Strengths and weaknesses:
- nice styling inside and out
- good engine
- useful new features added to GT trim
- slow to downshift when looking for quick power
- some road noise
Sporting some cosmetic changes to its sheet metal and new packaging inclusions, Mazda’s large family utility transporter remains familiar and likeable for 2010.
The CX-9 is still easily recognizable, with its updated grille bringing its front end appeal in line with other products from the Japanese manufacturer. The overall visual impression is of a big seven-seater that manages to look muscular enough at the curb side to scream “I am not a minivan”, for the benefit of buyers who are sensitive to that sort of thing.
My tester this week, in GT trim, is handsome in a practical family hauler way, with chrome accents imparting a sporty flair to the big body and large wheels that perform the visual trick of making it look lower and sleeker than it actually is.
The vehicle’s height makes it easy to slip in and out of the passenger compartment, and the overall dimensions allow ample roominess in the first two rows. The rear seats, as is the case with almost everything in the class, are best suited for kids, though access is helped by the sliding second row seats.
My GT model is upholstered in light leather with darker accent trim on the seats, an attractive change from the darker-upholstered interior of the last one I drove (a 2009 GT).
From the driver’s bucket, the CX-9 delivers a good combination of comfort and ergonomics; a decent range of adjustability in the seat and tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel make it easy to find an optimal driving position for hours behind the wheel.
The controls are laid out within easy reach and straightforward to operate, aided by a touchscreen central interface for stereo and navigation functions.
New equipment for the 2010 GT trim level enhances the cabin environment with an upgraded ten-speaker Bose sound system (with satellite radio) and rearview camera that shares its display with the stereo/nav system. My favourite inclusion in the GT tester is the blindspot monitor, which alerts a driver to vehicles close to the CX on either side via flashing LEDs mounted in the side mirrors.
The driving experience in the 2010 model is the same as in previous generations. It’s tuned to feel car-like with light, speed sensitive power steering and a ride that absorbs bumps and bangs on my city’s many imperfect roads. While the passenger compartment is well-insulated, some road noise from the big tires still makes its way inside.
The suspension does a good job of keeping the vehicle feeling stable and flat when cornering; at least for this type of vehicle.
The performance stats haven’t changed for 2010, either. My tester uses Mazda’s 3.7 litre engine combined with a six-speed automatic transmission. Output is still 273 horses and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, which is more than adequate to move the CX-9’s imposing frame around. The tranny seems to like to get itself into higher gears as soon as possible, keeping the revs low; that has to help the fuel economy, though I find the sport-shift function useful for dropping it down a gear for hills or if I want to accelerate quickly from low speed.
Ultimately, the 2010 CX-9 continues to be an upscale choice for people who need to transport passengers and groceries, and like the security of a large all-wheel drive ride. The GT trim of my tester adds a layer of luxury to the experience with extra electronics and premium-feel interior; albeit at extra cost.
A GT with navigation system prices out at $50,325 before freight and taxes, up from the $47,500 MSRP