Vehicle Type: Crossover SUV

History/Description: Designed to cater to the needs of busy Canadian families after key Mazda attributes like upscale styling and fun-to-drive dynamics, the CX-9 is the largest vehicle in the Japanese automaker’s product lineup. A totally revised version of the Mazda CX-9, complete with all-new engine, All Wheel Drive (AWD) technology and styling is hitting the marketplace in 2016, meaning the first-generation CX-9 has now moved officially into used car territory.

Look for up to three seating rows, a generous cargo hold with the third row seats folded, and upscale feature content including HID lighting, a sunroof, Bose audio, automatic climate control, push-button start, wood trim, heated leather, a motorized tailgate and more, depending on the model selected. Cross-shopping exercises should include the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Hyundai Santa Fe XL.

Engines / Trim: All CX-9 models came powered by a V6 engine displacing 3.5 or 3.7 L and making up to 273 hp. The smaller, 3.5L V6, with 263 hp was replaced by the larger 3.7L unit from 2008 and on. All models got an automatic six-speed transmission, and most used copies will feature Mazda’s Active Torque Split All Wheel Drive (AWD system). Look for GS and GT models as nicely-loaded and fully-loaded, with navigation and luxury packages available.

What Owners Like: CX-9 owners typically praise the model’s upscale cabin, commanding driving position, roominess and flexibility, and confidence in challenging driving conditions. The Bose stereo and xenon lights are among the favorite features, and styling is highly rated, too. Ditto, the performance from the punchy V6 engine. Third-row seating is also noted to be comfortable enough for use by smaller passengers.

What Owners Dislike: Common complaints include heavy fuel consumption, a navigation screen that’s hard to read in direct sunlight, and some low-budget interior trimmings.

Here’s a look some very positive owner reviews.

The Test Drive: Start with a full inspection of the CX-9’s exterior and body for signs of excessive wear and damage to paint, trim and the like. Common areas for rust and wear include the front edge of the hood, the lower, inner edge of the tailgate, and the lower edges of the doors. If wear and tear seems excessive given the year and mileage, call it into pricing negotiations. Check the wheels and tires for signs of excessive wear and damage, too.

Some owners have reported failure of the CX-9’s All Wheel Drive (AWD) system hardware, at low mileage, and typically under warranty. The problem seems to stem from a bad batch of Power Takeoff Units, or PTU’s installed at the factory. Here’s some more reading. Though this issue doesn’t seem widespread, CX-9 shoppers set on a model with AWD are advised to have a Mazda mechanic check all system electronics, to inspect the PTU assembly and rear differential for signs of fluid leakage, and to confirm that no ‘AWD’ warning lights are lit up in the instrument cluster. Where feasible, apply heavy throttle from a stop in snow or sand (or a similarly slippery surface) to coax the system to engage, confirming that no unwelcome noises or warning messages are present.

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