Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: 2018 Mazda CX-9 AWD Sport

The outside temperature gauge read 38 degrees Celsius and the climate control, set at cozy 22 degrees Celsius was struggling with the heat. One starts to wonder: if the CX-9 was already having difficulty maintaining the temperature inside, how much more in the engine bay? Fitted with the first turbocharged Skyactiv-G engine, the engine temperature kept on rising—middle, slightly above middle, and finally three-quarters to red. This impromptu road trip, it seems, could spell vindication or disaster for the much-vaunted Mazda CX-9.

Before that though, let’s talk about the other aspects of the CX-9.

For starters, it looks great. Eschewing the typical boxy and brash styling of its competitors, the CX-9 shows luxury and elegance through restraint. Instead of overemphasizing its size like a pompous male luring a female in heat, the swoopy, organic lines create a well-balanced, well-proportioned design. It’s so good that the girth is hidden in plain sight (it’s slightly larger than the Ford Explorer with more ground clearance to boot).

The CX-9’s excellent sense of proportions are then peppered with just the right amount of gravitas. The large wing-shaped grille that juts well ahead of the slim headlights give a strong road presence, as do the 20-inch wheels.

Next up, when climbing aboard, it’s immediately noticeable that Mazda has put a lot of attention to make the interior look and feel luxurious. The panel gaps are consistently tight and all the trims line up with an obsessive attention to detail. The plastics are soft to the touch that they actually pass for leather in some places (the upper dash panel for one). And then, there’s the brushed aluminum inserts, high gloss piano black accents, plush leather—they all come together to create a cabin that shames any vehicle twice the CX-9’s price. It’s nicely kitted too with a sunroof and a 12-speaker Bose sound system.

As with any other Mazda, the CX-9’s worked out its driving position to a tee. The steering wheel offers an excellent amount of adjustment, as do the firm and supportive seats. The pedals also fall naturally into place making this large crossover feel no different than something like the Mazda6 from the driver’s seat. All the controls—from the instrument cluster to the various switches and buttons are easily understood and all fall within an arm’s reach away.

Moving back to the second row, the CX-9 also provides excellent space for three adults, provided they slide the split bench all the way back. There’s a separate climate control, A/C vents by the center console, and retractable sun shades, offering some degree of pampering to executives or VIPs. However, if all three rows have to be utilized, everyone has to make compromises. Still, head- and headroom is decent even for those in the third row, but honestly the rearmost accommodations aren’t that comfortable—it’s truly a knees-up affair back there. Plus, there are no ceiling handgrips or A/C vents to speak of. Oh, and while the luggage space is decent, it’s on the smaller end of the three-row crossover spectrum (fitting the luggage of 4 adults is a challenge) and power-folding seats aren’t available.

Onto the driving aspect, the CX-9 comes with Mazda’s first turbocharged Skyctiv-G engine. Displacing 2.5 liters, it generates 231 horsepower and 420 Nm of torque. Admittedly, the horsepower output is a downer, but at least it performs pretty well in real life. The secret ingredient here is when peak torque comes in: at just 2,000 rpm. With that, it feels punchy from low revs and together with a nice, burly engine note, it makes short work of overtaking maneuvers.

Having said that, not everything is rosy with Mazda’s first modern forced-induction motor. And for that, it’s time to go back to the opening paragraph. Apparently, the CX-9’s engine components are susceptible to heat soak, especially when driven at high speeds for an extended period of time (in this case, a steady 100-110 km/h for about 4 hours). Whether its due to the high ambient temperature or not, what matters is that the engine temperature rose steadily, resting at about three-quarters to red (110 degrees Celsius according to the gauge cluster). At this time, any jab of the throttle won’t produce any kick from the turbo. Instead, it’ll behave pretty much like a normally-aspirated engine lugging a 1,908-kilogram body. Additionally, fuel economy could be better. Despite all the hype surrounding this Dynamic Pressure Turbo, fuel economy in city traffic is stuck at 5.21 km/L improving to just 11.65 km/L during highway driving.

