2017 Mazda CX-9: First Look

·Editor at Large

If I’m ever recommending a small crossover or even a three-row SUV, specifically one that doesn’t break the bank, Mazda is my go to automaker. The CX-3 just won our Yahoo Autos Savvy Ride of the Year, and the CX-5 stands tall in a segment of heavy hitters like the Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee and Ford Escape. The CX-9, too, is a wonderful three-rower with high cheekbones and handling dynamics that retains the brand’s sporting qualities. And now there’s a new version, debuting today at the Los Angeles auto show.

The 2017 Mazda CX-9 doesn’t look a great deal different to the one it replaces. And yet this second generation model, arriving nine years after the first, adopts a whole new engine, a more luxurious interior, and a weight loss worthy of Al Roker. 

That engine, first, is a 2.5-liter turbo. It boasts a 20 percent increase in fuel economy but more interesting is its unique turbocharger. Mazda calls it a “Dynamic Pressure Turbo.” Here’s how the Japanese automaker describes the technology: 

“Dynamic Pressure Turbo (is) the world’s first turbocharger with the ability to vary the degree of exhaust pulsation depending on engine speed. The system routes engine exhaust to the turbocharger’s turbine through smaller ports at low rpm. It works similarly to when one might place his or her thumb on a garden hose, creating a strong amount of pressure through a smaller outlet. This allows the turbocharger to spool up quickly, creating instant boost—up to 1.2 bar (17.4 psi) of pressure. When the engine is in the heart of its rev range, it opens up secondary valves, allowing for greater amounts of exhaust gas to pass through the turbocharger.”

Clever stuff, indeed. And this new engine boasts plenty of torque (310 lb.-ft. available as low as 2,000 rpm), meshed with 250 horsepower on 93-octane gasoline (227 horsepower on 87-octane). Given the CX-9′s sizable diet—198 lbs. lighter in FWD trim and a whopping 287 lbs. lighter when optioned with AWD—the already sporty handling of the three-rower should, on paper, show markedly improved dynamics. And such vast loss of mass has enabled engineers to add 53 lbs. of sound deadening material, ensuring interior noise is far quieter. That AWD system is said to be more efficient in adapting to various conditions than the version that came before it, allowing up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. Mazda says the system scans the road conditions 200 times every second, basing its decisions on which wheels need torque most. 

Inside, the CX-9 looks remarkably upscale, something Mazda has improved on massively in recent years. Pricing for the CX-9, which goes on sale in the U.S. next Spring, has not yet been released, but hopefully the level of quality you see here—like in the 2016 CX-3—will arrive at a price point that won’t cause as much sticker shock as you’d think, continuing its trend as the three-rower of choice.

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