Finding a three-row crossover SUV that is stylish, functional and fun-to-drive can be a challenge. Mazda has infused each of these critical consumer attributes in its new CX-9. Available in four unique trim levels and priced competitively, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 is exceptional for growing families or anyone searching for a peppy, good handling crossover SUV.
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2018 Mazda CX-9 Overview
What's New for 2018
For 2018, Mazda made minor adjustments, mainly offering more standard features. Safety systems previously found in upgraded trim levels, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and low-speed automated emergency braking are now available on all trims of the CX-9. The G-Vectoring control system, which helps to improve stability while cornering is also a standard feature.
Choosing Your Mazda CX-9
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is available in four trims – Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and the premium Signature. Consumers can select one of the seven exterior colors and five interior color patterns for each trim level. The Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring feature standard front-wheel drive but can be upgraded with all-wheel drive for an additional $1,800. All-wheel drive is standard for the Signature.
Each Mazda CX-9 is powered by a 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Power is delivered to the ground by way of a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain combo delivers an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway.
For consumers interested in buying the 2018 Mazda CX-9, a critical decision will be choosing between the all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive. For crossover SUV shoppers living in cold-weather climates, or those looking for more responsive handling and sporty ride, the extra $1,800 upgrade is a smart decision. Of the four trim options, the Touring delivers the best bang for your buck. The price is slightly less than $3,000 over the Sport and almost $6,000 below the Grand Touring.
2018 Mazda CX-9 Review
Three-row SUVs typically offer an excellent blend of passenger room, cargo space and towing capabilities. Mazda’s entry is the sleek looking CX-9, motivated by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and outfitted with the latest technologies and available premium features.
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 operates in a sea of competitors, delivering four trims for your consideration: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. Our pick is the mid-range Touring with all-wheel drive as it includes automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, a power liftgate, heated, power front seats, and leather upholstery. That's in addition to the CX-9's impressive roster of standard equipment.
Advanced safety features roll out at this level and include lane keep assist, lane departure warning and full-speed adaptive cruise control. This is an impressive list of equipment for a middling trim level like the CX-9 Touring – typically, these features only exist as a package or on top-trim models (or as a package limited to a top trim level). You could spring for a more expensive trim, but we think most customers will be satisfied at the Touring level.
- Model: 2018 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD
- Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four
- Output: 227 hp/310 lb.-ft.
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
- MPG: 22 city/28 highway
- Options: The 2018 CX-9 Touring offers a Touring Premium Package ($1,625) with such features as LED fog lights, a power sliding moonroof with an interior sunshade, front and rear parking sensors, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, satellite radio, navigation and a second-row retractable window sunshade. We like this package as it adds amenities to the CX-9 typically associated with far more expensive SUVs, while keeping this model’s final price well below $40,000.
- Base Price: $37,735 (including $975 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $39,625
The CX-9's 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder spools up quickly, but it doesn’t match most V6 engines in out-of-the-gate performance. The transmission shifts nicely, but in a market where eight-speed transmissions are common, the standard six-speed automatic just doesn't feel as advanced as it should. The CX-9’s strong suit is with its steering – this vehicle drives like a smaller crossover, something no other model in this segment has mastered.
We recommend the 18-inch wheels for optimum comfort, although the CX-9 trails the Buick Enclave in ride contentment.
Interior and Exterior
No other midsize SUV matches the CX-9’s beautifully executed exterior. Front to back, the Mazda is simple, yet superb and elegant, but not overwrought. We haven’t seen such a beautiful tapestry among mainstream models. Standard features include LED headlights and taillights, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a roof spoiler and dual exhaust outlets.
Inside, the CX-9 offers three rows of seating, but is most useful and comfortable with two rows. The third-row is tight; consider those two seats as jump seats — what you might want in a pinch when you need to accommodate two additional riders. Otherwise, fold the rear seat to expand the tight 14.4 cubic feet of storage space to 38.2 cubic feet.
The cabin comes outfitted with nice-looking materials, including a surprising amount of glossy finishes. The dashboard sits low and the infotainment screen is unobtrusive, although we’re disappointed it doesn’t offer touchscreen capabilities. Standard features include push-button start, cloth seats, three-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Best and Worst Things
The 2018 CX-9 is one of the best-styled vehicles in the segment. Its Kodo or “soul of motion” design executes well, giving this vehicle a premium look straight away. On the other hand, interior room is tight and that immediately puts this model at a disadvantage in a highly competitive segment.
Owners looking for an ideal blend of style, amenities and quality. This Mazda clearly punches above its segment without charging the higher price.
Customers looking for other powertrain choices. The lone powertrain restricts Mazda, a manufacturer that long ago abandoned large engines to concentrate on four-cylinder choices, naturally aspirated and turbocharged. But the segment features V6 engines and Mazda’s lack of an advanced powertrain immediately scratches the CX-9 off of not a few purchase consideration lists.
The Bottom Line
Load this model down and the turbo four struggles. The Mazda CX-9 operates best as a five-passenger model with ample storage space. A handsome exterior, polished interior and advanced safety technologies are features we like with a competitive price only enhancing the CX-9’s appeal.
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