Mazda has spent years carving out a niche as a purveyor of fun-to-drive cars, and they’ve been very successful—we can’t recall a Mazda we haven’t enjoyed driving. But nothing in the auto biz ever stays the same, so now Mazda wants to be known for cars that are fun-to-drive andluxurious. How’s that going to work out for them?
If our first drive of the new Mazda CX-9
is any indication, it’s going to work out just fine.
We’ll cut to the chase and tell you that the new CX-9is a Mazda through-and-through. This is the first iteration of Mazda’s big three-row SUV to be designed entirely in-house (while the previous generation CX-9
was co-created with Mazda’s former owner, Ford
), something you can tell from the minute you hit the road. With a Skyactiv turbocharged engine under the hood and a Mazda-designed chassis under the driver’s butt, the CX-9
does what Mazdas do best: It comes alive on acurvy road
. The engine delivers strong mid-range punch, the steering is precise and reasonably communicative, while the wheels seem determined to maintain their grip on the pavement no matter what the driver does.
During our press presentation, Mazda went to great detail—perhaps too much detail—about the studies they have done to see how humans react to movement. When you walk, your head bounces around like a basketball but your brain subconsciously filters all of that extraneous motion so all you sense is smooth travel. Mazda told us they engineer their suspensions to trigger those same subconscious senses. (At least, we think that’s what they told us; in retrospect it’s all a bit of a blur.) All we know is that if you happen to find yourself on a curvy road
, you can drive this family-friendly SUV in a very un-family-friendly way without the adverse results (nauseous tummies, screaming passengers, close encounters with roadside shrubbery) one might expect.