The Mazda CX-9 had quite a run, 10 years from its early Ford origins up to the 2015 model year. And, there was a time when we weren’t sure if it would have a successor or not, as three-row utilities are not really Mazda’s thing. But, that’s what it takes to be competitive these days, so for 2016 an all-new CX-9 has arrived. Let’s see if the Mazda touch makes it standout in a segment full of able rivals.

Yes, many impressive 3-row crossover utilities have emerged over the decade since the Mazda CX-9 first came on line; and many of them have even zoom-zoomed as much as, if not more than, it has over the years. So, the redesigned 2016 Mazda CX-9 has a lot of catching up to do.

And, Mazda engineers started with the basics, working their magic with an all-new platform; making the CX-9 smaller outside, yet creating a roomier feel inside. 

Even more sleight of hand was performed under the hood, where a 3.7-liter V6 was swapped for a 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G turbo-4; the first turbo engine to gain the SKYACTIV moniker. Horsepower is down 23 to 250, but torque is up 40 lb-ft. to 310. 

So, thanks to that extra torque, it doesn’t feel any less powerful than before. In fact, torque comes on with an almost diesel-like rush. Dropping over 250-lbs. of weight helps too. 

In fact, at the track, the CX-9 laid down its big torque with an explosive launch. However, the fun stops almost as quickly. Still, 7.4-seconds to hit 60 is pretty quick for a big ute. 

The transmission is a 6-speed automatic. We experienced some lag with it; and with each new gear, RPM seemed to drop further, taking longer each time to build some steam. The ¼-mile was completed in a more leisurely 15.8-seconds at 87 miles-per-hour. 

As for bolstering the zoom-zoom mantra; we found a huge amount of grip through the cones, even when being very aggressive with both throttle and steering inputs. There was also plenty of soft roll; this is a family vehicle after all, along with numb steering.
The CX-9 is front-wheel-drive under normal operation. For optional all-wheel-drive duty, it uses the CX-5’s i-ACTIV arrangement; which sends as much as 50% of vehicle power to the rear when needed. 

A good 129-foot average stopping distance from 60 was delivered with confident, all-around performance. 

Away from the track, in normal commuting; the CX-9 handles effortlessly, and feels like a vehicle half its size. 

Mazda explored every avenue possible to quiet things down inside, and their work succeeded. Ride quality is smoothed out as well, yet it’s far from floaty.

But, style and substance are more critical to crossover success.

As for the first, the CX-9 is a looker, appearing very sleek and sporty; way beyond the previous gen’s clunky appearance. 
Likewise, the interior is fashionable, but still on the family side of things; and with Signature trim its quite luxurious.

Crimson tide fans may balk at the optional “Auburn” interior theme, but we have no such misgivings. 

7-passenger seating is standard; and priority has been given to 2nd row passengers who get more space, as well as sliding and reclining seats.  Access to the 3rd row is better, but there seems to be less room there once you get settled in.

And there is also less cargo space; 14.4 cubic-ft. behind the 3rd row, 38.2 behind the 2nd row, and 71.2 with all seatbacks folded. 

Available tech features include a head up Active Driving Display, an 8-inch Mazda Connect infotainment screen for back-up camera and navigation, and LED accent lighting. 

Available safety systems run the gamut from Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning, to Forward Collision Warning and full-on Smart Brake Support automatic braking. 

Towing capacity remains at 3,500-lbs., and trailer stability assist comes standard. 

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are as good as you’d expect; 21-City, 27-Highway, and 23-Combined with all-wheel-drive. Though we averaged just 22.0 miles-per-gallon of regular. 

The Energy Impact Score is average for all vehicles; 14.3-barrels of yearly oil use, with C02 emissions of 6.3-tons. 

Competitive pricing is a given in this ultra-hot segment.  That means a base of $32,420. Expect closer to $45,000 for Signature trim with all-wheel-drive. 

The Mazda touch is very apparent in this vastly improved 2016 CX-9. Its unique look and well above average driving feel are signature Mazda “zoom-zoom”. But, it also compares quite well to its many rivals in crossover basics with useful space, plenty of features, and reasonable fuel economy. Yes, the 3-row crossover segment is very crowded; but it looks like the CX-9 is primed to…”zoom-zoom”…its way towards the front.


  • Engine: 2.5 liter
  • Horsepower: 250
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 7.4 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 15.8 seconds @ 87 mph
  • EPA: 21 mpg city / 27 mpg highway
  • Energy Impact: 14.3 barrels of oil/yr
  • Co2 Emissions: 6.3 tons/yr

Long Term Updates

Mileage: 7,023

We’re four months into our Long-Term Road Test of the 2017 Mazda CX-9. Our Driver’s Choice Best Large Utility seldom sits on the lot. The odometer has ALREADY rolled a total of 7023 miles. The all-wheel drive 227-horsepower turbo-4, is living up to our first impressions, and continues to generate praise among our staff. Ample torque is always there when you need it; a “diesel like low-mid punch” said one staffer. It’s a solid driving experience… even in wet weather. In fact, it did fine in very muddy road conditions going up a grade. The CX-9 is easy to maneuver and does not feel like the average family hauler.  The seats are supportive; the center stack controls are easy to reach; but the dash top display screen will overheat and become jittery if left out in the hot sun. We love the sleek and sporty lines of this redesigned 3-row 7 passenger crossover. This time around mileage was 24.1 miles per gallon, although our overall average is 24.7. We’ll see how that holds up for what will be a very busy summer driving season for the 2017 Mazda CX-9.

Mileage: 12,000

5-months into our Long Term road test of the 2017 Mazda CX-9, and the odometer is zoom-zooming toward the 12-thousand-mile mark.   It just returned from a 16-hundred-mile trek to Kenosha, Wisconsin and back.  The all-wheel drive 227-horsepower turbo-4 carried our driver and a load of gear with ease. Who needs a V6? The 6-speed automatic transmission was quick and unobtrusive even in stop-and-go traffic. The A/C was certainly up to the challenge of this summer’s sizzle.  And the infotainment system remains simple and intuitive. Fuel economy is very consistent. Our overall average is nearly steady at 24.7. There have been no mechanical faults so far, making us feel even better about our Drivers’ Choice Best Large Utility pick.