2014 Mazda CX-9 Review
Mazda's large crossover proves its mettle by dancing in the snow.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: March 7th, 2014
When the white flaky stuff falls, most folks feel safer in an SUV. While our inner hoon loves the idea of sliding a rear-drive sports car around the snow, we can see why less enthusiastic drivers cocoon themselves in large crossovers with all-wheel-drive, even though tire type and driver skill are often the biggest factor in safe snow driving. Feeling safe is enough for most folks, apparently.
That's a long way of saying our latest Mazda CX-9 tester showed up right around the time that mercury dropped to Arctic levels near our Chicago-area offices, complete with a blast of snow. That's a good time for a large all-wheel-drive (AWD) crossover to show up.
What's new for 2014? Not much, besides some safety features and colors. No big deal there, the CX-9 has always impressed us as a solid crossover - but has age slowed it any?
On the Road
The first thing you notice about the CX-9 is its heft. Mazda loves to preach about its "zoom-zoom" sporting philosophy, but the heavy CX-9 (4,559 lbs with AWD) doesn't feel very zoomy. Acceleration is fine for around-town driving, but it's limited by the CX's corpulence.
Our ride and handling testing was limited by inclement weather - if snowstorms that stir comparisons to disaster flicks can be understated as such - but even so, we could tell that Mazda gifted the CX-9 with sporty steering that feels appropriately weighted. We can also report that there's a tad more body roll than we'd like, but that's par for the course among crossovers. The CX was nimble enough to handle the challenges of a snowy urban slog, but we'd still never mistake it for anything other than the people and cargo hauler it is.
The AWD system did deliver as promised, getting us through the snow with no drama, but should we feel the need to indulge our inner leadfoot, we could get the CX to safely slide around a bit, making a miserable drive slightly more bearable.
It's hard to make bland crossovers look sporty, but Mazda gets as close to the mark as possible. The design is aging, and it doesn't flow like the company's smaller CX-5 does, but it still looks good. It's curvy with some subtle angles, presenting a business-like sporty look. It's a strong, solid appearance that won't leave buyers embarrassed.
The CX-9's cabin is nicely designed, with an infotainment system that is intuitive to use, big climate-control knobs, and old-fashioned volume and tuning knobs. The unrelenting black of our tester will undoubtedly turn some folks off, and we would've liked it if Mazda used materials that felt a little more upscale and less plasticky.
We also would've liked it if the dual-door center-console lid was less finicky.
It's aging, but gracefully. The CX-9 still looks good, still imparts as much as sportiness as it can despite its mass, and still offers a cabin that's user friendly.
Mass may be the enemy of both performance and fuel economy - the numbers we saw on the trip computer were ugly, hovering a bit below 17 mpg - but the CX-9 does enough things well that its bulk can be forgiven.
We can even forgive it the $40K sticker price, which is hefty in its own right. There's room for improvement here, but crossover buyers could do much worse.
Specs, Features, & Prices
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive (tested)
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway w/AWD
Base Price: $36,625 (excludes $795 destination fee)
As-Tested Price: $40,905
Available Features: USB port, navigation, heated front seats, moonroof, fog lamps, rear cross-traffic alert, Bluetooth, satellite radio, keyless entry, push-button start, fold-down second and third row seats, three-zone climate control.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Mazda CX-9, click here: 2014 Mazda CX-9.