Nissan Murano vs. Mazda CX-9

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Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - October 20, 2016

Hulking SUVs are slowly becoming the family vehicles of yesteryear, as are minivans. This is all thanks to the advancement of large crossover SUVs, which are little more than oversize minivans with tougher chassis and meaner looks.

Two segment leaders are the Nissan Murano and Mazda CX-9. The Murano has been a major player since it hit showrooms in 2003, but the CX-9 has had a slightly more difficult path to success. Mazda is hoping that its full redesign for the 2016 model year will help push the CX-9 over the top. Can the CX-9 overtake the Murano in the eyes of buyers?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Murano & CX-9 »

What the CX-9 Gets Right

For the 2016 model year, the CX-9 gets a complete overhaul that puts it in line with the rest of the Mazda lineup. With the new Kodo design language under its belt, the CX-9 is sexier than ever. What's more, it also takes the SkyActiv focus up a notch by dropping around 200 pounds with front-wheel drive and around 300 pounds with all-wheel drive, and inheriting a high-compression four-cylinder engine.

The latter is the second focus point of the new CX-9, as this is the first-ever turbocharged, gasoline-fueled SkyActiv engine. This 2.5-liter SkyActiv-G pumps out an impressive 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Though the horsepower may be down a bit relative to the Murano, its torque is significantly higher. What’s more, its fuel economy also gets a boost to 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.

The CX-9 wins the people-hauling competition with its seven-passenger capacity and 39.4 inches of second-row legroom. The CX-9 can also haul cargo better with up to 84.9 cubes of room with all the seats folded, plus what doesn’t fit in the back can go in a trailer weighing up to 3,500 pounds.

What the Murano Gets Right

The Murano balances a new, dramatic exterior design with a good-looking and well-equipped interior that includes a six-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, and an upgraded infotainment interface. The Murano is one of the smoothest-riding and best-handling vehicles in its class. Also tipping the scales in the Murano’s favor is its lower base price.

Under the hood, the Murano’s 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque, and links up to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Shockingly, this V6 engine only misses the CX-9’s fuel economy numbers by 1 mpg city. Its combined and highway numbers actually match the Mazda’s.

A new addition to the Murano lineup is the hybrid model. It's powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 15 kW electric motor that together produce 250 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque. The true benefit of this new powertrain is its fuel economy, which rings in at 27 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.

Who Wants a Murano?

The Murano caters to smaller families who prefer easy maneuverability to seven-passenger space. It also offers up sporty handling to attract younger buyers. Finally, its hybrid variant adds a twist that the CX-9 just can’t match.

Verdict: Mazda CX-9

When choosing a crossover, three things matter most: pricing, cargo, and family hauling. In two of those areas, the CX-9 easily beats the Murano. Add in the fact that it's also competitive in performance and style, and we can’t help but call the CX-9 a superior vehicle.

Take a closer look at the Nissan Murano >>

Take a closer look at the Mazda CX-9 >>


Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Twitter | Website