The Sleek SUV: the 2019 Mazda CX-9

Driving with teammates to a hockey game, one of them gestured out the window and pointed out how SUVs rule the road. I couldn’t disagree. The visual evidence was overwhelming.

Fortunately, some automakers do what they can to style their larger vehicles to make them look sleeker than their size would suggest they can be. Case in point – the vehicle we drive to the rink that day, the 2019 Mazda CX-9.

First impressions

You could be forgiven if you mistook the Snowflake Pearl White Signature Trim we were driving for a smaller vehicle. If you look at it without other objects around to provide size references, the long nose, raked front and rear windows and swooping curves along the sides make it look like a sporty station wagon.

The only real giveaway would be the ride height. The height leads the eye to other details, like the size of the rear hatch and the gaping grin of Mazda’s signature front grill. And, of course, seeing it next to smaller vehicles on the road.

Interior

We weren’t fooled. Three guys plus hockey gear all fit comfortably in the CX-9 with the third row of seats folded down.

Burgandy leather set against black materials, including piano black accents, set a tone of understated luxury. Touching the materials, from the dash to the ceiling to the assist grips, reinforces a feeling of luxury.

The second row of leather seats was so comfortable that one of our number took a nap (sitting up) on our way to the rink and on our way back home from the bar afterwards.

He also got to enjoy heated seats in the second row, one of the many upscales touches that Mazda puts in the CX-9’s Signature Trim level. Front seats are heated and cooled. The leather steering wheel is heated. Ambient lighting is tasteful but not overdone. The player in the second row also had access to climate controls and, in the centre armrest, USB charging ports. Just about everywhere you look inside the cabin, subtle indulgence is the order of the day.

Just about everywhere. Anybody who has ever ridden in the third row of an SUV knows that it can be cramped back there. The CX-9’s third row is par for the course in this respect. But it does sometimes come in handy.

Hockey bag test

At least one of the third-row seats has to come down to fit an adult hockey player’s equipment bag. Four bags (and players) will fit in the CX-9 provided the driver can do without a view out the rear window.

In-cabin technology

If there’s one thing Mazda wants buyers to know, it’s this: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are finally here!

The HMI (human-machine interface) commander, consisting of five buttons surrounding a combination knob/button/joystick is one of the best in the business when it comes to interacting with controls on the centre stack screen. However, buyers have been less than enthused over Mazda’s interface for working wiht their phones. That interface is still in the car, but buyers of the 2019 CX-9 can bypass it in favour of systems designed to work with their phones.

Screen shows Android Auto. HMI Commander interface at bottom right.

Mazda is rolling out both systems as it upgrades specific models. Owners of older Mazdas that sport HMI commanders can have Apple’s and Google’s systems added at their local dealerships.

Other CX-9 firsts include the SiruisXM Traffic Plus and Travek Link®, each complimentary for five years. Tunes from phones or other sources arrive in the cabin via a Bose sound system.

The instrument cluster is dominated by two analog dials that flank a larger round 7” LCD screen in the middle. During ordinary driving, that screen becomes a speedometer. The middle of this screen shows other information, like whether the vehicle is in Sport Mode or whether another vehicle is directly ahead or in one of the CX-9’s blind spots.

A heads-up display (HUD) shows some of this information on the windscreen ahead of the driver. It also adds recognition of upcoming road signs. The HUD appears to float several inches above the front edge of the vehicle. Resolution is shart and adjusts properly to changes in ambient lighting consitions.

Another feature new to the 2019 CX-9 is a 360-degree view monitor. Press a button on the dash to the left of the steering wheel and it takes over the centre screen, giving you a “view from above” the vehicle and showing the terrain several feet away from the CX-9.

Driving

A 2.5L 4-cylinder engine with Dynamic Pressure Turbo drives all four of the CX-9’s wheels via a 6-speed transmission. This may be the only vehicle Mazda sells in Canada to not offer a manual transmission.

Mazda’s numbers for this engine are 227 hp @ 5,000 rpm (with 87 octane fuel) and torque of 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm. The ride is quiet thanks to improved sound absorption throughout the cabin and cargo areas.

Incidentally, kudos to Mazda for resisting the trend towards paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel. Paddle shifters make sense if you own a sports car and intend to race it. However, in most vehicles, SUVs in particular:

  • I don’t see the value in adding paddle shifters.
  • I do see the value in omitting their cost.

The paddle shifter rant is over.

The CX-9’s radar cruise control proved to be among the smoothest such systems I’ve tested. For all the power the engine can bring to bear, the CX-9 does not leap ahead when the lane opens up ahead. It also reacts quickly when other vehicles nip in front, although I didn’t let the system kick in all the time in stop-and-go traffic. I’m still too ready to use my feet and not ready enough to trust a vehicle to brake in time. (Stop-and-go traffic, incidentally, is where radar cruise control seems to keep a lid on the driver’s stress levels.)

At night, the first thing you’ll notice about the headlight system is how bright it is. When you’re moving around corners, you may also notive that the lights swing in the direction you steer. Adaptive lighting systems like the CX-9’s certainly make plenty of sense as a standard safety feature.

Fuel economy

Mazda publishes city and highway numbers of 11.6 L/100km and 9.1 L/100km, respectively. Front-wheel drive CX-9s do a little better.

The CX-9 takes regular unleaded in its 74L tank.

Conclusions

Few vehicles in the intermediate SUV look quick and sleek while they’re standing still. Mazda’s KODO Soul of Motion design aesthetic does for the CX-9 what few, if any, other automakers can do for other vehicles this size. It’s still large. It’s still wide. But it looks fantastic. For 2019, Mazda added ever more features, most notably Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, making the CX-9 a compelling choice for SUV buyers.

Pricing

The CX-9 Signature Trim I drove retails for $51,500 MSRP. The base 2019 CX-9 starts at $36.700 MSRP.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.