February 22, 2018 By Kevin Limjoco Images by Isabel N. Delos Reyes

2017 Mazda CX-9 AWD

The much-awaited all-new Mazda CX-9 is finally available in our market. The very first version we tested last year was the absolute top-range Signature model and it was everything we expected and more. As I stated before, the CX-9 is the harbinger of Mazda’s latest and finest. I did have exactly three concerns with the overachieving 7-seater premium crossover, however. Thankfully, these concerns are also a matter of perspective. Having said that, these same concerns did find their way to our domestic market offering of the CX-9. Before you all get worried, let me tell you all already that I still think the CX-9 is the very best in its segment overall despite my qualms.

The first issue is price. As loaded and as outstanding as the great looking Mazda CX-9 is, it is positioned exactly in the middle of two full-featured Ford Explorers, its direct competition: the pure front-wheel drive 280 bhp single-turbo 2.3-liter Limited EcoBoost and the 365 bhp 3.5-liter AWD twin-turbo V6 Sport. Honda’s excellent Pilot costs significantly more than all three of them; though, compared to them, it actually has the most interior room and the plushest ride among them. This is a problem for me because, and this is related to my second issue, the Mazda has much less trunk space, a more compromised non-powered third row seating truly meant for children under 10 years old, slightly less general cabin space, and, not as important, a lower roofline. In other markets, the Mazda would have more aggressive pricing. If the cheaper Ford Explorer Limited had AWD in our market for example, the Mazda would certainly lose sales to it despite its design and packaging advantages. In fairness to Mazda Philippines, the CX-9 flagship is the first product that they have sold much higher than expected with less trim than usual too. The third issue can be even more inconsequential for most but I am disappointed that even with the finely flaked aluminum Machine Gray special paint offered domestically, Mazda Japan decided not to package it with the elegant Auburn Nappa leather interior, highlighted by the liberal use of real aluminum and the fabulously tactile genuine Rosewood trim, in our market. Our domestic units still get a very handsome and comfortable cabin but use more somber black leather along with piano black plastic trim. By design alone, the CX-9 does distance itself from all its peers and authentically challenges the Europeans with its exemplary fit-and-finish. The new CX-9 is essentially 1.2-in (30mm) shorter than before but uses a 2.2-in (55mm) longer wheelbase so the ride and handling is even better but the third row as already mentioned is not as spacious as before.

The elegant 8-inch central infotainment monitor, crisp colored HUD system, the excellent instrumentation that now includes a larger color screen on the rightmost gauge similar to systems used by Porsche, are all exemplary. The cabin is also so much quieter and more refined with over 53 pounds more sound-absorbing insulation with an acoustically laminated front windshield and front windows. The 294-watt 12-speaker Bose® Centerpoint® 2 Surround Sound audio is a fantastic system and it appropriately sounds the very best from the entire Mazda family. Despite having an inch wider (8.5 inches) 20-inch alloys wrapped with larger 255/50R20 104V Falken Ziex CT50 A/S tires (10mm wider than before), the new CX-9 rides with a dramatically better ride than before without giving up its cornering tenacity. The retuned 2.5-liter inline-4 now features a unique new Dynamic Pressure Turbo system for maximum fuel efficiency while retaining the engine’s excellent elasticity. Thankfully, the new CX-9 is lighter than the old equivalent AWD by almost 290 pounds because it makes less power than before but it compensates for this by generating more (310 lb-ft compared to 271 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm) usable torque from as low as 2000 rpm until 4500 rpm. If you don’t use at least 93-octane premium gasoline, however, the power drops from 250 bhp to 227 bhp but retains the same torque curves all without any perceptible turbo-lag. The new AWD system is not just active but it is also predictive for total effortless all-weather road driving confidence. The Mazda CX-9 isn’t the 7-seater crossover rocket that I had hoped, but without question, it is superior to the old full-size predecessor in every way but outright capacity. If you want the very best looking and refined premium crossover in the local market for less than P3 Million pesos, then this is it.

Specification – 2017 Mazda CX-9 AWD

Engine: Inline-4, 2488 cc, dohc 16V, Direct Injection Intercooled Dynamic Pressure Turbo, VVT, 6-speed AT

Max power: 250 bhp @ 5000 rpm

Max torque: 310 lb ft @ 2000-4500 rpm

0-100 km/h (0-62mph): 7.4 sec.

Top Speed: 216 km/h (135 mph) Governed

Fuel Mileage: 21 mpg City & 27 mpg Highway

Price as tested: PhP 2,780,000.00 (Machine Grey test unit color costs an additional P16,800.00)

C! RATING 10/10

+Gorgeous inside and out, Mazda’s best tech showcase, exemplary packaging, ultra-comfortable for first two rows

-You must have at least 93-octane fuel to get the full 250 bhp or its 23 bhp down, cramped third-row, reduced trunk size, no Rosewood trim.

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