For its third year on the market, the CX-9 undergoes a number of changes to its list of standard and optional equipment as Mazda attempts to sweeten the value proposition for this three-row mid-size crossover.
The only change that affects all trims is the addition of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control system, which gently reduces throttle input when the steering wheel is turned to improve vehicle handling. Already standard in the Mazda3 and Mazda6, this system is so subtle its effect can only be seen with the aid of performance measuring equipment.
Also new for 2018 is the addition of Mazda’s i-Activesense suite of active safety features as an option in GS and GS-L trims. The GT trim now comes standard with those items, which were previously part of a tech package that was only included in the top-end Signature model.
That i-Activesense suite now also boasts traffic sign recognition, stop-and-go functionality for the radar cruise control system and pedestrian detection when smart brake support is activated.
Heated rear seats are standard from the GS-L trim all the way up, and there’s a new second-row seat design that allows easier access to the third row.
Mazda motivates the CX-9 with a 2.5L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates up to 250 hp (227 on regular fuel) and 310 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery is smooth, aided by a very nice six-speed automatic transmission but the overall feel is closer to that of a diesel engine, resulting in less-than-mindblowing acceleration in the higher reaches of 2.5L’s rev range.
The CX-9 is also a bit smaller inside than many of its competitors, which include the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Chevrolet Traverse, all of which offer V6 power. The tradeoff, however, is that this is one of the better-handling vehicles in its class. As is typical of the category, FWD is standard and AWD optional in base form, but four-wheel traction is standard in all other trims.
Standard niceties include three-zone automatic climate control, but Mazda requires a move up to the GS-L if you want to add a sunroof, passive keyless entry, power tailgate, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a heated steering wheel.
The Mazda Connect infotainment system figures here, accessible through a seven-inch screen in the GS and an eight-inch display in GS-L and up. The GT and Signature models add navigation.
GT trim is where you’ll start to find more upscale features like rear door sunshades, lighted interior front door handles and window switches, steerable headlights and a Bose 12-speaker stereo.
Fuel consumption estimates are 11.5/8.9 L/100 km (city/highway) in AWD models, and 10.6/8.4 with FWD.