NEWS

2016 Mazda CX-9: First Look

img 1826853153 1447797219392 jpg 2016 Mazda CX-9; | Manufacturer image

Competes with: Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Hyundai Santa Fe

Looks like: An evolutionary styling update hides big changes within

Drivetrain: 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission; front- or all-wheel drive

Hits dealerships: Spring 2016

The second-generation Mazda CX-9 three-row SUV makes its debut today at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show. Sporting a more athletic appearance, a richly appointed interior and a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the seven-seat CX-9 has been overhauled to compete with fresh SUVs like the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe. It arrives at dealerships in spring 2016.

More 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show Coverage

Exterior

There’s a clear connection between the 2016 CX-9’s styling and its predecessor’s, but Mazda has refined and sharpened the design to give it a more cohesive look. The grille’s presence is more commanding and the headlights have gotten slimmer, like the ones on the automaker’s MX-5 Miata roadster.

The CX-9 also has smooth body sides and the rear roof pillars are raked forward, which gives some extra athleticism to the design. Shoppers have a choice of 18- or 20-inch wheels, and all CX-9s have standard LED headlights. 

Interior

The prior CX-9’s interior was definitely showing its age — it hadn’t changed all that much since the SUV went on sale for model-year 2007 — but Mazda has completely redone the cabin for 2016 in the style of the automaker’s Mazda6 midsize sedan. The dashboard has a slim profile with an aluminum bar separating the upper and lower sections; Nappa leather surfaces and Japanese rosewood trim are available.

Another distinctive aspect of the cabin is the Mazda Connect multimedia display protruding from the dashboard; it’s offered in 7- or 8-inch form. It’s a touch-screen that also responds to inputs from a knob controller and shortcut buttons on the center console. There are two USB ports in front and two more charging-only USB ports in the second row. A Bose premium stereo is available.

Under the Hood

The previous CX-9 had standard V-6 power but the 2016 CX-9 uses a new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder that’s rated at 250 horsepower when running on 93-octane premium gas and 227 hp on regular gas. The engine also makes 310 pounds-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm.

Horsepower is down slightly from the prior V-6’s 273-hp rating, but the new CX-9 is lighter; front-wheel-drive models weigh about 200 pounds less while all-wheel-drive versions are nearly 300 pounds less, according to Mazda.

Official fuel economy estimates haven’t been released, but Mazda expects the new CX-9 to be considerably more efficient than its predecessor, citing an increase of about 20 percent. The front-wheel-drive 2015 CX-9 gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in combined driving, which means if Mazda’s estimates are on target the redesigned CX-9 could see combined mpg jump to 22 or 23 mpg. The front-wheel-drive V-6-powered Pilot gets 23 mpg combined when fitted with the available nine-speed automatic transmission, while the front-drive Ford Explorer with the turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder is rated at 22 mpg.

Safety

Available active safety features include blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and prevention, automatic high-beam headlights and forward collision warning with automatic braking.

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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

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