It's truly amazing when a great automaker decides to return to its roots, transforming into a formidable game-changer. This is the story behind Mazda's new face; the current line of Skyactiv, Kodo-inspired machines. Just like Hiroshima's rise from the atomic ashes of World War II, Mazda went back to the drawing board and rebuilt a powerful presence throughout the automotive world.
The stars aligned once more as I recently tested the company's all-new premium midsize seven-seater offering, the all-new CX-9 AWD in striking machine gray (which I dubbed as 'the new black').
Launched last summer, it's high time we hit the road in this Nippon creation.
Without a doubt, the CX-9 exudes a sharp, elegant look common throughout the entire range of Mazda's current models—but with a wider-bodied feel thanks to its trapezoidal stance.
From the streamlined contours stretching from the rear leading to the front fascia where the stunning adaptive LED DRL headlamps meet the shark mouth-like chrome grill, you'll sense the science of aerodynamics gracefully fused with the vehicle's strong aesthetic appeal.
Beautifully sculpted 20-inch rims mated with 255/50 Falken tires puts the butter on the Wagyu beef. Take off the badges and you'd think you've come face to face with a luxury crossover straight out of Europe. It certainly evokes a timeless look of uncompromising sophistication.
Mazda has definitely hit the mark with the CX-9's dash and center console layout—there's generous legroom below and ample storage zones. The sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel feels great to grip and touch controls are all within thumbs' reach.
The infotainment system paired with a 12-speaker Bose setup delivers lush sound. I really like the Active Driving Display projecting information directly onto the windshield within your line of sight. My main gripe is this variant doesn't come with paddle shifters, and the side mirrors don't power fold (not really a concern for me but maybe for some).
Minimalist architecture compliments the combination of top-notch materials, paying close attention to every detail. The only downside is its piano black plastics are prone to scratches, hence, additional care must be given to these parts.
The front leather saddles provide great comfort and good lumbar support with six-way power adjustability for the driver, while the passenger can enjoy four points of power adjustment. The second row gives necessary creature comfort amenities while the third row can accommodate two adults, although they could feel cramped for long trips and access can be a tad difficult especially for a man my size (I'm 6'1"). All in all, the new interior layout provides better overall legroom than the previous thanks to a longer wheelbase. The boot gives decent cargo space even with all rows occupied, and seats conveniently fold flat for larger hauls.
Yes, it can be utilitarian without looking the part. Kind of James Bond in a spiffy suit with all the mission necessities nicely tucked out of sight.
If you took off without knowing what's under the hood, you'd think this looker has a beastly V6 propelling it. Thing is, Mazda's engineers developed what they call a Dynamic Pressure Turbo, giving its 4-cylinder, 2.5-liter Skyactiv mill a lively 231hp and 420Nm of torque at a mere 2,000rpm on unleaded pump gas.
It mimics the performance of a VGT, as you would find in some popular turbo diesels, allowing for better power output early on, but with minimal lag as it launches you from 0-100kph in just eight seconds.
Fuel consumption was tested at 7.2km/L during the metro morning rush and achieved 12km/L in mixed tollway/highway cruising.
Ride and handling
This is where Mazda leaves most competitors behind. The CX-9 epitomizes superb driving dynamics. As with the Porsche Cayenne—an SUV that performs like a 911 on stilts—the CX-9 conquers both straights and winding roads with the same grounded feel of the 3 or the 6, but with way more oomph and greater comfort.
Exceptionally low NVH levels are attained with added sound deadening and a nicely tuned suspension system that takes on road imperfections like a pro.
After conquering 700km of varying terrain and weather conditions, the CX-9 certainly inspires confidence.
Its Lane Keep Assist tech works efficiently to keep you on track as it self-corrects your positioning and nudges you to stay focused on long journeys.
The CX-9 delivers an unforgettable driving experience you'd usually find in SUVs twice the price. With the inclusion of a three-year/60,000km free regular maintenance service, it just gets more desirable. So, if you have the means to acquire one, those of us in the know will sing in a chorus saying "Go for it!"
SPECS: Mazda CX-9 AWD Sport
Engine: 2.5-liter Skyactiv turbo gasoline
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Power: 231hp @ 5,000rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 2,000rpm