Mazda improves upon the already well-appointed CX-9 again in 2020 with an array of new features and options. Among the new features for this year are available all-new captain’s chairs for the middle row, available power hands-free power liftgate, a performance boost and all-new off-road traction assist feature.
I had the chance to test out the 2020 CX-9 for a week and put it to the test by taking my rather large blended family up to the cottage for the weekend.
If you’re unfamiliar with the CX-9, it’s a mid-to-full sized crossover aimed squarely against big guns like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander (among many others). Mazda notes it has continued to make improvements to the CX-9 every year rather than wait for a mid-cycle refresh.
I do love the look of the CX-9 and Mazda has done an excellent job making it appear large and imposing. We have a long hood and a five-point grille with double bars flanked on either side by standard low- and high-beam LED headlights. The design flows quite nicely to the rear by way of a swept greenhouse, large wheels and short overhangs.
Mazda is one of the few non-luxury brands whose interiors could easily pass as one. The cockpits are ergonomically among the most effective layouts on the market. The vertically stacked center console is visually very appealing and functionally relevant. The controls feel very close and everything is within reach. The downside here is that the large piece does take up a lot of room but it’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make any day. Having to reach for the controls removed your concentration from the road so it’s far superior to surround the driver with everything they need. It goes to Mazda’s core design philosophy of minimizing cognitive (taking your mind off the road), visual (taking eyes off the road) and manual (posture) distractions while driving. All driving information is displayed in front of the driver while all secondary information such as entertainment is kept to the side.
The new center console and captain’s chairs were a real hit with the family. Tons of cupholders, tons of storage and cool captain’s chairs kept everybody happy. The kids all informed me that I should give this vehicle a good review because they had enough space to eat their McDonald’s comfortably. Third-row seating is always a bit tedious to access but with the second-row captain’s chairs it was easier than with the bench seats. The third row can seat kids comfortably but adults will find it quite snug as is usually the case.
One thing that I’d love to see is an integrate rear-seat entertainment system. Mazda sees this as an unnecessary area to put R&D money because many families use tablets or other portable devices that can be removed from the vehicle once they get where they are going. I do understand from a business perspective why that decision makes sense however in practice the experience is much smoother when the adults control it and there is a single source.
Mazda’s strong point has always been its infotainment system. The location of the volume control button on the lower console cannot be understated as an ingenious location particularly because the volume is adjusted each and every time the occupant is in the vehicle thereby amplifying its importance. You can manipulate all functions via the Command interface dial next to it and not have to take your eyes off the road.
As I mentioned earlier, the CX-9 gets a power boost for 2020. All CX-9s come with the same SKYACTIV-G 2.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine which now makes 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque (an increase of 10 lb-ft over the previous year) assuming you use 93 octane fuel. It’s not a peppy as the Honda Pilot but it’s smooth, responsive and does the job just fine while achieving good fuel economy of about 10 L / 100 km.
The CX-9 holds the road in a very sporty fashion as is the case with most of the brand’s lineup thanks to G-Vectoring technology. While turning the steering wheel, the system modifies engine torque to give the vehicle a slight deceleration G-force, which shifts weight to the front wheels and increases grip. It’s a neat system that can have real tangible benefits. When not turning it can shift torque to the rear wheels for more performance.
The 2020 Mazda CX-9 starts at a very reasonable $39,900 for the GS trim but can go up to $51,500 for the top-of-the-line Signature edition. I think it’s a very reasonable package for the amount of features you get and the quality of the interior which rivals luxury brands. If you’re in the market for a large SUV, this is a must-try.