Were Herbert Hoover still on the campaign trail, we think he’d be promising a chicken in every pot and a three-row SUV in every garage. Even in financially strapped Middle America, the three-row SUV or crossover has become ubiquitous. And while sales of Mazda’s CX-9 haven’t matched those from Toyota or Honda, the Mazda remains arguably the class of this class, some five years after its introduction.
If proof were needed to support the claim, you need only look at comparison tests conducted in the last year by both Motor Trend and USA Today. At Motor Trend the CX-9 won against much newer competition (virtually everything in the category is newer), while in USA Today’s competition among more recent entries the CX-9 netted a respectable midpack finish.
At the time of its introduction we were struck by how much we enjoyed the platform of the CX-9, which seemed more nimble than Mazda’s smaller (and arguably sportier) CX-7. There is an almost tossable disposition to the Mazda chassis, with good road feel supplied by the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, the assurance of 4-wheel disc braking and the composed comfort of an all-independent suspension. Add the security of what Mazda calls Active Torque Split all-wheel drive, and you have all-year/all-season capability and fun behind the wheel.
Of course, much of that competence and enjoyment can be attributed to the CX-9’s powertrain. A 3.7 liter V6 provides 273 horsepower (@ 6,250 rpm) and 270 lb-ft of torque (@ 4,250 rpm), transmitted through a 6-speed automatic. We found the engine/transmission combo smooth at all speeds, and impressively responsive when called upon to accelerate or pass. And while its City EPA number (16) is OK for the AWD segment, we’re pleased by 22 on the Highway and an observed 19 in a combination of ‘cruising’ and ‘cavorting’ on two-lane blacktop between San Antonio and Dallas.