While many buyers are opting to go smaller with crossovers, there are still those who need the flexibility of a full-size SUV with three rows of seating and room for 7 passengers. The 2018 Mazda CX-9 offers exactly that with a stylish exterior, high-quality interior, and a strong suite of standard safety features.
Mazda did a fine job of making its big SUV look stylish and aggressive rather than like a big hunk of metal on wheels. It’s a challenge to give a big vehicle like this character, but Mazda pulls off the trick with a wide stance and long hood over a bold grille. It’s an appealing SUV with style that differentiates it from competitors.
Inside you’ll find an elegant, well-equipped interior that feels and looks like far more than it costs. This is a common thread to the Mazda lineup. While not a luxury car, the quality of materials and the simple yet attractive design makes the CX-9 feel like one.
Seating is comfortable and supportive although a bit firm with plenty of legroom and headroom up front and even more so in the second row, which also reclines. The third row is expectedly tight. It’s doable for limber adults for short drives, but it’s really best only for the kids.
Under the hood is a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 250 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, but only with premium fuel in the tank. Fill it with regular and it dips to 227 horsepower. There’s a 6-speed automatic transmission and standard front-wheel drive with the option for all-wheel drive. Only the Signature trim, which sits at the top of the range, has standard all-wheel drive.
A 4-cylinder engine sounds small for a three-row SUV, but there’s plenty of pep in this one. The CX-9 accelerates strongly with only slight turbo-lag, but easily gets up to highway speeds to merge into heavy traffic. The 6-speed transmission is smooth and quiet, doing its job without making a fuss.
Handling is not at all what you’d expect, unless you’re familiar with the Mazda lineup. This is a company that builds cars for people who like to drive and it shows in the CX-9. Steering is tight and controlled and the suspension system keeps the CX-9 from feeling top-heavy or bulky. It drives more like a crossover despite its bulk.
This year, the CX-9 adds standard low-speed automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert across the trim range. It’s also an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick with a top rating of Good in all crash tests making this a solid choice for families.
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 starts at $32,130 for the base Sport with front-wheel drive making it more affordable for budget-minded shoppers. The Touring starts at $34,960 and the Grand Touring starts at $40,470. Add $1,800 for all-wheel drive on any trim. Those looking for the most premium experience possible can get the Signature with standard all-wheel drive for $44,315.
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 offers the convenience of a three-row SUV with plenty of style and features at an affordable price point.