Our 2008 SUV of the Year Finally Gets Redesigned
Mazda‘s three-row crossover is the last in the lineup to receive the company’s Kodo styling language — and it works well. The new CX-9, which debuts at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, looks long, lean, and sexy. Like the similarly pretty and SUV-of-the-Year-winning 2016 Volvo XC90, the 2016 CX-9 has a long hood to give it a tall-wagon look rather than that of an oversized crossover.
The new CX-9 is 1.2 inches shorter than its predecessor, but a longer wheelbase results in shorter overhangs. Standard wheels measure 18 inches; 20s are available.
The old CX-9’s 3.7-liter V-6 is retired in favor of an all-new turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. This is Mazda’s first turbocharged Skyactiv engine, and in keeping with the company’s often reality-based goals, this new 2.5-liter wasn’t tuned for maximum horsepower or eye-popping EPA numbers.
It was designed with the real world in mind, and in the real world, Mazda says, drivers of three-row SUVs like low-end torque. To that end, the engine uses a relatively small turbocharger for quick spool-up. With 17.4 psi of maximum boost blown into the high-compression engine (10.5:1) maximum torque is a robust 310 lb-ft, available at 2,000 rpm.
The peak horsepower number, however, isn’t so high. On 93-octane (East-Coast premium) fuel, the engine produces 250 hp at 5,000 rpm. On regular 87-octane, that number drops to just 227 hp.
And guess what? That’s probably a smart move. If three-row SUV drivers aren’t regularly banging off their rev limiters, they’re not using all of their big engine’s power. Having a lower peak output allows Mazda to use a smaller turbo for faster spool-up — and that’s far more important.
Helping the single-scroll turbo spool up more quickly is a 4-3-1 exhaust manifold that encourages exhaust scavenging, but also uses a trick set of valves that, at engine speeds below 1,700 rpm, route exhaust gases to the turbo through smaller-diameter ports, speeding the flow of air.
Though Mazda claims the new CX-9 loses some 250 pounds (113 kg) compared to the outgoing model, this 2.5-liter engine still has a lot of mass to carry around, and that means it’ll often be under boost in normal driving — and that’s where the fuel-economy of most downsized, turbocharged engines starts to drop. To combat that, the CX-9 uses aggressively cooled EGR (exhaust-gas recirculation) to cool combustion-chamber temperatures, rather than burning excess fuel. The result, says Mazda, is not only EPA fuel economy numbers near the top of its class, but also impressive real-world mileage, too.
The 2016 CX-9 comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic; front-wheel drive is standard but predictive all-wheel drive is optional. The second row of seats slide forward to allow ingress into the third row â which has ample space even for adults. Provided they’re under about 5 feet, 11 inches.
Mazda also added 53 pounds (24 kg) of sound-deadening into the CX-9, reducing interior noise levels by a claimed 12 percent at highway speeds. We’ll be driving a the new CX-9 shortly, in prototype form before it goes on sale in the spring of 2016.