intervals for the CX-9 are set for every six months/10,000km. Servicing costs can vary, so contact your local Mazda dealer.

 

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Toyota Kluger KX-S AWD ($55,490) - Alongside its big-brother the Prado, the Kluger dominates the large SUV market.

Like the CX-9 it’s a big, heavy seven-seater with a large-capacity V6 as its sole engine option. It’s got markedly less torque than the Mazda, but is refined although similarly thirsty. (see Kluger reviews)

Mitsubishi Outlander Aspire diesel AWD ($45,490) - Technically a mid-sizer, Mitsubishi’s Outlander is still a true seven-seater .

Interior quality is not so great, but you do get better value in the significantly cheaper Outlander. Not only does it have a far more fuel-efficient diesel engine, it’s in no way bare-bones in terms of standard equipment. (see Outlander reviews)

Ford Territory TS diesel AWD ($55,240) - Another popular choice in the large SUV market, Ford’s Territory is a better drive thanks to its capable chassis and strong 2.7 litre turbodiesel V6.

With 140kW and (more importantly) 440Nm, the Territory diesel can haul virtually anything with ease. A full load of seven people plus a boat would not faze it.

The interior is getting terribly dated by now, but as a large family-friendly tow vehicle, the Territory is pretty hard to beat. (see Territory reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

The large SUV segment is a hotly-contested one, and Mazda’s update for the CX-9 refreshes a solid, nicely built and comfortable family-sized SUV.

But, as with the similarly thirsty Toyota Kluger, the absence of a diesel option can’t be overlooked.

With two tonnes of SUV to haul - plus passengers - that big 3.7 litre petrol V6 delivers fuel figures on par with a V8 sedan.

And, while the petrol-powered Ford Territory, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Kia Sorento are nearly as thirsty, those three also offer well-specced diesel options under $60,000 - as does Mitsubishi’s new Outlander.

At that point, unless you really hate the diesel pump, it becomes difficult to recommend the CX-9.

It’s a shame, really; it spoils a very nice car. But, until Mazda decides to put a diesel in its largest SUV, we think there are better buys at the diesel end.

 

Pricing

  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 Classic FWD - $44,525
  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 Luxury FWD - $52,980
  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 Luxury AWD - $57,480
  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD - $63,828

Note: pricing excludes on-road costs.

 
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