Joyride: 2015 Mazda CX-9

Though nice to drive, Mazda's CX-9 is let down by its outdated interior and hefty price tag

The Mazda CX-9 is a bit like Kobe Bryant, undeniably talented but aging … and not worth the cost.

I think of the Mazda CX-9 as an aging professional athlete: it still has the moves and the smarts, but it just can’t quite compete with the youngsters.

As the biggest Mazda, the CX-9 drives extremely well for a seven-seater, but its tech, powertrain, and interior are beginning to show its age. This isn’t to say that the car can’t be useful or fun. Unfortunately, though, like a lot of aging stars, it is overpaid. So, while Mazda deserves kudos for a design that can still be relevant nearly a decade into its service, it may be time to move on.

If a tree falls in the forest

The CX-9 is undeniably one of the best handling, best driving, seven-seat vehicles that doesn’t come with a massive German price tag. In a way, this isn’t surprising given Mazda’s devotion to handling and “Zoom-Zoom” across its model range. However, in a car that hasn’t been completely redesigned in nine years, its chops are still impressive.

The CX-9 is undeniably one of the best handling, best driving, seven-seat vehicles that doesn’t come with a massive German price tag.

Considering the size and two-ton mass of the CX-9, it rides, corners, turns, and stops with aplomb. There is real communication to the driver through the wheels and pedals, a characteristic that is usually lacking on even the sportiest of crossovers.

Unfortunately, the six-speed automatic and decades-old Ford-sourced V6 — despite being rated at 273-horsepower — don’t do much to briskly move the CX-9. The big Mazda may be rated at a respectable 7.6 second 0-to-60 time, but the sensation is not overly pleasant. Worse, though, passing power is rather limited. It isn’t exactly terrible. But, when performance is the brand’s calling card, it is disappointing.

Worse still is that performance prowess just isn’t that important in this segment. The CX-9 is first, second, and third a way to haul children, pets, groceries, and broken dreams. That is what it really needs to be good at.

While it may be miles better to drive than other crossovers, that’s a bit like learning your doctor is an accomplished carpenter: nice but not that relevant. It also begs the question: does performance matter when no one is around to notice it?

A trip to the plastic surgeon

As with a lot of aging stars, the CX-9 has had some work done. In the Mazda’s case, it’s a nose job that brings the car in line with the company’s Kodo design language. The results are unquestionably great; the CX-9 is both striking and handsome without being polarizing.

Like all plastic surgery, this refresh hasn’t changed what’s on the inside. Fortunately, despite being outdated, most of what remains is pretty good. The driver enjoys a high driving position with good, all-around visibility and all three rows of passengers get a surprising amount of space. Unfortunately, with the third row seats up, the family dog will have to undergo some pretty severe downsizing, as the cargo area gets decidedly cramped.

Despite its capacious comfort, the CX-9’s interior looks its age. The materials are mostly hard black plastic, and the driver is presented with a host of buttons that look more at home in a Russian orbiter than a modern family-hauler.

There is also the problem of tech. The CX-9 is burdened with Mazda’s old infotainment suite, a balky frustrating creation that boasts a truly terrible navigation system.

As with a lot of aging stars, the CX-9 has had some work done.

Outsourced to Tom Tom, the navigation system is difficult to operate and has probably the worst antenna in the business. During my week with the CX-9, the navigation was flummoxed by everything from trees to buildings, constantly loosing signal. In fact, while driving around downtown Portland, the navigation system couldn’t decide whether we were in the Willamette River, or half a mile away heading in the opposite direction.

It is worth noting that we experience similar problems with the Tom Tom navigation system on the Mazda6. So at least this doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident.

Now, a navigation system without a sense of direction is hardly the biggest problem in the world. However, it does demonstrate that Mazda should have saved its nose-job money and updated the interior instead.


Despite all of these complaints, I still like the CX-9. It is a nice car to drive. And, despite the outdated interior, it is still a capable family-hauler. The problem is the price.

My loaded CX-9 press demonstrator ran to $40,000. There are a lot of options in that price range, including the very nice Toyota Highlander, and the much cheaper — but very compelling — Nissan Rogue.

It is hard to see why the CX-9, despite its obvious good qualities, is worth that kind of money. That is like paying Kobe Bryant $20 million a year when you could have Damian Lillard instead.


  • Stylish exterior
  • Excellent handling and ride
  • Great driving position


  • Outdated interior
  • Terrible navigation
  • Underwhelming engine and transmission

Driving Daimler’s 40-ton eCascadia big rig isn’t just fun, it’s electrifying

Daimler Trucks brought its all-electric eCascadia semi-truck to the 2019 CES, and invited us to take the wheel. What does it feel like to drive one? Simply electrifying, of course.
Product Review

The new Ram 1500 blends capability and convenience better than the rest

The Ram isn’t the most powerful, spacious, or affordable of the light-duty, full-size pickup herd, but a modestly equipped version walks all over rivals in terms of ride quality, technology, and cabin comfort.

The best iPhone 6 cases for style and protection

No one likes a bruised Apple. Scratches, scuffs, and cracks on a new iPhone 6 are enough to ruin anyone’s day. Check out the best iPhone 6 cases and get some protection on that shiny new smartphone.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Michigan OKs digital license plates with Rplate’s connected car platform

The state of Michigan approved the use of digital license plates on motor vehicles registered in the state. Reviver Auto, the manufacturer of the Rplate connected car platform, worked with Michigan's Department of State to pass the bill.

This Chevy Silverado pickup truck is made from more than 300,000 Lego bricks

To promote The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Lego and Chevrolet teamed up on a life-size replica of the automaker's Silverado pickup truck made from more than 300,000 plastic bricks.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Prices for using Tesla Supercharging just skyrocketed

Tesla is updating their Supercharging pricing based on local electricity rates and customer demand, which has lead to an increase in charging costs by as much as 33 percent in some regions.

Can electric motors finally make three-wheeled cars great?

Every few years, someone tries to sell a three-wheeled vehicle to Americans. Historically, it hasn’t gone very well. We’ve got our suspicions about why people don’t buy trikes, and they boil down to this: a trike is just not a real…

Is Uber planning to put its self-driving tech into bikes and scooters?

Uber reportedly has its eye on building autonomous electric bikes and scooters that ride to a user when summoned by an app. The technology could also be used to make its two-wheelers safer with obstacle avoidance systems.

Someone just paid supercar money for the very first 2020 Toyota Supra

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.

Lincoln’s stately, limited-edition flagship sedan sells out in a month

The 1961 Lincoln Continental became a design icon thanks to center-opening "coach doors" (also known as "suicide doors"). Lincoln is bringing those doors back for a special edition of the 2019 Continental.

Volkswagen is planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring for a lap-record attempt. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car with the I.D. R.
Home Theater

Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

According to a report, people familiar with Spotify's plans say the company is readying a dedicated in-car music streamer that will cost $100. It will work with any Bluetooth-enabled audio system and can be controlled by voice.