Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 9, 2016
Unbeknownst to even the smartest economists around the world (that’s a hyperbole, I’m sure they know why) North Americans love SUVs. The bigger the better, the more seats the better. SUVs suggest that even the lamest of dads might have that rugged side to them – a manly “let’s shoot a pig and BBQ it” attitude.
Though every manufacturer that’s worth two beans has an SUV (or several) in their product line-up, it’s only recently that they’ve included a 7-seater minivan. Mazda jumped in the game early – just as minivans were falling out of favour – with the CX-9. Poised as the third row capable big brother to the CX-7, the first generation was a runaway success, rightly so as it was based on the same platform as the Ford Edge and Fusion, two of Ford’s best selling vehicles.
Having been left untouched since 2010, the outgoing CX-9 was the last product that hasn’t been graced by Kodo – Mazda’s Soul of Motion design language. Fear not as the company unveiled their all-new redesigned CX-9 late November of 2015.
Completely rebuilt from the ground up, the new CX-9 also marks the end to a 30-plus year partnership with Ford. Eschewing anything Ford related, the new CX-9 features a lighter chassis that is 55 mm longer than the outgoing Ford based CD3 platform. Mazda says the extra chassis length should help free up legroom for third row occupants. In fact, the overall length of the car is 30 mm shorter than before.
The exterior finally receives the Kodo touch and being draped in a sparkly shade of Sonic Silver, assumes a far classier presence. The front falls right in line with the rest of the Mazda corporate look. The big V shaped grill juts out at you looking equal proportions of sinister and elegant.
A few years ago at a Mazda2 unveiling, U.S Chief Designer Derek Jenkins discussed the inspiration behind the tail lamps as the iris of an animal’s eyes. The CX-9 certainly makes good use of those mammalian tail lamps and looks right at home. A chrome piece connects the two and is arguably my favorite part of the big crossover: an exercise in restraint. While other manufacturers are inundating their designs with fake carbon fiber and chrome, Mazda cozies up to their accounting department by doing more with less.
Step inside, and the budget-breaking motif doesn’t skip a beat. The cabin has been considerably snazzed up with gloss black trim pieces and chrome surrounds. Some of the controls (particularly the HVAC) remind me of the MX-5.
Everything feels good too. The temperature adjustment knobs are nicely weighted and have a quality heft to it. Mazda’s iDrive like infotainment feels faster than ever before. The big center-mounted screen no longer looks out of place in the vast cabin of the vehicle, despite poking out of the dashboard. Either that, or we just got used to it as the rest of the industry followed suit.
Though this crossover offers three rows of seating, the last row is best suited for small children. The third row does fold flat however, but you’ll have to do it by yourself (no power folding seats here). Rear cargo space is more than doubled when the third row is down (407 to 1082 liters). Unfortunately the CX-9 doesn’t offer the convenience of second row captain’s chairs found in the Honda Pilot or the Santa Fe XL. It’s a small touch, but much appreciated for those who couldn’t call “shotgun” in time.
Built sans the help of Ford Motor Company means that the V6 motor in the outgoing model had to be replaced with something else, which is no easy task for Mazda as they don’t even have a V6 in their fleet. Stuffing the current 2.5L SkyActiv engine into the 1,917 kg CX-9 would be like trying to power a dump truck with a potato. Mazda’s solution was to slap a turbo on it and call it a day. Just kidding, this is Mazda we’re talking about here Just like the RX-7 and REPU’s (Rotary-Engine Pick Up) they had to get creative with their powertrain.
Right in line with their marketing lingo “SkyActiv,” the engineers fitted the 2.5L four cylinder with a Dynamic Pressure Turbo System. Utilizing 4-3-1 exhaust headers and a valve body between the cylinder head and turbocharger, the system operates like a combination of twin-scroll and variable geometry turbos. The valve remains closed below 1,620 rpm, forcing the exhaust gasses through a smaller channel that effectively increasing its velocity. This allows the turbo to spool up quicker in low rpms. Past 1,620 RPM, the butterfly valves open allowing the turbo to operate normally.
The net effect is 310 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm, enough hustle for the big vehicle to exploit pockets of traffic in the city. Despite spooling quickly, the throttle made smooth delivery difficult. In stop and go traffic (where the majority of Torontonians spend their days) putting your foot down gradually caused the torque to swell up, quickly and abruptly sending the big SUV lurching forward – making for a rocky ride for passengers.
Steering weight is light but precise and responsive. The electric rack lacks the feedback of older hydraulic units (as they all do) but that’s not a particularly sought after attribute in mid-size SUVs. The car feels taut and light on its feet (despite the massive size). Body roll is present but comes on gradually and is ultimately well controlled. The handling reminds me a lot of the QX60, only lighter.
At an as-tested price of $43,530, the CX-9 GS-L lacks the tech goodies (or even the panoramic roof) of the comparatively spec’ed Santa Fe XL. Driving nannies are pretty basic too featuring only a blind spot monitoring system and a backup camera with cross traffic alert. Step up to the GT and Signature trims however and more gadgets are available, but the price shoots up too.
The CX-9 makes up for its slight dollar premium with a lux-interior, sporty driving experience, and styling that far transcends others in its segment. “It looks at least ten or twenty thousand dollars more than it really is,” my coworkers would tell me. They’re right. Just try pulling up at the next company BBQ with the family in tow in one of these. You just might be able to make yourself known as the one dad who still has some cool left in him.
型号 Model: 2016 Mazda CX-9 GS-L
顏色 Paint Type: Sonic Silver Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $41,500
試車售價 Price as Tested: $41,500
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,930
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,065/ 1,969 / 1,716
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,917
引擎 Engine: SKYACTIV-G 2.5 T 4-cylinder with Dynamic Pressure Turbo (DPT)
最大馬力 Horsepower: 227 hp @ 6,000 rpm (250 hp @ 6,000 rpm w/ premium grade fuel)
最高扭力 Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.2 / 8.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 255/60R18