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REVIEW: Mazda CX-9 races into luxury territory

When asked what type of attributes potential buyers look for in a new SUV, the answer can vary widely. Some buyers look for a vehicle with a touch of luxury, while others want to really feel the pavement move beneath them.

When asked what type of attributes potential buyers look for in a new SUV, the answer can vary widely.

Some buyers look for a vehicle with a touch of luxury, while others want to really feel the pavement move beneath them. Car buyers are picky these days, so they will also ask for excellent safety ratings without sacrificing the practical day-to-day features.

For those looking to check off all the boxes – with little or no compromise – they need look no further than the 2018 Mazda CX-9. This sleek vehicle starts off with an affordable base price, but doesn’t skip out on the important stuff and tops it off with elegant luxury touches all around.  While some may berate the independent Japanese automaker for not producing a diesel or hybrid option yet, the car itself is so good that it should be on top of the shopping list.

In fact, even though the CX-9 actually competes with such cars as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder, in many aspects the CX-9 feels good enough and upscale enough to be compared directly to the likes of the Audi Q7 and BMW X5.


One of the best aspects of the CX-9 is the styling – it’s way better looking than its competitors (try looking at it side by side with Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot!). The extended hood reaches out from a steeply inclined windshield, meeting with a sharp angled grille and bumper.

The doors open and close with a “weightiness” that feels expensive. The interior has a seating capacity of seven passengers which puts it in the large three-row crossover category. The base trim comes with cloth seats, a seven-inch display, Bluetooth, two USB ports, and keyless start, among other things. The higher trim models include such features as leather seats, a bigger eight-inch media display, heated front seats, GPS navigation, parking sensors, sunroof and a large 12-speaker Bose sound system.

Mazda offers a long list of safety and interior features, but all CX-9s are powered by the same turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Mazda has obviously paid a lot of attention to streamlining the interior and minimizing unnecessary buttons and seams. While not as spacious as other competitors in the rear, the elegance and quiet refinement of the interior will make you forget that it is a midsize Mazda. Passengers in the third row of seats may feel a little cramped, but they will still feel like they are riding in style, thanks to the excellent design elements noticeable throughout the cabin.

Even with wide A-pillars, rear visibility is superior to many other similar vehicles in its class thanks to large side windows, angular outside windows, and a lowered hood.

All in all, the CX-9 is the best looking three-row SUV in the mid-priced marketplace.


Mazda tries to make good on its “Zoom-Zoom” promise with better-than-average handling. This is particularly noticeable when driving on mountainous roads and curvy turns. While it’s not the sportiest in its class (hard to beat the German cars for handling), the CX-9 easily outperforms its Japanese competitors when it comes to pure handling characteristics. In fact, the overall feel is much like driving the Audi Q7, which I believe is one of the cars Mazda benchmarked against when designing the CX-9. Even the interior features such as the infotainment system looks similar to the Audi’s.

Under the hood you will find a 2.5-litre turbocharged I-4 engine which will get you just over 227 horsepower (this goes up to 250 h.p. on premium fuel) and 310 foot-pounds of torque. All CX-9s come with AWD in Canada.

About the only minor complaint is that the engine can feel a tiny bit sluggish under heavy load. It’s a smooth and refined engine but it would have been nice for Mazda to offer a higher performance version for those who are willing to pay extra.

For 2018, Mazda has included the Smart City Brake Support up to 30 kilometres per hour as a standard feature – Mazda’s version of autonomous braking. This, combined with the addition of rear cross-traffic alerting and blind-spot monitoring, make the Mazda CX-9 a great choice for mitigating dangers on the road. Collision warning, distance recognition support, lane keep assist and lane departure warning are a few other safety features on this one.


While the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t crash-tested the 2018 version as of yet, the identical 2017 model scored “good” and “superior” on many of the tests. As a result of this, it received the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Mazda CX-9 is built around the Kodo design philosophy which is centered on the idea of breathing life into the car’s form. Designers sculpted the exterior out of clay initially to inspire the meaning of Kodo, which is “Soul of Motion.” According to Mazda, the inspiration for this comes from the stance of a cheetah the moment before it pounces on its prey, which captures the “raw excitement of a car in motion.”

The Mazda CX-9 is really for those who want a taste of finer things with the practicality of a three-row crossover. If you want to dip your toes into entry-level luxury, this car may be the right choice for you. With prices starting from $36,200 for the base trim and moving up to $50,100 for the Signature trim, it won’t break the bank either. More information can be found at