On the floor of the LA Auto Show, the redesigned 2017 Mazda CX-9 has all of the makings of a large hauler from the company that makes driver’s cars that just happen to fit your family.
While it’s easy to lose pretty much any three-row crossover in a crowded suburban parking lot, Mazda’s second stab at making an exciting midsize SUV actually looks a lot like its first try. Which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, because the CX-9 has always been one of the more attractive three-row SUVs you could buy, foregoing any illusions it’s meant for off-roading and instead making inroads on looking good.
What also helps are the new proportions on the CX-9. Mazda says it’s just slightly more than an inch shorter than the previous model, but the wheelbase is 2.2 inches longer. It’s a sports car trick that makes a car look more aggressive, but also in this case means more space for passengers inside.
Even so, don’t expect third-row space to be best-in-class. Unlike many rivals, the CX-9 lacks a second-row captain’s chair option and seats strictly seven, not eight.
Mazda’s auto show guards didn’t let us get our paws all over the CX-9 on the stand, but first impressions are that the company is still improving interior quality. The CX-9’s cabin is warmer and more colorful than any Mazda since your dad’s 1983 626 that had that blue velour interior. However, this time it’s red-ish leather with what looks to be wood thrown around, along with a full color display in the instrument panel. It’s what the stark interior of the Mazda6 needs.
Mazda’s big news on the CX-9 is the introduction of their new 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Replacing a 3.7-liter V6 from the old CX-9, it’s a daring step in a segment traditionally powered by six-cylinder engines and few unconventional engines.
The new turbo, dubbed Skyactiv-G in Mazda-speak, is based on the 2.5-liter in models like the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5. Bolting the turbo to it, among other modifications, allows for 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on regular gasoline. That’s less than what many rivals offer, including the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer, which typically pump out at least 260 horsepower. But the torque is generous and useful for the hauling duties cars like these are subjected to. It also helps that the CX-9 lost almost 200 pounds, according to Mazda, in the redesign.
The real story of the 2017 CX-9 when it goes on sale in the spring will be in the way it drives. Even in its final days, the outgoing model was highly regarded as the three-row crossover for parents who like to drive.