The Mazda line-up of SUV models will be restored to three choices with the launch of the new generation CX-9 seven-seater as the brand flagship from October 1.
The first generation CX-9 debuted in New Zealand in early 2011 when it was already part way through its global model cycle. At that stage a tentative Mazda New Zealand was still feeling its way with SUV models, having tried first with the Tribute before finding some success with the CX-7. But it wasn’t sure about the bigger CX-9 and a higher price point.
Jump forward to 2016 and Mazda New Zealand has got its SUV game up to full-speed. It’s CX-5 and CX-3 are core models while the original CX-9 had gained a steady foothold until stock was sold out early this year.
The newcomer sees the brand seeking a new level of premium appeal and introducing the first turbocharged version of its SkyActiv petrol engines. It also completes what Mazda calls its sixth generation product line.
The new CX-9 delivers clever turbocharging efficiency, handsome styling with plenty of eye-catching detailing in a full-size family SUV with three-row seating. It’s slightly smaller than its predecessor — and also lighter — but still measures up at more than 5m in length.
But the most significant thing about the new CX-9 is the way it bridges the gap on quality and refinement between mainstream brand SUVs and luxury brand models.
The CX-9 Limited, at $62,995, has competitive pricing but its quietness, refined and efficient performance, comprehensive specification and luxurious cabin finish compares favourably to a Lexus — at nothing like the price.
Three models comprise the CX-9 line-up for New Zealand with a $52,995 starting point for the front-wheel-drive GSX model. The GSX with all-wheel drive is $55,495 before stepping to the luxury CX-9 AWD Limited model at $62,995.
It’s not just a move upmarket from Mazda, but the pricing that ensures significantly enhanced value.
In the quest for efficiency, the CX-9 drops the potent but thirsty 3.7-litre V6 engine and introduces the first turbo version of its four-cylinder SkyActiv-G engine family.
The direct injection 2488cc unit has been tuned to deliver high torque and immediate response by using a small turbocharger and Mazda’s innovative Dynamic Turbo Pressure system and cooled exhaust gas recirculation (see sidebar).
On paper the SkyActiv 2.5T develops 170kW at 5000rpm but the important number when it comes to shifting 1.9-tonnes of SUV is the 420Nm of torque it can muster at just 2000rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models.
On the road the turbo engine delivers its high-torque muscle from low engine speeds with impressive light throttle flexibility. The engine is quiet and other aspects of vehicle such as insulation, glass thickness and air flow have been engineered to reduce other NVH intrusions, so it’s a relaxed highway cruiser with a quiet cabin.
It’s not just the style of performance which is a substantial change from the revvy V6. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 8.4L/100km for the front-wheel-drive model and 8.8L/100km for the AWD versions where the previous V6 was rated with 11.0L/100km and 11.2L/100km consumption figures.
The design showcases a further evolution of Mazda’s Kodo styling theme with a long bonnet, flat roofline, short overhangs, prominent wheel arches and steeply raked rear windscreen providing a dynamic stance. The front end features slimline LED headlights and a bold, three-dimensional grille that appears to sit proud of the sheet metal.
There is a choice of seven colours with Machine Grey Metallic the hero colour for the CX-9 launch while Snowflake White, Sonic Silver, Soul Red Metallic, Jet Black Mica, Titanium Flash Mica and Deep Crystal Blue Mica complete the palette.
Visual distinction between the GSX and Limited grades is provided by the 20-inch alloys on the Limited (18-inch on the GSX) along the LED daytime running lights (halogen on the GSX) and a LED signature tail light cluster on the Limited.
A panorama sunroof and power-operated tailgate are standard on the Limited.
Inside, Mazda has delivered its best interior which combines high quality materials including leather and genuine aluminium trim (on the Limited) to give a look of sophistication that exceeds its price point. The raised centre console separating the front seats provides a car-like cockpit feel rather than the upright seating position of traditional SUVs.
Key standard features on both CX-9 models include black leather seat trim, three-zone air conditioning, heated and power-adjustable front seats, rain sensor wipers, LED front fog lamps and a push button electric park brake.
The MZD Connect 8-inch colour touchscreen provides satellite navigation, reversing camera, audio and phone connectivity.
At Limited grade the CX-9 gains a 294-watt Bose premium audio system with 12-speakers, front seat memory function, LED map-reading spotlights, rear window sunshades, rear privacy glass and Advanced Proximity Locking system. A natural stone leather option is available on the Limited.
Safety will also be a selling point and prior to launch the new CX-9 has been awarded a 5-star Australasian NCAP safety rating with an overall score of 35.87 (out of a possible 37 points).
Along with six airbags, Dynamic Stability Control, Trailer Sway Control and Roll Stability Control, the GSX and Limited models are equipped with Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Obstruction Warning along with Smart City Brake Support (Forward and Reverse) and Hill Launch Assist.
The Limited also benefits from a higher level of driver assist technologies, with Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop-Go function, Smart Brake Support, Adaptive LED headlights with auto high beam, Lane Departure Warning and Lane-Keep Assist and Driver Attention Alert fatigue warning. The Limited also gets a full colour Active Driving head-up display.
The new CX-9 offers a large-size seven-seat SUV solution with the latest execution of Mazda’s Kodo design providing strong road presence.
The impressive specs, finish quality and technology is a move upmarket without an accompanying price increase.
NEW MAZDA CX-9 LINE-UP
2.5T GSX FWD AUTO — $52,995 2.5T GSX AWD auto — $55,495 2.5T Limited AWD auto — $62,995