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2023 Mazda CX-9 offers a high-quality driving experience in a stylish three-row package Featured

Posted On Wednesday, 24 May 2023 01:40 Written by
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The interior design of the 2023 Mazda CX-9 offers a near-luxury experience The interior design of the 2023 Mazda CX-9 offers a near-luxury experience Photo courtesy of Mazda

Three-row SUVs don’t have to be boring. And the Mazda CX-9 is Exhibit A in this argument.

I recently tested a 2023 Mazda CX-9, which faces a ton of solid competition including the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Ford Explorer. But I was pleased to find that the CX-9 holds up very well against all opponents.

Mazda recognizes how popular the midsize crossover has become, and has kept everything from styling to technology up to date so they don’t lose a step.

And at the heart of it all is what makes Mazda tick … that zoom zoom mentality that always keeps in mind the importance of a quality driving experience, even on its larger models like the CX-9.


LOOKS

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the 2023 Mazda CX-9 features one of the most sleek and eye-pleasing designs you’ll see on any of the three-row SUVs for sale today. I love the look of Mazda's signature grille, its unique lighting design and the vehicle's overall smooth lines.

My test vehicle was a top-trim Signature vehicle and had Mazda’s traditional Soul Red Crystal Metallic exterior color. It featured 20-inch alloy wheels (18-inch wheels are standard), all-season tires, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated power mirrors with turn lamps, a power moonroof, aluminum roof rails and more.

Moving to the interior, cargo space in the 2023 CX-9 is less than rivals, but the truly upscale interior design is much better than those competitors, so it’s a tradeoff you’ll need to consider.

Storage comes in at 14.4 cubic feet with all seats up, and as much as 71.2 cubic feet with the rear rows down. These are not spectacular numbers for the segment, but still adequate enough to pack a lot on a family road trip.

The CX-9’s top trims look and feel very close to the level of a true luxury car, but cost less than those luxury brand offerings. It’s a best-case scenario for those who want great style and premium comfort without going to stratospheric spending heights.

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 offers either seating for either 6 or 7, depending if you choose the captain’s chairs or the bench in the second row. The third row has limited leg room and is best left for the kids.

Nappa leather trimmed seats are offered in first and second rows, and you get power front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated leather steering wheel, three-zone automatic climate control and second-row window sunshades.

HOW’S THE RIDE?

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 features a turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. That number can be boosted to 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet by using Premium fuel. All CX-9 models will come with all-wheel drive.

For a good-sized three-row SUV, you’ll be surprised at how powerful and nimble a ride you’ll get in the CX-9. The vehicle can go from zero to 60 mph in roughly 7 seconds. Despite its size, the vehicle is agile, responsive, fast when you need it to be, and corners well.

It’s a bit of a unicorn, in that it’s a family vehicle that you’ll look forward to driving. In fact, it handles so well you’ll think you are driving a smaller vehicle.

The setup that leads to such a smooth, quiet and quality ride includes Dynamic Stability Control, a Traction Control System, an independent front/rear suspension, plus front and rear stabilizer bars.

And putting the vehicle in Sport mode will enhance your experience even further. You can even use paddle shifters if you’d like to simulate a manual experience in the CX-9.

Don’t plan to go too crazy with towing in the CX-9; as it tops out at 3,500 pounds.

TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

Diving right into the technology on the CX-9, voice commands on the infotainment system worked very well in my testing, responding properly and without issue. 

Connecting phones to the CX-9 is easy for Bluetooth streaming of calls and music, and the navigation system works very well.

The 10.25-inch color display is not a touchscreen, and is controlled by a dial in the center console. While the dial is mostly efficient, there are times when operations take more steps than I would like to control music and other aspects of the system. Rival systems can be more user-friendly at times.

A six-speaker audio system is standard, but you can upgrade to the much sharper 12-speaker Bose system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration are included, and you get USB ports throughout the vehicle, plus a wireless charging pad for your phone.

The Mazda Connected Services suite allows for remote access to vehicle information, plus the ability to remotely start or lock the vehicle. A three-month trial of satellite radio is offered.

Moving on to safety, Mazda delivers a ton of helpful features. Among the most impressive are the backup camera and the top-down view of a 360-degree monitor, which help you stay safe in tight backing out or parking situations.

Other features that come standard include: Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot warning, lane keeping assist and rear cross-traffic warning, plus a bevy of airbags covering all angles.

Other helpful touches include the traffic sign recognition system, and the head-up display to help keep your eyes on the road.

This all adds up to a five-star overall government safety rating, making the CX-9 one of the safest SUVs you can buy. There’s even a driver attention warning which alerts you if it appears the driver is becoming fatigued.

MPG

The official fuel mileage numbers listed on the CX-9 are 20 city/26 highway/23 combined. In real world testing, I averaged around 21 mpg. With a fuel tank just under 20 gallons, that’s just over 400 miles per fill-up.

These are pretty average numbers for the segment, beating some rivals but losing out to others. And the heavier you are with the gas pedal, the more your mileage numbers will decrease.

But again, consider the tradeoff. Opting for another SUV with better MPG will almost certainly mean a less enjoyable overall drive quality than the CX-9 offers.

PRICE

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 I tested, which was the top Signature trim level, was priced just over $50K; and the base price starts about $40K.

Trim levels offered include: Touring, Touring Plus, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring and the Signature trim, which is bordering on luxury level. Even getting the base Touring model gets you a high-quality three-row SUV with lots of features including standard captain’s chairs, and things just get better from there.

Pricing is a bit higher than some rivals for the CX-9, but you are also getting a higher-quality vehicle in both performance and design.

Warranties are decent but not spectacular, including a 60-month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, 36-month//36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, and 24-hour roadside assistance.

BOTTOM LINE

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 is the perfect three-row SUV option for buyers seeking a stylish, near-luxury vehicle that’s simply a blast to drive due to its overall driving profile. You sacrifice some cargo space and leg room in the third row, but it will be well worth it for many buyers.

The midsize SUV is not an easy category — with excellent three-row SUV alternatives available from many automakers — but the CX-9 has a legitimate claim for the top of the heap in the segment.

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AutoTechReviews.com can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page. Follow AutoTechReviews on Instagram at @Autotechreviews. Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu



Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2023 Mazda CX-9
  • Price as tested: $50,330 (Starts around $40K) 
  • Best feature: Tremendous driving experience, near-luxury level design
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars    
  • Who will want this vehicle?: SUV buyers who want classy design and an truly enjoyable ride  
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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