Versus the competiton:
Mazda’s CX-9 crossover utility is still basking in the glow of being chosen as the 2008 North American Truck of the Year.
While the CX-9 is classified as a truck, it has the ride and handling of a tall sedan, and the Grand Touring model feels like a luxury car inside.
The CX-9 is available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $29,820 for a front-wheel-drive Sport, and $35,205 for an all-wheel-drive Grand Touring, which is the vehicle I drove.
The CX-9’s chassis is derived from that of the Mazda 6, and the basic architecture and many components are shared with the Edge and MKX. The CX-9’s wheelbase is 2 inches longer than the Ford Edge’s.
Crossover vehicles such as the CX-9 are gaining in popularity because they are lighter and more fuel-efficient than truck-based SUVs, yet they are capable of carrying up to seven people. In many ways, the CX-9 is as functional as a minivan, yet it has sharper styling.
The 3.7-liter engine delivers 273 horsepower. While it is only slightly larger than the 3.5-liter engine that was used in the 2007 model, the extra size makes a notable difference. The larger engine’s additional 21 pound-feet of torque gives the CX-9 sharper throttle response and quicker acceleration.
The 2009 retains the same six-speed, sport-shift automatic transmission, front and rear stabilizer bars for flatter cornering, ventilated disc brakes and seven-passenger seating with head-protection airbags for all three rows of seats.
The Grand Touring model has a blind-spot monitoring system that lights a small icon in the outside rearview mirror when a vehicle is alongside. This feature is extremely handy and one that any driver will appreciate.
The sharp nose, sloping windshield and tapered roofline contribute to a wedge-shaped profile that looks honed by the wind. The rear fenders are flared to accommodate the large tires. The Grand Touring model comes with 20-inch wheels.
The CX-9’s interior is as nice as a luxury sedan’s. Carefully executed styling details are evident throughout the vehicle. The taillights are trimmed with chrome, the rear hatch is convex, and the interior of the test car was a nice combination of wood-grain trim and satin-finished accents.
The Mazda’s door panels have curved ribs that mimic those of the center stack, and power window switches are mounted on the ribs.
The instrument panel is cool at night. The main gauges have red numbers highlighted by a ring of blue light. Blue LEDs light the door handles and cast a soft glow on the center console.
The CX-9 has a large, wide cabin. The vehicle felt slightly ponderous for the first few blocks, but the longer I drove it, the smaller it felt. It was composed and quiet at highway speeds.
The front seats were nicely contoured and very comfortable. The second-row seat slides forward for easy access to the third seat. Sliding the second-row seat forward increases third-seat legroom.
The center console has a power outlet and a jack for an MP3 player.
The rear cargo area is substantial with the rear seat folded down. The top-hinged rear tailgate was relatively heavy to close.
The base price of the test vehicle was $35,205. Options included a power sunroof, Bose stereo with six-disc CD player, blind spot monitoring system and navigation system with backup camera. The sticker price was $40,135.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2009 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
Engine: 3.7-liter, 273-hp V-6
Wheelbase: 113.2 inches
Curb weight: 4,312 lbs.
Base price: $35,205
As driven: $40,135
MPG rating: 15 city, 21 hwy.
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