Car Review: CX-9 may be short-lived

Feb. 19—Change is in the works for a new Mazda SUV, already named CX-90. But what may be the last production year for the CX-9 contains some value-packed changes to consider.

Last year's base Sport trim has been dropped for 2023 and replaced with the Touring model. Remaining trims include the Touring Plus, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring and high-end Signature with prices ranging from the $40,000s to $50,000s.

We have long been a fan of Mazda, dating back to its earlier sport's cars: the rotary-powered RX-7 and popular Miata. Its cars and SUVs share some of the same driving experience with built-in SKYACTIV-Drive — a tuned six-speed automatic-transmission merging technology from continuously variable transmissions, dual clutch automated manual and traditional automatic transmissions.

That said, the CX-9 is higher priced due to its lengthy list of standard features compared with rivals Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.

Pros: compliant ride, available posh interiors and peppy turbo.

Cons: stingy cargo space, can get pricy and cramped third row.

If luxury amenities are a must on your list, the Signature trim on our tester delivered to the nines and for less coin than many luxury brands. Its Lexus-like posh interior features stitched leather, rosewood interior trim with extra padding, aluminum trim panels, heated second row Captain's Chairs, three-zone climate control, supplemental lighting at center console as well as exterior badging upgrades and LED grille accent lighting.

Power is delivered through a 2.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that acts more like a six-cylinder with a spirited ride and suspension that hugs the road like a sports car. In our independent testing, the CX-9 reached 60 miles per hour in 7.2 seconds, quicker than previous models. Mazda engineers deserve kudos for processing low-end torque and matching it to the driving habits of most crossover drivers. With 310 pound-feet of torque(power), the CX-9 is designed to deliver robust performance.

We were impressed with its road manners, handling like a smaller SUV. Its athleticism outperformed many rivals as we maneuvered winding roads with firm footing from all-wheel drive. Its spirited engine and suspension system keeps the crossover firmly planted while cornering, braking and in straightaway travel.

There is generous room up front with supportive power seat adjustments. Second row passengers have generous head and legroom with adjustable seat backs as well as fore and aft movement.

That's it for comfort though, as third row seating is best suited for small children or, better yet, folded flat for needed cargo space. The CX-9 has just 14 cubic feet of storage behind third-row seats and 72 with second and third row seating collapsed, less than most rivals.

The CX-9 shines with its standard driver assist features including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive front lighting, smart brake support, 360-degree view monitor and automatic headlights.

Mazda does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance while rivals tend to include this feature. Even so, its sporty looks and classy interior place it in the test drive category for three-row, mid-size SUVs.

Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at