As you know we bought our 2017 Mazda CX-5 GT back in August from Mazda du Boulevard in Saint-Hyacinthe Québec. Mazda's mid-size crossover SUV was the right size for our 3-person family, but I always wondered what their larger CX-9 had to offer. 2018 is the third year for Mazda's second generation mid-size crossover, and an update that we found brings some balance to the different trims and options available for this vehicle.
We go in-depth with the four trims available, the GS, GS-L, GT, and Signature, in our episode of TestDrive Spotlight below, so we won't go over everything again. The price has risen $1,600.00 for this GT over last year's model, but the option Technology Package which added radar cruise control, smart brake support, distance recognition support, forward obstruction warning, and lane-keep assist is now included, and originally cost $1,600. So you're still paying for those features. Those aren't the only changes for the GT though, you also get an 8-way power adjustable passenger seat, up from 4-way, Traffic Sign Recognition which was on the CX-5, front parking sensors, and an updated radar cruise control with pedestrian detection.
The biggest technical update across the CX-9 family is the addition of Mazda's G-Vectoring Control which helps adjust torque and load from the engine across the front or rear wheels depending on the driving maneuver you're performing, such as taking a corner at higher speed or making an emergency turn to avoid something. It ends up reducing the torso-sway for passengers, something that Mazda has been rolling out across their lineup.
We really like Mazda's current design philosophy, and find the vehicles have a more aggressive look to them than previous models and when compared with the competition. The front end has a unique look to it, something we find refreshing in the market, where others are busy copying the designs of the German luxury makers. Despite it's almost 200 in length, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 doesn't end up feeling that much larger than it's smaller brother. It is one of the best examples of taking a working formula and applying it to different categories.
During our test drive we found the CX-9 drives very similarly to the CX-5, which is good if you're considering upgrading to a larger crossover like this. You don't feel like you're driving a bloated gas-guzzler, but rather a well-proportioned vehicle that handles much like a car. Having a consistent experience across different models is certainly something Mazda should be proud of. The extra size didn't hinder our visibility or control of the vehicle either, and performed admirably during some sticky situations during our test drive through Saint-Hyacinthe.
The 2.5L turbocharged SKYACTIV-G engine is one of the smaller engines available in this segment, but we didn't find it was underpowered during our drive. It's a similar version found in the Mazda CX-5 (non-turbo) and produced 250 horsepower (5,000 rpm) with 93 octane fuel, and 310 lb-ft of torque (2,000 rpm). We don't recommend using this vehicle for heavy towing or hauling, however adding an accessory hitch or a light trailer for a recreation vehicle shouldn't be a problem.
Like the exterior, Mazda has created a formula that works for the interior of their models. The CX-9's is functional, comfortable, and crafted to have everything placed where you'd expect it to be. They still rely on traditional buttons for most operations, rather than hiding most in the infotainment system. Some of the driver assist overrides are located next to the steering wheel, but we'd like to see the blank buttons utilized with further physical override buttons, as Mazda has hidden some of their I-ACTIVSENSE safety features in the touch screen. We've also noticed that things like the blind-spot monitor will alert you incorrectly when turning from the outermost tandem turn lane, and will often catch traffic on the other size of a median/parking lot when backing into a parking spot.
One of the main reasons you're going to be considering the 2018 Mazda CX-9 GT is for the third row of seats. Unlike Toyota and Honda, Mazda is advertising this vehicle as a 7-passenger instead of eight. Realistically you cannot fit 3 adults in the back of any crossover SUV, especially when you're adults look a lot like me. The biggest complaint from customers was the third row of seating, and Mazda re-worked their arrangement to allow for a more comfortable ride for those 7 passengers. We had no issue getting in/out of the third row, and could even go as far to say that it would be relatively comfortable back there on a long voyage.
The centre row passengers will have a few extra luxuries though. The CX-9's 3-zone automatic climate control is certainly a big plus over the smaller CX-5, giving rear-seat passengers the ability to adjust their own comfort settings through the rear control unit. Heat and air can be independently controlled, along with the outboard heated seat controls. Located between those seats is the arm rest with dual 2.1a USB outlets, something we've congratulated Mazda for before. This again is a great way to keep devices charged on long trips, whether it be a tablet for a child, or the cellphone of an Uber rider.
The rear seats also sport sunshades with our GT which help keep the sun out of the eyes of passengers, and can help reduce interior cabin heat during the summer months. These are great features to have in any vehicle, and it's great that Mazda offers them to enhance the rear-seat comfort experience.
The 2018 Mazda CX-9 GT scores a lot of points from us, but there are a few areas of improvement. Honda's 2017 Pilot has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Flex and Edge, and Volkswagen Altas. Mazda is said to support both systems down the road with the ability for existing customers to update their systems, however they're one of the last to support either.
Also, all of the vehicles mentioned above can be configured with a V6 engine, and most a V6 is the only option. While the trend in the automotive industry is pushing vehicles to have smaller displacements and adding forced induction as a means to supplement the smaller engine size, I feel that the lack of engine choice will prematurely get the 2018 Mazda CX-9 crossed off the list for potential buyers. If you're in need of a vehicle to drive the family around to run errands and go on trips, the CX-9 is perfect, but if you plan on using it for towing trailers you'll have to look elsewhere.
And that brings us to our final complaint, the transmission. Again, most of the other competition is offering 8 or 9-speed automatic transmissions on their mid-size crossover SUVs, whereas Mazda's 6 speed automatic is the only option. This isn't an issue since you won't be towing anything, but the additional gears could help with fuel economy for highway driving, something you'll have to look at the competition for.
We really did enjoy driving this update to Mazda's mid-size crossover. Mazda is definitely in a good position to expand their offerings in the SUV marketplace and become a driving force in the industry when it comes to these crossovers. You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Mazda CX-9 GT, including information about the various trims and options available below: