2018 CX-9 by Mazda Review: A professional driver’s perspective

2018 CX-9
2018 CX-9 by Mazda Review: A professional driver’s perspective
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About the Author

R. G. Beltzner

R. G. Beltzner

A long time automobile enthusiast, and competitive race driver, Rainer Beltzner provides performance driving and racing instruction for Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari owners and clubs. He's been doing this for over 25 years. Often, Rainer is found driving/teaching on one of the Canadian Tire Motorsport, Shannonville or Watkins Glen tracks. During the “off-season”, Rainer spends his spare time driving and evaluating a broad range of vehicles. Follow Rainer on Twitter @redy2rol.

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Mazda refers to their 2018 CX-9, 7-passenger crossover, as a “driver’s SUV”. After a freezing cold week in the Oakville and Toronto area with this as my primary vehicle, I have to agree with Mazda.

I have had the opportunity to drive many different SUVs and only a few have stood out as great to drive, comfortable and practical. After driving the 2018 CX-9 for over 500 km (12.1 L/100km) in some pretty bad weather conditions, commuting, moving stuff, shopping, on 400 series highways, Oakville shopping center parking lots and, downtown Toronto streets, it would make my list of SUVs to seriously consider as my next vehicle.

2018 CX-9

Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

The 2018 CX-9 comes in four model choices. The GS, GS-L GT and Signature.

All models come with the same engine, transmission, suspension and brakes – with only trim, finish, audio/connectivity and driver features providing some differences. I had the benefit of the GT model for my review, and it comes with pretty well all of the higher end style, luxury, and driver-convenience features.

Technical details

In Canada, the 2018 CX-9 is available in a single engine/drive-train configuration; a 2.5 L four-cylinder turbo charged engine producing either 227 hp with 87-octane fuel or up to 250 hp with 93-octane fuel.

Other than the GS model front wheel drive, all-wheel drive is standard on all other models. All models have the 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode.

The CX-9 front suspension includes Macpherson struts, coil springs and stabilizer bar. The rear suspension is a multi-link type with coil springs and stabilizer bar. The base GS and GS-L models come mounted on 18” alloy wheels matched with P255/60R18 all-season tires. The GT as well as the Signature model come with the upgraded 20” wheels and 255/50R20 all-season tires. Mazda Canada provided my test GT with excellent winter tires.

Rounding out the last of the technical details, all models have power assisted disc brakes, ABS and electronic brake force distribution. Steering is the rack and pinion type with engine-rpm-sensing variable power assist. The fuel tank holds 74 L, good for about a 600 km in realistic driving conditions.

CX-9 Driving and handling characteristics

2018 CX-9

Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

For a 7-seater family vehicle, this is really an SUV for driving enthusiasts. The CX-9 has a real sporty and responsive feel. Acceleration is very good, especially when the “sport” mode is activated. Steering is precise with good road feel to the driver’s hands. My surprise came with the ability of this large vehicle to take corners (on and off ramps) so well. I wish I had an opportunity to try this CX-9 on a skid pad to really explore the limits.

There are quite a number of driver-focused features that make the 2018 CX-9 GT great to drive.

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For example, the heads up display provides multiple bits of information in colour including speed, traffic signs, navigation, distance recognition and more – with the display positioning height adjustable. The 2018 CX-9’s cruise control is also equipped with stop and go functionality – a great feature for some of our weekend 400 series highway traffic jams. Due to the cold and slippery road surfaces during the week that I had the vehicle, I did not use the cruise control feature, for safety reasons.

CX-9 Comfort and Styling

The base CX-9 includes:

  1. leather wrapped steering wheel with mounted controls,
  2. information display
  3. three-zone automatic climate control
  4. 7” colour touch screen
  5. wide angle rearview camera
  6. rearview mirror
  7. Bluetooth
  8. six speaker audio with AM/FM/HD radio
  9. two USB ports
  10. 60/40 split 2nd row seats, 50/50 third row seat
  11. two cup holders in each of the three rows

The front seats are heated, cloth covered and come with three adjustable positions. The 8-way power adjustable driver seat includes lumbar support. The front passenger seat is four-way manually adjustable.

The upgraded CX-9 GT adds a 10 way power driver’s seat and 8-way for the front passenger. All seats are now leather and the outboard rear seats are also heated. The audio system is now an upgraded Bose 12 speaker system and a larger 8” color touch screen with navigation and more connectivity features.

CX-9 Safety

2018 CX-9

Photo Credit: R.G. Beltzner

With any larger SUV, you want to have as many features to maximize visibility and awareness. Standard equipment on all models across the CX-9 line includes:

  1. wide-angle rear view camera
  2. blind spot monitoring
  3. rear traffic alert
  4. full array of seat belts
  5. airbags
  6. safety locks

To help maintain vehicle stability and safety, the standard equipment also includes Mazda’s stability, traction and trailer stability systems. Optional on the GS and GS-L and standard on the GT and Signature models are additional driver aid and safety features including pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, forward obstruction warning, lane keeping and departure warning systems.

Things to consider

Even the base model of the 2018 CX-9 is a very well equipped, excellent handling SUV for those looking to have a comfortable 5 seat vehicle expandable to seven for those occasional needs. SUVs appeal to all age groups for their practicality, space and ease of entry/exit. The sportier style and excellent handling of the CX-9 will definitely attract attention.

All models of the CX-9 have the same “guts” so the choice is really whether to move up the model line to get even better comfort, convenience and styling. The base CX-9 MSRP is $36,200 with an additional $2,500 to get the AWD version. At that point, you might as well opt for the more feature loaded GS-L with the i-Activesense package for an additional $4,000 (MSRP of $42,700). The next jump to the GT version adds another $4,400 (MSRP $47,100) for some cosmetics, front and rear parking sensors, heads up display and an improved sound system, Sirius XM radio and navigation. The top of the line Signature version for an additional $3,000 (MSRP of $50,100) adds some interior wood trim and different leather and stitching.

Mazda’s new vehicle warranty consists of 3-years unlimited mileage, 3-year roadside assistance, 5-year powertrain and 7-year anti-perforation. In Canada, 2017 sales of the CX-9 totaled 3,943* units, up 61%* from the prior year. Our local Oakville Mazda dealer can be found at 1501 North Service Road West.

More automotive reviews and insights are available on Oakville News. You can also follow me on Twitter @redy2rol.

*Source: Automotive News Canada, January 2018

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