Photo by Mike Antich.
I recently attended a Mazda media event to test ride the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9 through the hills and coastal roads of Marin County, north of San Francisco.
The CX-9 is a mid-size crossover SUV with three rows of seating for 7 passengers. If your fleet policy allows personal use, then the CX-9 promises to be a hit on your selector list, especially for employees who have families with younger children. In fact, the CX-9 was specifically designed for this driving population.
In addition to being all-new, the CX-9 is the first model to feature Mazda’s new four-cylinder 2.5L direct-injection turbocharged gasoline engine, which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces excellent response the moment you depress the accelerator pedal without turbo lag, which translates into a powerful, smooth linear acceleration. Mazda purposely designed the engine to provide the best acceleration in the low- to mid-rpm range, which is where most company drivers would spend the majority of time driving.
On windy roads, the CX-9 grips the road, giving the driver a surefooted feeling that the vehicle is firmly planted when negotiating the tightest curves.
In terms of operating costs, the CX-9 offers excellent fuel economy for a crossover SUV due to the SkyActiv engine technology, its 6-speed transmission, and reduction in the vehicle’s curb weight by employing lightweighting techniques, such as using an aluminum front hood. In fact, the SkyActiv technology is so fuel-efficient, it has allowed Mazda to meet CAFE mandates without having to develop a hybrid model.
Photo by Mike Antich.
A key driving impression focused on the quietness of the CX-9 cabin, which Mazda touts as the quietest it has ever built. I examined the level of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), a common metric used by testers, from the perspective both road and wind noise. The CX-9 does an excellent job in mitigating road noise with a thicker floor pan and 53 pounds of insulation between the carpeting and the bottom surface of the vehicle.
Similarly, Mazda added additional seals in all the panel gaps and around the windows to muffle the noise caused by wind turbulence from seeping into the interior cabin. Also, the quietness of the cabin is assisted by the windshield, which is comprised of a multi-layer construction with a sound dampening layer in-between.
The CX-9 offers excellent ergonomics and Mazda prides itself on taking a human-centric approach to the vehicle’s development. The CX-9 offers the i-ACTIVESENSE advanced safety package, along with other design refinements to enhance driver safety. For example, the A-pillar was moved back to increase safety to give drivers a more panoramic view of the road ahead. Similarly, a gap was intentionally designed between the A-pillar and the passenger side mirror to give the driver a greater view of objects to the side of the vehicle.