2011 Mazda CX-9 Review

Front 3/4 view of silver 2011 Mazda CX-9 parked in front of home
The 2011 Mazda CX-9. Crossover or sport sedan with a whole lotta cargo space?

Oh, man, am I glad we made this editorial decision. Upon returning the Mazda CX-7 we liked so much we asked Chapman Mazda in Phoenix if we could do a review of its bigger brother, the CX-9. They graciously agreed.

It's been a while since we've been in a CX-9, and the memory cells were saying "like the CX-7, just bigger". That's how most small crossover/large crossover teams usually work out, and the CX-7 is so good, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

But driving the CX-9 immediately after the CX-7 revealed that we are talking about two entirely different vehicles here...in ways that go beyond size and price.

Rear 3/4 view of silver 2011 Mazda CX-9 in front of home
The 2011 Mazda CX-9. Strong, chiseled good looks.

All Mazdas are driver's cars. Handling, balance and acceleration are always a big part of the package (the company's motto is "Always the Soul of a Sports Car"), and the CX-9 is no exception. What's remarkable is how present they are in a large crossover...it's a trick the competition hasn't pulled off yet.

In truth, the CX-9 is a fast, comfortable, brilliant-handling sports sedan that just happens to seat seven.  And what you get for your money is simply amazing.

The "base" CX-9 is the Sport. MSRP is $29,135, and for that you get a 3.7-liter V6 with 273 horsepower and 270 pounds per foot of torque connected to a six-speed sport automatic transmission with a manual mode. There are also halogen headlights, power side mirrors, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, a three-zone (driver, front passenger and rear) climate control system, power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cloth-trimmed seats, an AM/FM/CD/mp3 audio system with 6 speakers, Bluetooth, front side-impact airbags and side-impact air curtains with rollover protection, Dynamic Stability Control and the Traction Control System.

Interior shot of 2011 Mazda CX-9
The stylish and comfortable 2011 Mazda CX-9 interior.

Step up one level and you're in the one Chapman Mazda lent us for the week, the CX-9 Touring. Base price goes up to $31,055 and you get all the goodies in the Sport plus leather seating in the first two rows, heated front seats and side mirrors, an 8-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support , a 4-way power passenger seat and auto-off headlights (ours didn't have the nav system pictured above...in fact, it had no factory options whatsoever...and I'd call it brilliantly equipped).

And you can go one step further with the CX-9 Grand Touring....everything the Touring has plus Xenon HID low-beam headlights, halogen fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power side mirrors with turn-signal lights, 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, driver's seat memory, Mazda's advanced keyless entry and start system, an auto-dimming rear view mirror with HomeLink, dark silver and wood-tone interior trim, electroluminescent gauges, a blind spot monitoring system and an anti-theft alarm system. And that's $33,145.

Any of the three trim levels qualifies for bargain of the year. The Touring model we drove topped out at $31,850 with delivery charges. Load up any of the directly competing crossovers and you're past $35,000 minimum and might even get within walking distance of $40,000. And you won't have the performance and the handling you get in the CX-9.

EPA mileage estimate: 17 city/24 highway.