DETROIT — With three rows, new heated captain’s chairs for the second row and a nicely appointed interior, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 crossover is the automaker’s flagship.
The brand’s style fit nicely on the CX-9. Its size provided plenty of room for the flowing lines that are a mainstay of its Kodo design.
The interior was chestnut, there were perforated seats and the front pair was heated and cooled. The touch infotainment screen was atop the dash and the rest of the controls flowed down the face of the dash.
The instruments were analog and laid out in three circles. In the middle was the speedometer, on the left was the odometer and on the right was the circular housing for the temperature and fuel gauges.
Given the amount of equipment the vehicle had — lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, satellite radio, et al. — the interior of the Mazda CX-9 was surprisingly uncluttered.
Designers found a way to make the controls easy to see and easy to reach without cluttering up the interior’s smooth lines. That was important because the cabin felt airy and spacious.
Our only complaint was that the steering wheel could have been a little thicker. It would have made a pleasant driving experience even better.
Power depended on what type of fuel you use. We thought initially that a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine was a little small for a three-row, all-wheel-drive crossover. But then we looked at the torque.
The CX-9 engine got 227 horsepower with regular fuel and 250 with premium and it got either 310 pound-feet with regular gasoline or 320 pound-feet with premium. The full oomph of the torque was reached at a relatively low 2,500 rpm.
That gave the engine the power it needed to move the CX-9 with relative ease. Acceleration was smooth from passing on the expressways here and for leaving somebody at a stoplight.
We always check the third row for ease of entry and exit. The CX-9 ranked somewhere in the middle. With its second-row captain’s seats, the third row was relatively easy to get into. The second-row seat slid forward, and the seat back tilted forward. It was sort of like getting in the back seat of a coupe.
The CX-9 had front- and rear-wheel independent suspensions with rear stabilizer bars. They rendered a very smooth car-like ride. And there was a power liftgate, a moonroof and manual privacy screens for the rear side windows.
Mazda said the 2020 CX-9 is the first vehicle it has offered with the all-new off-road traction assist feature. Replacing the traction control button, this feature can potentially help the driver when venturing on uneven terrain.
When the diagonal wheels lose traction, off-road traction assist will stop reducing the engine torque and increase the brake force on the wheels without traction. This transfers power to the wheels still on the ground to help allow the vehicle to regain traction and continue the drive.
G-Vectoring Control Plus is also standard for 2020 and further improves the steering response to help the driver and all occupants have a smooth, premium driving experience.
So, they have given the vehicle some off-road credibility. But we think this is a premium full-size crossover without the heft of a sport utility of comparable size. Add Bluetooth, a 360-degree camera, smart brake support, a trailer stability control system, LED lights, satellite radio, voice controls, a premium audio system, streaming and G Vectoring control and there’s not much that the 2020 Mazda CX-9 doesn’t provide.
The only option on our test vehicle was the Soul Red Crystal Metallic Paint for $595 and a $100 set of cargo mats. As tested, the 2020 Mazda CX-9 had a sticker of $47,855.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.