Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda
2013 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Tom Sedens

Mazda’s biggest vehicle is its three-row SUV, the CX-9. I just spent a week with this refreshed behemoth, putting it through the paces of our family life.

Though it’s sitting on the same bones, Mazda says the CX-9 has a “sleek, redesigned figure”. Now, the CX-9 was always one of the better-looking seven-passenger SUVs out there, in my opinion, and yes, the slightly aging look did get a little kick in the sagging pants. But it’s a mild refresh, not a redesign. Basically a handsome Mazda6-like grille and some slick new headlight pods up front to make up the biggest change.

Other than that, I found round exhaust tips in the back, versus the old rectangular ones. So I think I’m okay to call them out for saying it’s a redesigned figure.

Anyway, the CX-9 is still a big boy. For your reference, it’s over a foot longer than the current Toyota Highlander, almost a foot longer than the Honda Pilot and a few inches longer than the Ford Explorer. Really, the only thing you’ll find that takes up more real estate is one of the GM triplets – the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia or Buick Enclave.

The smooth, clean lines (though not as striking as when they were new) are nicely offset by the monster 20-inch rims.

What impressed me was how well the styling hides the size of this beast. When you see one drive by, it doesn’t seem nearly as big as it is, and I appreciate that.

Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda
2013 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD. Click image to enlarge

There’s one engine choice here and it remains unchanged. It’s a 3.7L V6, putting out 273 hp at 6250 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. The power is sent through a six-speed automatic to all four corners via an active torque-splitting full-time all-wheel-drive system.

Fuel economy isn’t bad considering what you’re driving – the CX-9 is rated at 12.8 L/100 km (18.3 mpg) in the city and 9.0 L/100 km (26 mpg) on the highway. I averaged 16.4 L/100 km (14 mpg) during exclusively city driving, with a couple of short freeway runs. That sucks. A lot. Now that I’ve complained about it, it’s actually in line with the competition – considering it’s a 2,062 kg (4,546 lb) seven-seater. It’s got a 76 L tank, and can tow 1,587 kg (3,500 lb).

Once you open the massive doors and step inside, you’ll find very basic and clean styling. It’s not a very exciting dash, but it works well. Sadly, you’ll also find acres of hard plastic on dash, making it feel way behind the competition in terms of quality. A nice touch is the Alcantara inserts, which they’ve splashed onto the door panels and small sections of the seats.

The cabin feels big and the headroom is good for my five-ten frame. You feel like you’re sitting quite high, which I like.

Speaking of sitting, the seats are upholstered in nice leather with perforated panels and are very comfortable. They even have decent bolstering! They are power adjustable, heated and the driver’s seat has three memory settings.

Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda Test Drive: 2013 Mazda CX 9 GT AWD car test drives mazda
2013 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD. Click image to enlarge

I really enjoyed the steering wheel’s surprisingly small diameter, which makes it less bus-like than other big SUVs. There are controls for the audio, driver information screen, hands-free and phone functions, as well as the cruise control.

The centre stack starts with an old-school readout strip at the top, handling the clock, the climate control readout, a variable driver information section – showing average speed, instant or average fuel consumption or fuel range – and outside temp.




About Tom Sedens

Tom Sedens is an Edmonton-based automobile journalist, husband, dad and driving enthusiast, as well as an accredited member of AJAC.