When the second-generation Mazda CX-9 went on sale in 2016, critics praised it for its comparatively agile dealing with that set it aside from different three-row crossover SUVs. It did not harm that it appeared actually good, too. Despite all that, its gross sales have not been stellar, however maybe Mazda’s revisions to the CX-9 for the 2019 mannequin 12 months will assist the family-hauler win extra followers.

It isn’t going to be straightforward, nevertheless. The previous few years have seen many newcomers just like the Subaru Ascent and the Volkswagen Atlas coming into the fray. On prime of that, predictably compelling entries just like the Ford Explorer, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride are ready within the wings.

Drives properly, however not excellent

The Mazda CX-9 is powered by a turbocharged, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 250 horsepower if you happen to fill the fuel tank with 93-octane gas. If you wish to save a few of your hard-earned money by filling up with good ol’ 87, you may have 227 horsepower to work with. Whatever the octane you select, the CX-9’s engine is all the time on the prepared with a stout 310 pound-feet of torque that is channeled via a smooth-shifting, six-speed automated transmission. The three-row crossover comes customary with front-wheel drive, however you’ll be able to improve to all-wheel drive for $1,800, as seen on my tester.

Stomp on the throttle, and the four,400-pound SUV jumps ahead with a pleasant sense of urgency, whereas the all-wheel drive retains tire slip at bay. That interprets to stress-free onramp merging, even when full of children and muddle. On the freeway, acceleration stays sturdy and is complemented with fast downshifts. It is likewise easy to convey the CX-9 down from pace, due to a well-modulated brake pedal that contributes to the crossover’s total assured stop-and-go efficiency.

Enter a set of turns, and also you’re met with fast steering that feels just a little delicate to the contact, whereas additionally being gentle on suggestions. The large seven-seater gives a pleasant dealing with and ride-comfort steadiness. For the 2019 mannequin 12 months, Mazda revised the CX-9’s suspension to make it trip extra easily. Physique motions stay properly managed, however in comparison with the way it felt in earlier mannequin years, the CX-9 not feels a lot sportier than one thing just like the Honda Pilot. That is not essentially a foul factor, although, because the Pilot drives actually properly, however if you happen to’re searching for a sporty expertise behind the wheel, the CX-9 not delivers as a lot because it used to.

When outfitted with front-wheel drive, the CX-9 is EPA rated at 22 miles per gallon within the metropolis and 28 mpg freeway. All-wheel drive CX-9s are estimated to get 20/26 metropolis/freeway mpg. That stacks up fairly properly among the many competitors, however after every week racking up traffic-heavy metropolis miles, I solely noticed 19.Eight mpg.

The Mazda CX-9’s inside is simply as impressive-looking as its exterior.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

Nonetheless appears to be like excellent

Despite the fact that the CX-9 has been offered in its present kind since 2016, I nonetheless suppose it is the best-looking three-row crossover you should buy at this time. Its neat proportions and sleek traces remind me of a ballet dancer. The CX-9’s inside is simply as putting, with tastefully utilized brightwork adorning a cabin that is trimmed with high quality supplies.

The cockpit is a reasonably quiet place to be, too, though I used to be left wanting for extra consolation. The motive force’s seat feels gentle on padding, sadly, however apart from that, the CX-9 gives a snug driving place, whereas providing simply sufficient house for as much as seven occupants all through the cabin. The third row is ok for a few children, and possibly even a pair of thin adults for brief distances. The second row of seats slides for simpler entry into the third row, however you may nonetheless doubtless should step everywhere in the second-row seatbacks throughout entry and exit.

Cargo house is relatively poor. There’s solely 14.four cubic ft behind the third row, 38.2 cubic ft behind the second row, and simply 71.2 cubic ft behind the motive force and entrance passenger. These are among the lowest numbers within the phase, trying pale as compared with one thing just like the Volkswagen Atlas. With 20.6 cubic ft behind the third row, 55.5 cubic ft behind the second row and 96.Eight cubic ft behind the primary row, the Atlas is without doubt one of the extra capacious entries within the phase.

If you should use the CX-9 for towing, there is a little bit of unhealthy information there, too. In contrast with most three-row crossover SUVs that may tow 5,000 kilos or extra, the most effective the CX-9 can muster is three,500 kilos.

The CX-9’s new 360-degree digital camera is fuzzy and difficult to learn because it battles for house with the blurry backup digital camera.

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The most recent tech, however not the best

The bottom CX-9 Sport at $33,325 (together with $1,045 for vacation spot) comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, HD radio and a six-speaker stereo. My $43,985 Grand Touring tester comes with an Eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, embedded navigation, a lovely 12-speaker Bose premium audio system, satellite tv for pc radio and a lovely 7-inch TFT instrument cluster show that is shiny, sharp, clear and straightforward to learn.

Mazda’s made an necessary stride this 12 months by providing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the CX-9’s increased trims. That is a serious enchancment, however Mazda’s infotainment outdoors cellphone mirroring leaves loads to be desired. I discover the native menu construction distracting and overly sophisticated, which is barely made worse by graphics that really feel a technology behind.

Normal driver help options embrace collision-mitigation braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. My well-equipped instance additionally options adaptive cruise management, lane-keep help, site visitors signal recognition, automated excessive beams, rain-sensing wipers, plus entrance and rear parking sensors. My tester additionally features a new-for-2019 360-degree digital camera, which is a pleasant addition in principle, however in observe, it is not well-rounded. Shift the CX-9 into reverse, and also you’re offered with a picture that is too small and blurry. The surround-view imagery additionally has to battle the equally diminutive and fuzzy backup digital camera picture that is additionally preventing for actual property on the middle touchscreen.

It is a good SUV, however it’s falling prey to actually good competitors.

Manuel Carrillo III/Roadshow

Now not ‘the one’

A top-of-the line Mazda CX-9 Signature can strategy $47,000, however all that basically will get you is a few fancy inside and exterior accent lighting, in addition to higher-quality leather-based and nicer inside trim in contrast with lower-priced CX-9 variants.

With perforated leather-based upholstery that is already top quality, in addition to options like a sunroof, heated and ventilated entrance seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, driver’s seat reminiscence, an influence liftgate, adaptive LED headlights and 20-inch wheels, my CX-9 Grand Touring comes fairly near the Signature’s degree of opulence, for round three grand much less.

General, although, the Mazda CX-9 not seems like an absolute winner in its aggressive set. It isn’t that comfy, it lacks cargo house, it does not tow that a lot and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t sufficient to masks its outdated infotainment tech. At this level in its life cycle, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 is starting to should depend on its pretty design and pleasing driving dynamics, however I not suppose that is sufficient for me to advocate it to most buyers.

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