Problems with the engine aside, the rest of the CX-9 experience goes without a hitch. The steering is light and accurate, and surprisingly, is very easy to place on the road. The suspension tuning itself is on the firm side, but supple enough to mitigate any patch of rough road before it reaches the cabin. It also takes mountain switchbacks and transitionary maneuvers well—it has none of the cumbersome behavior commonly associated with three-row SUVs or crossovers. The gearbox itself is also responsive, but once or twice, paddle shifters would have been welcome. The best part of the entire drive though has to be the CX-9’s quietness—it’s easily the best in class.

Those prioritizing safety, the CX-9 does offer a full suite of driver assistive systems including blind spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and correction, and front and rear clearance sensors with a reverse camera. This is on top of the usual 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control. It’s pretty much a complete package though having a radar-based active cruise control could have sealed the deal.

All in all, the CX-9 continues to deliver Mazda’s promise of delivering a driver-centric experience. Although it does give up some practicality and there maybe some questions about that turbocharged engine, it makes it up with class-leading styling and handling. At P 2,830,000 it may seem a tad more expensive than its most direct rival, the Explorer 2.3 Limited. But considering that the CX-9 does offer all-wheel drive as standard and it’s built on better stuff, the Mazda wins not just hearts, but minds as well.

2018 Mazda CX-9 AWD Sport
Ownership 2018 Mazda CX-9 AWD Sport
Year Introduced 2017
Vehicle Classification Mid-sized Crossover
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 7
Engine / Drive F/AWD
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.5
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 231 @ 5,000
Nm @ rpm 420 @ 2,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 5.21 km/L @ 15 km/h,
11.65 km/L @ 68 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,075
Width (mm) 1,960
Height (mm) 1,716
Wheelbase (mm) 2,930
Curb Weight (kg) 1,908
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Falken Ziex CT50 A/S 255/50 R 20 V M+S (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear, with Camera
Other Safety Features Hill Hold Assist
Blindspot Warning
Lane Departure Warning
Lane Keep Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electric (front)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40 (2nd row); 50/50 (3rd row)
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Dual Zone (front), Single Zone (rear)
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 12, Bose
Steering Controls Yes


  1. Is this still the best in its class? or nah..

    1. I think the Explorer is the best-selling midsize unibody SUV in the country. It offers more space and more powerful engines but it is not as nimble to drive as the CX9.

    2. Stay away from the Explorer if you don't wanna waste your money. It has tons of problems from the rack n pinion, to the CO2 emission, all the way to the very poor after sales service from Ford.

  2. Which is a better choice between this and the cx5?

    1. Very different markets. The CX-5 is a compact 5-seater while this is closer to a large 7-seater SUV.

  3. This or the Honda Pilot?

    1. Unfortunately, Honda Pilot is officially RIP. HCPI hasn't brought in the Pilot since 2018.

    2. The most recent version of the Pilot sold in the country is worth more than 3M already, about the same price as the Expedition.

  4. Has a tendency to overheat at this price range, hell NO!!! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

    1. It runs hot, but doesn’t overheat. There’s a difference 🙂

  5. 2018 Mazda CX-9 included on the list of SUV'S with worst reliability. Problems with in-car electronics, body integrity, and the brake system.

    1. Seems one Japanese brand/model conks out with the worst reliability. Most are European brands. At least this would serve as a good reference for would-be future buyers of CX-9. Probably Mazda should consider better thermal insulation and efficiency for this model.

  6. So much for japanese reliability. Haha. Ano kaya masasabi nung mga mazda fanboys dito?

    1. Been a part of cx9 car groups with at least1000 owners of the new CX9 since a year ago, never heard of any reliability problem tbh. I do wonder where those stats come from, remember don’t focus on the negative side of informations, you could be blinded by those easily!

  7. Nice car Mr. Uly, but if it's got difficulty cooling the inside and the engine may overheat I would not even think about getting it. To me, a car that expensive shouldn't have issues like that. I do notice that Mazda engines (3, 6, cx5) are hotter but I think its because they have to keep the engine temp high enough to reduce carbon build up in the intake manifold. Perhaps the unit you tested out may have a factory defect? But in anyway its still bad for the engine to get too hot.

  8. LMAO! A full sized SUV but still cramped for its size inside plus all of these major problems. And to make it worse, it's a gas guzzler. Your beloved Mazda CX9 turned out to be a crap.

    So much for "Mazda quality and reliability" according to its fanboys. LMAO!

    1. This is not a full-sized SUV, only a medium one like the Explorer and Pilot. The Expedition, Suburban, Land Cruiser LC200, and Armada are the full-sized SUVs. It is only a gas guzzler for those who can't spend for fuel. People who buy such vehicles have enough money to spend on fuel. You don't go out buying a vehicle worth nearly 3M and skimp on fuel.

    2. I stand corrected, i was so engrossed in reading and the description "large crossover" stuck my mind. Yes this is just a mid size SUV since it rivals the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Toyota Prado, etc...

      I don't agree though with your reasons regarding fuel efficiency thing. Remember, Mazda has been hyping this vehicle with its Dynamic Pressure Turbo and the Skyactiv technology making it more fuel efficient than its competitors. It turned out to be a dud.

    3. It is a mid size suv, have you ever tried being in a CX9? Please do not place comments that sounded so certain when you’ve never actually experienced it! :) now may I ask at this price range, who is more fuel efficient than the CX9? Whois probs to have bigger space than the CX9? My height is 5”10 and my body shape is considerably athletic, and I seriously have no problem in fitting in all 3 rows even if I placed them at my driving position and perfect sitting positions. So I guess you’re probably taller and bigger than me to actually find the space to be cramped! I swear, your perspective towards these judgments would change if you’ve actually experienced them yourselves. Hey, showrooms are open for everyone!

    4. It is actually still more fuel efficient than its main competitors(Ford Explorer, Honda. Also, both the Explorer and the Pilot and both outdated, while the Pilot being overpriced as well.

    5. The Explorer and Pilot both has better interior space than the CX9. All Mazda's has the distinction of being the tightest in its class and it's true. Yeah, it may be one of the most fuel efficient in its class but it certainly fell a bit short of expectations since Mazda hyped it up including its perceived good fuel efficiency.

      At any rate, all Mazda's generally has higher engine temperature due to the high compression ratio. But it's weird that this has a higher than usual engine temp, resulting to poor performance.

    6. Can I ask you a question? How tall are you? It seems that you are a very tall person who is very concerned about space whereas European and American reviewers who are more than 6 feet tall have little complaints of the space in this car. It is fuel efficient for its class, don't expect a huge 2 ton turbocharged gasoline engine to have the fuel economy of a compact car.

      Same thoughts with you on the temperature, I'll wait for feedback from actual CX-9 owners rather than people who aren't one.

    7. Buy the Hiace XLV if space is your main priority. I'd prefer a better car with loads of equipment at a reasonable price rather than an overpriced one that only offers space as its advantage.

    8. Common excuse of Mazda fanboys, buy a van if you want space. Generally speaking, all Mazda's has this sloping roof line towards the back that restricts head room therefore inducing a claustrophobic feel most especially to their smaller vehicles.

      Sir Uly himself has spoken, "However, if all three rows are to used, everyone has to make compromises. Honestly, the rearmost accomodations aren't the comfortable. While the luggage space is decent, it is on the smaller spectrum of the three row Crossover segment (fitting the uggage for 4 adults is a challenge) and there's no power folding seats."

      I know it's still a little bit fuel efficient in its class as its competitors also has a similar consumption. But it fell a little bit short of expectations due to the hype made by Mazda that it's fuel efficient. Remember, the engine is just 2.5 liters but with a Turbo as compared to its competitors who has a bigger engine offering.

    9. * if all three rows are to be used
      * rearmost accomodations aren't that comfortable

    10. As if you would sit in there or place full size adults in there. The third row seats won't be utilized 99% of the time as seen with the PPV's here. I see most PPV's with only 1-2 people in it. Those bigger engined competitors would only net around 3km/L around the city btw.

    11. If the seats won't be used 99% of the time then why the hell would you buy a CX 9? Just buy a 5 seater lexus crossover or something at this price range

    12. ^ Spot on. Why would you even buy a expensive Large size CUV when you won't even use the the third row seats nor maximize the luggage space.

  9. Overheating??? That's bad. I drove a Forester XT for a continuous drive across NLEX to TPLEX between 100-120kmh en route to La Union and the temperature did not even reach 100*C.

    1. “It isn’t over heating” it runs at a higher temperature indeed, it’s engine is designed to have a very high engine compression as high as 13:1 and even 14:1 for some. Like car guide mentioned “it runs hot, not overheating” the engine mechanism results to a way lower co2 emission than other competitors. Think for the earth rather than the engine hood hotter than others. Besides, you don’t sit on the hood anyway right?

