$21,830 - $30,897

2016 Mazda CX-9 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Mazda CX-9 was new.


Performance: 8.8

The redesigned 2016 Mazda CX-9 has a new engine to power it, a new all-wheel drive option to stabilize it, and handling that reviewers say feels even more refined than before. The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine isn’t as strong as the V6 that previously powered the CX-9, but it does provide greater torque, increasing how swiftly the SUV moves from a stop. At higher speeds, power drops off, but critics don't find this particularly worrisome as most people aren't driving the CX-9 the way they would a Miata. Thanks to its responsive handling, the CX-9 feels smaller than it actually is, and it hugs the ground around sharp curves, which keeps you confident through the turn.

  • "Along the beautiful twisty mountain roads just north of San Francisco, the CX-9 drives like a much smaller vehicle, more station-wagon-like in its look and over-the-road feel than a hulking crossover." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Drivers won't miss the 23 horsepower … lost in the changeover from 2015 to 2016, because Mazda applied its holistic Skyactiv approach to the largest vehicle it offers. That means less weight and, ultimately, more fun." -- Autoblog
  • "The previous generation of the CX-9 was my favorite member of this class to drive, and the new one is somehow even sharper. Mazda consistently does ‘driving feel’ better than pretty much any other automaker, and the CX-9 is no exception." -- Cars.com

Acceleration and Power

A turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 227 horsepower powers the redesigned 2016 Mazda CX-9. The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. You can push horsepower up to 250 by filling the tank with super premium 93 octane fuel. The EPA has yet to provide fuel economy estimates, but Mazda reports the CX-9 will deliver 22 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. These estimates are for front-wheel drive models. If you opt for all-wheel drive, Mazda reports a drop of one mpg in both city and highway driving.

The CX-9’s power plant is no muscular beast, but it delivers where Mazda says it matters most – torque. That means it provides good power off the line and quick acceleration when moving around town. A few critics note that when you accelerate hard, like when moving onto the freeway, the CX-9’s 227 horses can feel a little paltry, especially if you are carrying a full load of passengers and/or gear. Most of the CX-9's rivals are available with more-powerful V6 engines. Most reviewers, however, are satisfied with what the engine delivers.

  • "… to provide punch where owners want it, the CX-9's engine makes 310 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm regardless of octane. There's a nice shove from low revs, and it gives the big CX-9 the ability to squirt into holes in traffic. Keep the right pedal pinned, and the urge tapers off noticeably. It doesn't fall away as abruptly as does a turbo-diesel, but there's a noticeable drop in pulling power as the engine spins to its upper reaches." -- Car and Driver
  • "The CX-9 is quick off the line thanks to its hefty torque rating at a low 2,000 rpm, and it still showed enough guts for high-speed passes on winding two-lane roads on Highway 1 north of San Francisco's famed Golden Gate bridge." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "If you're the type likely to fill a crossover to the brim with people and cargo, the CX-9 probably isn't your best bet. It's a 4,300-pound vehicle with just 227 horsepower (on 87 octane, at least). In part-throttle situations and typical around-town speeds, the CX-9's turbo four feels adequate, and mostly like a larger powerplant. When push comes to shove, though, we'd prefer more horsepower, especially when merging onto the highway with a full load of passengers and cargo." -- Autoblog

Ride, Handling, and Braking

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a big vehicle, but despite its size, test drivers report that it lives up to the handling reputation of Mazda’s sportier models like the Miata and the Mazda6. Some critics report a modest amount of body roll through turns, but you won’t feel out of control. Just the opposite, in fact, as you feel what the SUV is doing on the road. The CX-9's suspension also does an excellent job of absorbing road imperfections. And when it’s time to stop, the brakes are strong.

Handling is further enhanced if you opt for the new all-wheel drive system. It electronically monitors the road you are on and adjusts the CX-9 to improve traction.

The steering is also sharp, and road noise is muted, thanks to increased amounts of sound-deadening materials.

  • "When the going got twisty, the CX-9 held its line well. The steering felt crisp and the braking sharp. The new all-wheel-drive system also uses a predictive program to allow the CX-9 to recognize road conditions and adjust the power distribution before the driver even notices the adjustments. -- Automobile Magazine
  • "There's just enough body roll in the corners to let you feel what the crossover is doing beneath you without feeling tippy, and the steering offered ample feedback for confidence with just the right amount of weight. It's steering that feels sporty and responsive, without requiring Popeye muscles to make a turn." -- Cars.com
  • "Ride quality and overall serenity has also been improved. The suspension ably soaks up imperfections, and the interior is quieter than ever. The 50 extra pounds of sound-deadening material paid off." -- Kelley Blue Book

Towing and Hauling

The CX-9 can pull up to 3,500 pounds, which is a little low for the class. If you really need towing capacity, consider the Dodge Durango (7,400 pounds maximum towing capacity).

  • "And if you want to tow more than a small trailer, you're going to need to look elsewhere. The 2016 CX-9's ... max rating of 3,500 pounds limits your options." -- Autoblog

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