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2013 Mazda CX-9 REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/4/2017

Con: Long rear doors are an issue in tight parking spaces; 20-inch wheels produce a stiff ride.

Interior: The 2013 Mazda CX-9 features a cabin that's stylish and elegant, with a look that's more high end than that of many others in this segment. A graceful waterfall motif on the dash and doors presents visual flair, and except for some low-rent plastics on the center stack, materials quality is respectable. The center console bin -- with its unique split-opening lid -- is quite capacious, but overall, there aren't a lot of storage opportunities inside the cabin.

Within the first two rows, there's ample room even for taller passengers, but headroom is tighter for those seated in the third row. The second-row seat reclines and slides fore and aft to deliver optimal comfort. Access to the third row comes easily thanks to large openings for the rear doors and the fold-and-slide second row; however, the larger doors can be troublesome in tight parking spaces. With the second and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 offers up an impressive 101 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Body: Classified as a large, seven-passenger crossover SUV, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 is available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trims.

Standard features on the Sport model include 18-inch alloy wheels, a roof spoiler, cruise control, full power accessories, a trip computer, three-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a 5.8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, Pandora radio capability and USB/auxiliary inputs. All-wheel-drive models also are fitted with a towing package (optional on front-drive vehicles). Packaged as an option are heated mirrors, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat.

Stepping up to the Touring trim gets you all of the above, plus automatic headlights, leather upholstery, a four-way adjustable front passenger seat, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.

The range-topping Grand Touring model tops it all off with 20-inch wheels, bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, foglights, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, keyless ignition/entry, driver-seat memory functions, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power lumbar support for the driver seat and upgraded interior trim.

Most options are bundled into packages. The Touring trim is eligible for the Touring Technology package, which includes foglights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, a navigation system, a premium 10-speaker Bose surround-sound system and satellite radio. The GT Technology package for the Grand Touring trim is identically outfitted, minus any redundant standard features.

Exclusive to the Grand Touring trim is an optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system which also adds an 11-speaker Bose surround system, the navigation system, a 115-volt household-current outlet and satellite radio.

Driving: Like many large crossovers, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 provides admirable road trip transportation, offering a comfortable ride on long journeys. It separates itself from the pack by driving like a smaller, more agile vehicle thanks to its precise, communicative steering and buttoned-down composure in corners. The compliant suspension soaks up bumps and potholes to provide a poised, comfortable ride, but we wouldn't recommend the 20-inch tires of the Grand Touring trim, which tend to make the ride somewhat choppy over the rough stuff.

What’s New: For 2013, the Mazda CX-9 receives a styling update on the outside. Inside, there's a new display screen and some new electronic features, including Pandora Internet radio capability. A few previously optional features are now standard.

All 2013 Mazda CX-9s are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only transmission available, but buyers can choose between front- and all-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

In Edmunds testing, a front-wheel-drive CX-9 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, while an AWD model required 8.5 seconds. Compared to competing models, these figures are just about average. Fuel economy is on par with that of other large crossovers at an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg in combined driving for front-wheel-drive models. The all-wheel-drive CX-9 drops to 16/22/18 mpg.

Safety: Standard safety equipment for every 2013 Mazda CX-9 includes antilock disc brakes, stability control with a rollover sensor, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active head restraints. Touring and Grand Touring trims further benefit from a blind-spot monitoring system, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded last year's CX-9 (which is structurally similar to the current model) its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashworthiness, but a second-lowest score of "Marginal" for roof-strength integrity. In Edmunds brake testing, an AWD Grand Touring model came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is impressive for this class.

Pro: Sporty performance; stylish cabin; easy access to spacious third row; solid build quality.

Edmunds Say: Easily fulfilling typical family needs, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 also benefits from a healthy dose of driving excitement.

Introduction: We expect a lot from large SUVs nowadays. Besides the obligatory amount of passenger and cargo space, we also have become accustomed to a decent amount of luxury and features aplenty. What we don't expect from these behemoths is decent cornering prowess, but that's exactly what you'll get with the 2013 Mazda CX-9.

Despite everything that physics tells us, the big CX-9 can indeed be enjoyable to drive around corners. Even better, the Mazda largely accomplishes this task without sacrificing ride quality. Of course, schlepping the kids to soccer practice and daily commuting are more typical tasks for a large crossover, and here the CX-9 still excels, with a spacious, adult-sized third row of seats and sharp new styling.

As highly as we regard the 2013 Mazda CX-9, it somehow gets overlooked for more popular alternatives. It is understandable, however, as its competitors are quite good in their own right. We'd still recommend cross-shopping the Mazda against the 2013 Ford Flex, with its similarly spacious accommodations, loads of features and distinctive style. We're also fond of the new 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe as well as the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse.

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