Growing up doesn’t mean you have to give up. If you feel the need to trade your hot little two-door sports car for a box-on-wheels but wish you didn’t have to there’s the 2023 Mazda CX-9. It offers a more satisfying driving experience than other family SUVs such as the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, and Jeep Grand Cherokee L. Mazda has massaged its hallmark driving verve deep into the CX-9 and the turbocharged four-cylinder engine does its best to add some excitement. Of course, this driver-focused experience isn’t without downsides, as the CX-9’s more compact shape means that the larger SUVs in this segment offer more space for people and cargo. The interior may not be as roomy, but it’s certainly more upscale than expected thanks to premium materials and a timeless design. From a purely practical point of view, the CX-9 is falling behind, but for those who have road manners high on their priority list, the Mazda is still a strong entry in the SUV segment.
What’s New for 2023?
The CX-9’s base Sport trim level is gone for 2023, which raises the SUV’s base price to over $40,000. Luckily, other changes to the Touring model seem intended to justify the price, such as standard captain’s chairs for the second row, black- or tan-colored leather upholstery, a power sunroof, fog lamps, and a wireless smartphone charging pad.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
The entry-level Touring model offers plenty of desirable features right out of the gate, including a power-operated rear liftgate, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, and keyless entry with push-button start. This model also comes standard with second-row captain’s chairs—a feature many three-row SUV buyers want. If you’d rather have a three-place bench opt for the Touring Plus trim.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
In a segment where V-6 power is common, Mazda took a risk by offering a turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the CX-9’s sole powertrain in the hope of a gain in fuel economy. It does eke out an advantage over some competitors, but it’s slight. The engine sounds gutsy and managed a class-competitive result in our acceleration testing, where it scooted our Grand Touring test vehicle from zero to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. The CX-9 is clearly the driving enthusiast’s family hauler; surprisingly light on its feet, it often feels as if you’re driving a smaller SUV. The suspension is firm, but it’s still supple enough to ride over rough stretches of road. The steering, while not as communicative as other Mazda’s, still imparts vigor that’s missing from other crossovers. The firm suspension and accurate steering culminate in superior cornering control.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Apart from its solid acceleration performance, the CX-9 is, according to the EPA, more fuel efficient than many of its rivals. The front-wheel drive model earned EPA estimates of 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway; all-wheel drive drops both of those figures by 2 mpg. In our real-world highway fuel-economy test, the all-wheel-drive CX-9 matched its 26-mpg rating. For more information about the CX-9’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The CX-9’s cabin wows with upscale materials and detailed styling but compared with other SUVs in the segment, it’s short on passenger and cargo space. Open the door and the CX-9’s interior welcomes passengers with an upscale cabin that wouldn’t look out of place in an Audi. Mazda has tastefully arranged soft-touch plastic with handsome graining, brushed aluminum, and, in our Signature-trim test car, genuine rosewood. The CX-9’s smaller measurements mean real-world limitations. We managed to fit just two of our carry-on suitcases behind the Mazda’s third row, which is one-third of what the Ford Explorer could muster. The CX-9’s second and third rows of seats fold easily for quick configuration changes, though, and the resultant load floor is flat, making it easy to load bulky items. With second- and third-row seats down, the CX-9 accommodated 25 of our carry-on cases.
The Car and Driver Difference
Infotainment and Connectivity
All CX-9s come with Mazda’s user-friendly infotainment system and a 10.3-inch display. The software is easy to navigate and the graphics are crisp, plus the Mazda Connected Services suite provides remote access to vehicle status, telematics, and key operations such as remote start and remote locking. Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, HD radio, a wireless smartphone charging pad, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all standard features.
How to Buy and Maintain a Car
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
A host of driver-assistance technologies are standard across the CX-9 lineup, including convenient adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist features. For more information about the CX-9’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Mazda offers an adequate protection plan for buyers of new CX-9s. What it doesn’t offer is something that both the GMC Acadia and the Toyota Highlander do: Complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 6-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$47,560 (base price: $47,160)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
152 in3, 2488 cm3
250 hp @ 5000 rpm
320 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 12.6-in vented disc/12.8-in disc
Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia H/L 422 Plus, P255/50R20 104V M+S
Wheelbase: 115.3 in
Length: 199.4 in
Width: 77.5 in
Height: 67.6 in
Passenger volume: 136 cu ft
Cargo volume: 14 cu ft
Curb weight: 4364 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
60 mph: 7.0 sec
100 mph: 19.3 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.9 sec
1/4 mile: 15.4 sec @ 90 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 132 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 169 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.85 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 20 mpg
75-mph highway driving: 25 mpg
Highway range: 480 miles
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 23/20/26 mpg
More Features and Specs