The 2018 Mazda CX-9 three-row crossover looks bigger than it is but it drives smaller. With unexpected agility, it carries (up to) seven plus all their gear comfortably and safely on daily around town errands, to and from weekend adventures or across the country on family vacations – all at a rationale price.
In a segment with credible competitors that include the likes of Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Santa Fe, the new 2018 Mazda CX-9, in just a couple of years, has become viable alternative choice in the $40,000 (+/-) price range it competes.
For us, as ‘senior’ empty nesters – after spending a week behind the wheel recently – we found it to be well suited for our many needs as an adventuring couple or traveling with friends (two rows) and/or visiting grandchildren (three rows).
New for 2018
The CX-9 for 2018 has a number of improvements to prior year making it an even better performer along with being a better value.
In addition to a new 2.5L turbocharged engine, newly standard features include: Smart City Brake Support and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert on all models. Depending on the trim level you get automatic on/off headlights, rain sensing windshield wipers, heated steering wheel, driver seat tilt function, heated second row seats, front parking sensors, windshield wiper deicer, revised mechanism for sliding second row enabling easier access to the third row and Traffic Sign Recognition on the Head-Up Display (Mazda calls it Active Driving Display).
Of particular note, with a shorter member in our team, we especially liked the new passenger seat power lifter and power lumbar adjust.
Also new is G-Vectoring Control on the i-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive that notably improves handling dynamics and for safety, the availability of a full i-ACTIVSENSE suite with High Beam Headlight Control, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, Radar Cruise Control with new Stop and Go function and Smart Brake Support.
2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD as tested
The MSRP for the 2018 CX-9 FWD is $40,470. Our test vehicle with AWD added $1,800 to the MSRP making it $42,270 before any packages or accessory items.
In addition to being nimble, the 2018 CX-9 is appropriately powerful for its size and weight. Equipped with the new 2.5L SKYACTIV-G turbocharged engine that delivers up to 250 horsepower (premium fuel) and 310 lb.-ft. of torque through the SKYACTIV-Drive 6-speed automatic transmission with Sport and manual-shift mode – well matched, it did not disappoint around town or on the highway.
With the i-ACTIV All-Wheel Drive and G-Vectoring Control and running on 20-inch wheels and tires, electric power assist steering, the CX-9 Grand Touring handled road (including seriously wet) and traffic conditions well.
As for fuel economy, it is rated 20/26 mpg city/highway and 23 mpg combined. Our experience – mostly around town – was about 22.5 mpg carrying just two most of the time.
The interior of the CX-9 is clean and simple but fully featured for driver and passenger comfort and convenience. We found the white LED ambient lighting was bright and welcoming at night highlighting the subtle accent touches including woods and aluminum satin and polished finishes. Seats and surfaces were comfortable with plenty of head, shoulder and legroom in the first and second rows. As you would expect for a mid-size CUV, the third row is a bit tighter and better suited for children than adults.
The 2018 CX-9 offers just one package – the Premium Package ($1,890) which is a ‘no brainer’ when buying the already well-equipped CX-9. It includes the awesome (our words) Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with AudioPilot, 12-speakers and 8-inch color touch screen, LED Foglights, Power Sliding Moon Roof with sunshade, Front Parking Sensors, Rear Backup Sensors, Second-row Retractable Sunshades, SiriusXM Radio and Mazda Navigation.
With an upcharge for the Soul Red exterior paint, a couple of small accessory items and delivery, our 2018 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD priced in our driveway at $43,905.
We would note that as equipped with Smart Brake Support and Adaptive Front-Lighting System, our test CX-9 was an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick +.
Other awards for the CX-9 include:
- Wards Auto – Wards 10 Best Interior
- Wards Auto – Wards 10 Best Engines
- Strategic Vision – Total Quality Award (Mid-Size CUV Segment)
- Car and Driver – 10 Best Trucks and SUVs
- Texas Auto Writers Association – Full-Size CUV of Texas
Other CX-9 Trims
Besides the Grand Touring, the CX-9 is offered in a Touring trim starting at MSRP $34,960 for FWD and the entry level Sport trim starting at MSRP $32,130 FWD. AWD drive is an additional $1,800. As with the CX-9 (only one optional package), each trim is pretty complete for the price with just one package available for the Sport.
There is also a top tier Signature trim for CX-9 offered in AWD only and no optional packages – MSRP $44,270.
2018 Mazda CX Crossover Lineup
In addition to the three-row mid-size CX-9, the 2018 Mazda CX lineup includes a pair of two-row models, the compact CX-5 and the subcompact CX-3.
The CX-5 and CX-3 each offer three trim levels with CX-3 FWD starting at $20,110 (AWD $1,250 more) and CX-5 FWD starting at $24,150 (AWD $1,300 more).
Starting with the engines, all feature Mazda’s proven SKYACTIV technology and include SKYACTIV-DRIVE automatic transmissions, i-Activ All-Wheel Drive with G-Vectoring Control and i-ACTIVSENSE suite of safety features.