Hello, Old Friend: 2015 Mazda CX-9

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mazda CX-9
The 2015 Mazda CX-9.
It has been a long time since our last drive in a Mazda CX-9.  Almost four years, in fact.  Not much has changed, which is a good news/bad news kind of thing.

Rear 3/4 view of 2015 Mazda CX-9
2015 Mazda CX-9.
What has changed is the front end styling and some instrument panel revisions and upgrades.

What hasn't that falls under the category of good news is that the CX-9 is still the best-handling, most fun to drive large crossover on the market.  Handling is pretty much a given in Mazda vehicles, and the 273-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 brings plenty of power to the party.

It also continues to be one of the most reasonably priced large crossovers available.  In the four model years since our last go-round, the base price of the CX-9 Grand Touring has gone up by less than $200 and now stands at $35,035.

Interior view of 2015 Mazda CX-9.
2015 Mazda CX-9 interior.
For that money, you get a level of standard equipment that would bump you into the low-to-mid $40,000 range in the competition: 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a power liftgate, leather-wrapped shift knob and steering wheel, heated front leather-trimmed seats, Bluetooth, a three-zone climate control, rear-view camera and keyless start.

Ours had extra-cost options...$2,435 for the GT Tech Package (upgraded Bose 10-speaker audio system with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, full-color touchscreen navigation and a power moonroof); $100 for a towing prep package (revised engine control module, heavy-duty transmission cooler and radiator fan) and $650 for the Recreational Accessory Package (roof rails, a cargo net, cross bars and stainless steel rear bumper guard.  But...there's an automatic $650 discount for the Recreational Accessory Package, so it's ...free. Making the bottom line, with $830 delivery, processing and handling fee an even $38,400.

All good news there.

The bad?  While the CX-9 hasn't changed much and that has preserved the virtues listed above, the automotive landscape has.  Big crossovers have cooled off as buyers have gravitated toward smaller ones.  The CX-9 suffers from some switchgear placement that we didn't give a second thought to in 2011, but that, after four years of ergonomic evolution, seems odd and unituitive.  It drives bigger than it used to (probably because we've had exposure to its nimble little sister, the CX-5).  And while we like the power that 3.7-liter V6 delivers, it's thirsty, with an EPA mileage estimate of 17 city/24 highway (we saw only 18.6 in a week worth of driving urban streets and freeways, with probably 65 percent of that being at freeway speeds).

Still, if your needs dictate a crossover this large, the price difference between the CX-9 and more expensive competitors buys a lot of gas.  It would absolutely still be on our list of candidates were we shopping with our own money.