$24,626 - $33,451

2018 Mazda CX-9 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2018 Mazda CX-9 was new.


Performance: 8.9

The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is one of the most athletic 3-row SUVs in the class. Its thrilling performance around corners makes it a pleasure to drive. The CX-9's engine is well-suited to city driving, though it can feel strained when the vehicle is loaded down. This crossover earns excellent fuel economy for the class.

  • "Simply put, the Mazda CX-9 is the most fun-to-drive SUV in its class. As with other Mazdas, the CX-9 isn't the segment's most powerful, but its taut handling and turbocharged engine imbue this crossover SUV with athletic flair." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The CX-9 has a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 227 horsepower (250 horsepower when using 93-octane gasoline). The engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. With standard front-wheel drive, the CX-9 gets 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, which is great for a midsize SUV. All-wheel drive decreases fuel economy to 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The four-cylinder engine has plenty of pep to move the CX-9 from a stop. At highway speeds, it can feel a bit underpowered, especially when fully loaded with passengers and cargo. This also means the CX-9 can't tow as much as rivals with more-powerful available V6 engines. When properly equipped, the CX-9 can tow up to 3,500 pounds. The CX-9's transmission makes seamless shifts.

  • "The 2018 Mazda CX-9 uses a small but potent 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 227 horsepower and a whopping 310 lb-ft of torque. That low-end torque, combined with sophisticated plumbing for the turbo system, makes this engine feel plenty strong, like a V6 in disguise. " -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The engine and transmission combination delivers ultra-smooth operation, with sufficient kick from the turbo to introduce some driving excitement." -- Forbes
  • "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 (2016)

Ride, Handling, and Braking

Mazda is known for engaging driving dynamics, and the CX-9 lives up to the brand's reputation, despite being the largest model in the lineup. Its athletic handling is aided by a well-tuned suspension and tight steering. Unlike many other 3-row crossovers, the CX-9 feels planted and level around turns. Front-wheel drive is standard, but the optional all-wheel drive will give you better grip when cornering. Even with its sporty handling, the CX-9 maintains a cushioned, comfortable ride for daily driving.

  • "Despite its size, the CX-9 feels amazingly light on its feet, with responsive steering and a suspension that begs to be pushed hard, especially when the road begins to twist and turn." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 (2016)
  • "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 (2016)

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