    2. If you really are concerned about the environment, you wouldn't buy a gas guzzling SUV.

    3. The Skyactiv Turbo doesn’t run on the same compression ratio as the NA Skyactiv-G. It runs something like 10.5:1. It’s still high for a turbocharged engine though.

  10. i think the engine and turbo is tuned to have power at low to mid range engine speed, very useful when going uphill and doing overtaking maneuvers, but in return the will feel like its being push to the limits. in my experience the temperature gauge always stays in the middle or slightly below the middle.

  11. Uly did you check under the hood to see if all the fans are working? As far as I know all manufacturers test their vehicles under extreme conditions (like towing a trailer in the 50degC Mojave desert), Mazda included.

    1. They seem to be working because the temp will go 3/4 to red but will gradually go down and will then go up again. The temperature doesn’t get passed that.

  12. If their engines are having problems like this, it makes you wonder what the future of skyactiv X will be like.

    1. We can’t pass judgement on Skyactiv X until we get to drive it.

    2. It’s a mechanism of the car itself! I’m not saying it’s the best engine, however it’s design is aiming for lower co2 emission through higher combustion rate, and of course what happens when he combustion is higher? It becomes hotter! There’s no way a car manufacturer would build cars that would over heat and break down easily, that would ruin the whole point of the engine concept and company itself, please do understand how things work both sides before placing a judgement. I do refer this to any of the car reviews, and not specifically Mazda. These engineers definitely have their side of ideas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t messed up on simple things such as the engine over heats and breaks. After all they do run long period car tests, if it broke down before it, there’s no way they’d sell it.

    3. So you'rr saying cat companies won't sell faulty products huh... Ever heard of Ford's dual clutch transmission issues? Yes, manufacturers make mistakes sometimes and this is probably a good example of it.

    4. Wait til you own & drive a chevy, i say they are masters of faulty designs.. transmission control module (TCM) breaking down due to heat, ignition coils konking out less than 10k on the odo, body control module (BCM) malfunctions out of the blue (BCMs rarely breaks down in fact most of the time surpassing the life of the vehicle).. while some will argue it's just faulty parts not design, i say it's faulty design. Odd placing and bad electrical design contributed to the toasted TCM and most likely has something to do with the premature retirement of the ignition coil (mind you their freakin' a** ignition coil comes as a set of four, hence if one coil breaks down you have to replace everything, whereas typical jap brands would have it in pairs or individual units). Probably unfair comparing mazda to chev, but faulty designs do get into the market, what really boils down to now is how responsible the brand is in rectifying it & their urgency to be accountable in compensating for the losses and inconvenience it caused their customers.

  13. Uly I can't thank you and CarGuide more than enough for your honest and unbiased review. No amount of typical casa test drive can show these findings.

  14. Cx9 Looks good but I only had 1 car or suv past half in the temperature gauge. It turned out the radiator needs repLacing

  15. I noticed that all your mazda test drive units have problems? But mine doesn't? Bad luck perhaps?

    1. Not true. Only the CX-9 experienced this kind of problem thus far. All other demo units proved to be reliable and have no problems.

      The long term test Mazda3 proves to be reliable and durable as well aside from that battery issue which stemmed from a dead EFB battery which had a defective cell. So far it’s been good since.

  16. 5.21km/L @what avg speed?

  17. I see more of these new CX-9's running around than Ford Explorers, especially around Makati.

  18. So despite the high temperature, it still didn't overheated?

  19. Milagro parang tahimik ang mga mazda fanboys.

  20. Sir Uly, i've seen some complaints on Youtube regarding the climate control problems of the CX9, i've thought you experienced the same problem with those owners.

    Add to that the poor performing AWD system which is a big surprise for an expensive CUV.

  21. Love takes time to heal when you're hurting so much. Can't you see that I was so blind to let you go? I can't stand the pain inside 'cause love takes time. I don’t want to be here alone.

  22. https://www.autoindustriya.com/car-reviews/2018-mazda-cx-9-awd-grand-touring.html

    Why is the review here so different and there's none of that engine heat issue?

    1. Because...they don't want to mention anything negative?


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