Mazda has cars that look as impressive as they drive, including their MX-5/Miatas, flagship Mazda 6 and Vision “Concept Car of the Year.”
Besides cross-pollinating design elements brand-wide, Mazda incorporates engine, transmission and other performance features to various models, which is why, when asked to name my favorite test drive vehicle, Mazdas always enter the conversation–and it’s usually the last one I have experienced.
When it comes to looks, the 2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring does not immediately spring to a mind recently filled with the Japanese automaker’s sleek and stylish sedans and convertibles.
I mean, the rear-roof spoiler, aluminum roof rails, roof-mounted shark fin antenna and 20-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires do provide a sporty look, but there are only so many ways to dress up a sports utility vehicle.
No, what screams “Mazda” on the ’18 CX-9 Grand Touring edition is the SkyActiv-G, 2.5-turbo engine that produces 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.
Of course, you really get that feeling while running the six-speed automatic through the Sport mode, which adjusts the transmission shift and engine throttle controls to deliver a … well … sportier driving experience.
Many modern cars from a variety of automakers feature sport modes, but there is something about Mazda’s take that really has you feeling the tight grip on the road through curves or the added power (and burning of gas) while passing slowpokes.
My Snowflake White Pearl loaner had front wheel drive, so I may have lost some of that traction advantage had I been racing an all-wheel-drive opponent. For every-day SoCal driving purposes, FWD is fine.
Further assisting this driver were the Dynamic Stability Control, the traction control system, the four-wheel disc brakes, the independent front/rear suspension, G-Vectoring Control and electric power assisted steering.
Because it seats seven, most will utilize the CX-6 Grand Touring to cart around family members, and it is there the notion of a superior driving experience gives way to riding comfort. Leather-trimmed upholstery, which was sand colored in my test vehicle, provided that.
The driver’s seat also has lumbar support and two-position memory. Front seat adjustments are powered and the first two rows of seating can be heated, as can the leather-wrapped, tilt/telescopic steering wheel.
Keeping everyone cool (or warm) is three-zone, automatic climate control, and there are sunshades for the windows on either side of the second row of seats, which are a great assist not only to keep the glare out of eyes but also off of the rear-seat entertainment system (RSE).
A $1,995 extra, the RSE on my test CX-9 had monitors installed behind the front-seat headrests to allow viewers in the back to watch content from an SD card, an on board DVD player or streamed from a smartphone. These monitors can be synced to display the same content or one can, for instance, show a DVD while the other displays streaming video.
There is a remote for each monitor, so there will be none of that, “Mom, Timmy’s hogging the clicker again.” Even better: They come with separate sets of wireless headphones.
That means while the kiddos are being brainwashed into quietness by Teen Titans Go, parents can blast Death Magnet through the 12-speaker, Bose AM/FM/HD/satellite radio audio system, which includes controls on the steering wheel.
Settings can also be made via the same eight-inch color screen in the middle of the dash that also displays navigation data and the rear-camera view. The CX-9 is Bluetooth enabled and includes an auxiliary jack and USB inputs.
One concern families will have is safety, and my test vehicle had not yet been rated by the government for crashes and rollovers.
However, the CX-9 Grand Touring does include many safety features, including rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear and front parking sensors, latch child safety seat anchors, front side-front and rear stabilizer bars, lane keep assist and departure warning, smart brake and trailer stability assists, and dual front and side-impact air bags as well as side air curtains.
There are heated power mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers with a de-icer and a fixed intermittent rear wiper for the privacy glass in the very back. The LED headlights have an automatic setting and high-beam control. There are also LED combination taillights and fog and daytime running lights.
Today’s word is automatic, thanks to advanced keyless entry, push button engine start, electronic parking brake, Mazda Radar Cruise Control you set on your steering wheel and powered door locks, one-touch windows, moonroof, open-and-close rear lift gate and dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink to control your automatic garage door.
Carpeted floor mats, which you often have to pay extra for on other maker’s vehicles, are included as standard on the CX-9, as are aluminum interior trim, an anti-theft engine immobilizer, the tire-pressure monitoring system and the center armrest with covered storage.
Besides the RSE, optional equipment on my test ride were the $200 exterior paint job and $575 illuminated doorsill trim plates. Without all that, the base manufacturer’s suggested retail price would come to $40,470. With the options and the $975 delivery, processing and handling fee, the sticker price jumps to $44,215.
With 22 miles to the gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined, you are also looking at $1,500 in annual fuel costs or $750 more over five years when compared to the average new vehicle.
Mazda provides a 60-month or 60,000-mile (whichever comes first) warranty on the powertrain and 36 months/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper with 24 hour roadside assistance.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.