Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and courtesy Mazda

For a company well known for its little vehicles like the Mazda3, MX-5 and lately, Mazda2, the CX-9 is certainly a different take on the zoom-zoom identity.

Well, something’s got to be the biggest, and for Mazda, the three-row, seven-passenger CX-9 SUV is it. Refreshed for 2013, the CX-9 receives design enhancements informed by the new Kodo “Soul of Motion” styling, which originated with Mazda’s Shinari Concept. This look is now being applied to the full line of Mazda vehicles.

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

It works well on the CX-9, which has evolved into a sleek, dynamic-looking SUV, nicely proportioned and easily identifiable. Mazda says the styling represents “Fluidity of motion – while standing still,” and while a bit clichéd, the description is fitting.

Classed as an intermediate-sized SUV, the CX-9 comes in front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions in GS and GT trim levels. Starting at $33,995 for the GS FWD, our GT AWD starts at $44,750, but arrived with an as-tested price of $47,250 due to the optional Navigation Package ($2,500).

For me, the CX-9 came at a good time, as I’d been waiting for something big enough to transport an unwieldy patio umbrella from Ottawa to Niagara, plus there was the annual Toronto auto show to attend en route. Spacious as it is, I wasn’t even sure the clumsy umbrella would fit in the CX-9.

Our tester was equipped with a power liftgate – always useful on a vehicle of this type – which turned out to be part of the expensive Navigation Package (don’t you hate it when manufacturers do that?). Nonetheless, I appreciated it when approaching the vehicle with parts of the umbrella taking up both arms. You press a button on the key fob, and the liftgate gently rises. Very nice.

What you notice right away when loading the CX-9 is the huge opening into the cargo area, and the spacious area behind the second-row seat. Even with the third row seat up, there’s useful room for luggage behind it, but with second and third rows folded flat, the CX-9 will haul a vast quantity of cargo, no problem.

It did manage my umbrella, along with the four paving stones to secure it, luggage for two and various other items for the road. This is what you want in an SUV like this… space!

The CX-9, even in base GS form, is also generously equipped with a 3.7L V6 under the hood that makes 273 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode, plus you’ll get 18-inch alloy wheels, auto light control, rain-sensing wipers, towing package, 5.8-inch display screen with rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity and eight-way power driver’s seat.

The GT gets big 20-inch satin chrome alloy wheels, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, blind spot monitoring system, rear back-up sensors Intelligent Key System (keyless entry & start), exterior mirrors with turn indicators, power outside mirrors with memory and an automatic tilt-in-reverse feature, fog lights, Premium Bose sound system with 10 speakers, and premium Bordeaux Satin interior accents.

The GT model is also equipped with leather upholstery, power front seats and a sunroof (the latter three items represent the Luxury Package on the GS).

The standard Towing Prep package, by the way, is rated at 1,588 kg (3,500 lb), and includes a heavy-duty transmission cooler and radiator fan, and a revised engine control module. You’ll need to purchase a towing hitch receiver separately, however.

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