Over the past few years, Mazda has steadily overhauled every model in its lineup, redressing each with new styling, and deploying efficiency-focused Skyactiv powertrains. But one vehicle was left out, until now.
The 2016 Mazda CX-9 represents the first full redesign of Mazda’s largest crossover since it was launched nearly a decade ago. Debuting at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, the CX-9 gets the same upgrades that have worked so well on the rest of the Japanese automaker’s cars and crossovers.
The changes start with a handsome exterior that uses the same “Kodo” design language of the other Mazda models. Previewed by the Koeru concept from the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, the production CX-9 sports plus-sized interpretations of the trademark Kodo bits, including a prominent shield-like grille, and sensual headlights and side surfacing. Visually, it’s basically an enlarged version of the CX-5 and CX-3 crossovers.
The last CX-9 debuted before Mazda started rolling out its Skyactiv engines, but the 2016 model gets an all-new one. In an unusual move for such a large vehicle, Mazda is going with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the only powertrain option. It produces 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and is coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. Mazda says the engine’s relative lack of grunt will be offset by low-end torque, noting that most three-row crossover drivers don’t explore the upper reaches of the rev range very often.
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Front-wheel drive is standard, with a model-specific version of the i-Activ all-wheel drive system first deployed in the CX-5 available as an option. Mazda says the CX-9 shed 198 pounds in front-wheel drive form, and 287 pounds in all-wheel drive form, compared to the outgoing model. And that’s with the addition of 53 pounds of sound-deadening material meant to quiet the cabin.
That cabin should be a pretty nice place to be. It features the same minimalistic design theme as other recent Mazda models, with some upscale touches like available Nappa leather and Japanese rosewood and aluminum trim. The CX-9 also gets the Mazda Connect infotainment system with either 7.0- or 8.0-inch screens, plus a handy rotary control knob. A 4.6-inch TFT display and head-up display for the driver are also available, along with a 12-speaker Bose audio system.
The CX-9 also gets an updated i-Activesense suite of safety technologies, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, automatic high beams, and automatic braking systems that can slow the vehicle at low speeds to lessen the severity of collisions, even if the driver takes no action.
The redesigned CX-9 completes Mazda’s lineup of passenger cars, and enthusiasts are likely hoping that means Mazda will turn its attention to a production version of the rotary-powered RX-Vision concept it unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show. There’s no harm in dreaming, after all.