2018 Mazda CX-9: Achieving Handsome, Practical, and Charismatic is No Small Feat [Review]

2018 Mazda CX-9
[Photo: Mazda]

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 has been recognized as one of the best in its class since it made its world debut back in 2006. Mazda categorizes the CX-9 as a seven passenger, three-row crossover SUV. As such, it is the senior member of Mazda’s versatile SUV lineup.

 The design is futuristic, with the concept conveying a sense of dynamic movement, even when at a standstill. The car’s profile exhibits an aggressively rising belt line, topped by a boldly curved roof structure. Its tapered greenhouse of the CX-9 sports blacked-out “B” and “C” pillars that are outlined by a bright surround. That offers the visual impression of a singular glass area. The front fenders are pronounced, and flank the sculpted hood. The windshield is sharply raked as well, adding to the CX-9’s overall aerodynamic efficiency. Its large, bright dual exhaust outlets hint at the vehicle’s performance capabilities.

 The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is offered in four trim levels. Moving up from the base Sport, there’s the Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. All models come standard in front-Wheel drive. Or, if you’d like more security, you can order one with Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive. The exception to that rule is the Signature model, where AWD is standard. The CX-9 comes standard with 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels or with optional 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in performance tires.

WHAT’S NEW

One of the greatest enhancements to the 2018 Mazda CX-9 is greater sound insulation. Mazdas of yesteryear were relatively noisy against their competitors, but the CX-9 has vastly improved in that area. There are now front parking sensors on Touring and Signature models. You also get an easier-to-use second-row slider that provides better third-row access. For keen drivers, there’s standard G-Vectoring Control vehicle dynamics enhancement.

My test 2018 Mazda CX-9 was an all-wheel drive Grand Touring model. Mazda finished the exterior of this car in its iconic Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. Inside, the seats were beige with charcoal and aluminum trim accents . Mazda sells similarly-equipped CX-9s at $42,270. However, that price rises to $43,905 after adding the metallic paint, cargo mat and delivery charges.

2018 Mazda CX-9
[Photo: Mazda]

COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE

The CX-9’s interior serves up a premium feel. Mazda put a great amount of effort into making the switchgear user friendly, with gauges ideally placed and legible. Storage capacity is plentiful throughout the cabin. There’s much more than just storage, though – the 2018 Mazda CX-9 is loaded with features, especially at higher trim levels.

Technology highlights include the MazdaConnect infotainment system. On the CX-9, you can spec that system with either a 7” or optional 8” color multi-function display. Whichever one you order, you get voice recognition, SMS message capability, E911 automatic emergency notification and a multi-function command wheel. Navigation is optional on Sport and Touring models, and standard on the Grand Touring and Signature. You can also get an available windshield-projected Active Driving Display and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink.

The features list doesn’t stop there. You can order the CX-9 with auto-adjusting LED headlights, LED taillights, and three-zone automatic climate control. On the practicality side, Mazda fitted 60/40 split reclining second-row seats with optional USB inputs. The CX-9 also has 50/50 split third-row seats. If you come back to the car with your arms full, you can get a height-adjustable power liftgate. There are available Nappa leather seats, as well as rosewood and genuine aluminum interior trim. The Signature trim sports a distinctive LED grille lighting accent. Finally, on higher trim levels, Mazda provides heated front seats, an Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System, and a 12-speaker Bose premium audio system.

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 features several passive safety and driver assist features. That includes Roll Stability Control, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Automatic High Beam Control. You can also get Lane Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, rear parking sensors and Smart Brake Support.

2018 Mazda CX-9
[Photo: Mazda]

PERFORMANCE

 The “Zoom-zoom” automaker combined driving spirit with SUV versatility and functionality in the 2018 Mazda CX-9. On the spirited front, power comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter SkyActiv powerplant. Mazda rates the engine at 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque on 87 octane fuel. However, if you use premium fuel, the engine bumps the horsepower up to 250. That engine sends power to the driven wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. For those with a towing inclination, Mazda rates the CX-9 at 3,500 pounds.

Handling attributes deliver a pleasingly agile feel, reflective of its sports car heritage. The ride is firm, yet supple, so it handles more like a smaller, tauter car. In terms of overall performance, blistering acceleration isn’t in the cards, despite a good amount of torque. The 2018 Mazda CX-9 has a higher calling than pure performance. It’s stylish, roomy and comfortable family transportation.

TFLCAR’S TAKE

Given its attractive styling, value and equipment content, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 remains as one of the top contenders in the midsize crossover segment. Prices start at $32,130, rising all the way to over $44,000 for a fully loaded Signature model. On that basis, there’s a trim level to suit most families’ tastes and budgets. It represents the largest representation of Kodo – “Soul in Motion” – design and sets a benchmark for how this sort of crossover should be.

To learn more about the current-generation Mazda CX-9, check out our video below. Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow for more news, views, and stylish, midsize crossover reviews!

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $42,270
Price as Tested: $43,905
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-4
Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely mounted front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 227 hp @ 5,000 RPM (87 octane fuel); 250 hp w/ premium fuel
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 RPM
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut w/ stabilizer bar 

Rear: Multi-link w/ stabilizer bar

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with 4-channel ABS, EBD, BA
Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus P255/50 R20 104V
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 20 City/26 Highway/23 Combined MPG

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 115.3 inches
Length:  199.4 inches
Width: 77.5 inches
Height:  69.0 inches
Cargo Volume: All seats folded: 71.2 cubic feet

Behind second row: 38.2 cubic feet

Behind third row: 14.4 cubic feet

Turning Circle: 38.8 feet
Curb Weight: 4,361 pounds
Arv Voss
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring journalist and member and past officer of several noted automotive journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles as well.