There’s a new king in town at Mazda.
Since its reveal in 2016, the current CX-9 has been the brand’s flagship; the biggest, most luxurious, most expensive car Mazda offers. That’s no longer the case, with the arrival of the CX-90.
Along with the smaller CX-60, the CX-90 is part of a new push upmarket from Mazda.
Not content with offering the most luxurious cars among its current range of rivals, the brand wants to start going head-to-head with the likes of BMW and Audi. Along with a bold look and luxurious interior, that means a range of turbocharged and electrified inline-six engines, as well as a four-cylinder plug-in hybrid.
What does that mean for the existing CX-9? It’s not exactly clear.
We know it’s sticking around through 2023, but beyond that we don’t know what the future holds for the seven year-old seven-seater.
Does the CX-9 still have something to offer, or is it worth holding out for the more luxurious Mazda family hauler due to touch down later this year?
How much does the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD cost?
The 2023 Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD is priced from $67,850 before on-road costs.
It sits $3000 below the Azami AWD in the range, and is $4000 than the front-wheel drive version with the same level of equipment.
That puts it roughly into line with the Hyundai Palisade Elite V6 FWD ($65,900 before on-roads), along with the smaller (but more luxurious) Santa Fe Highlander 2.2 diesel AWD ($66,500 before on-roads).
Over it Kia, it tackles the Sorento GT-Line Diesel AWD ($65,070 before on-roads).
2023 Mazda CX-9 pricing:
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Sport FWD: $46,250
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Sport AWD: $50,250
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Touring FWD: $53,850
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD: $57,850
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 GT FWD: $63,350
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 GT SP FWD: $63,850
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami FWD: $66,550
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 GT AWD: $67,350
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD: $67,850
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami AWD: $70,969
- 2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE AWD: $74,219
All prices exclude on-road costs
What is the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD like on the inside?
The CX-9 is getting a bit long in the tooth, but its interior has held up well.
It still looks classy, especially with the red leather seats standard on the GT SP, and most of the materials are suitably plush. The seats are generously stuffed armchairs, the wheel is trimmed in waxy leather, and the central armrest feels every bit as squidgy as you’d hope.
You could happily spend all day behind the wheel – and we have – without getting tired. The ergonomics are excellent, and there’s acres of storage for the paraphernalia that comes with road tripping or parenthood.
Mazda has recently updated the CX-9 with a bigger infotainment screen running more modern software borrowed from the latest 3. The 10.25-inch Mazda Connect display looks sharp, and responds quickly to inputs from the BMW-style rotary dial on the transmission tunnel.
It’s frustrating that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can’t be controlled with touch though, and Mazda doesn’t offer wireless smartphone mirroring on the CX-9 like it does on some other models.
The sunroof also looks more like a porthole when you consider the panoramic unit available on the Hyundai Palisade, which undermines the sense of luxury.
Things are excellent in the second row, where there’s space for tall adults sitting behind tall adults.
Despite the sunroof there’s ample headroom, and the USB ports and air vents for rear passengers are welcome. A two-seat middle row with captain’s chairs is optional in the Azami LE, our tester was a seven-seater with a conventional three-seat bench.
The third row is one of the best in the large SUV class, with enough space for big kids. They aren’t reserved for short trips, either, with enough knee- and headroom to make road trips survivable back there.
There are also cupholders and USB vents back there. As a set of part-time seats for the soccer run they’re perfect, although parents who are constantly using all seven seats should look into a proper people mover.
With the third row in place, the CX-9 offers 230L of cargo capacity, expanding to 820L with it folded.
For parents with multiple kids, the second-row chairs offer ISOFIX and top-tether points, while both seats in the third row offer top-tether points too.
What’s under the bonnet?
Power across the CX-9 range comes from a turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission and on-demand all-wheel drive.
It makes 170kW of power at 5000rpm, and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm. Braked towing capacity is 2000kg, dropping to 750kg unbraked.
Claimed fuel economy is 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle, we saw just between 11 and 12 litres per 100km during our time with the car.
The fuel tank holds 74 litres, and the CX-9 will happily drink 91 RON regular unleaded.
How does the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD drive?
The CX-9 is a comfortable, relaxed cruiser.
It’s an American product first and foremost, which is why there’s no diesel. It’s a gap that’s been filled by the smaller CX-8 and will soon be addressed by the CX-90, but it’s also a big part of why the car has such a relaxed character on the open road.
Even on its sporty-looking 20-inch wheels the ride is nicely sorted, soaking up pimply city streets without fuss. The car hides its bulk nicely at low speeds, and at highway speeds feels nicely sorted. Bigger crests can make it feel a bit floaty, but that’s to be expected from such a big, heavy bus on steel springs.
In 2020 we were impressed with how the pre-update CX-9 handled a fully-loaded trip from Melbourne to the Victorian high country. The latest model has the same indomitable feeling about it when you point its nose at the open road.
Mazda’s driver assists are nicely calibrated. The adaptive cruise smoothly keeps a gap to the car in front, the lane-keep assist doesn’t feel too hands on, and the blind-spot monitor is handy if there are heads in the back seats blocking outward vision.
Noise suppression is excellent, even on coarse-chip highways. That’s traditionally not something we’d say about a Mazda.
At lower speeds, the CX-9 does a good job hiding its bulk. It’s over 5.0 metres long, but the high driving position and light-ish steering combine to make this a car you’re able to place easily in tight places.
The reversing camera isn’t all that sharp though, and the lack of a surround-view camera means you’re more reliant on the less precise parking sensor graphic to nose right up to some spots. We’re hoping the new CX-90 has a full suite of high-resolution cameras to match those on offer in the Germans, because it’s one of the last black spots in the CX-9.
As much as Australians like diesel engines in the big family haulers, the petrol engine in the CX-9 packs a solid punch.
It’s smooth and quiet, and peak torque kicks in at just 2000rpm. The way it surfs that wave of low-down torque is very diesel-like, and blesses the car with an effortless, under stressed character in day-to-day driving. There’s also enough punch to handle highway driving with a full load, although the CX-9 likes a drink if you’re working it hard.
This isn’t a sports car, so don’t expect too much zoom zoom, but this big family bus doesn’t fall apart when you’re in a hurry.
The steering is linear and well-weighted, and the torque converter automatic shifts fast enough in manual mode to make taking charge worthwhile.
The brakes are up to the task of stopping such a big, heavy beast, and body roll is kept in check. Driven with respect for its size the CX-9 is able to get a bit of a move on.
What do you get?
CX-9 Sport highlights:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Steel temporary spare wheel
- Auto LED headlights
- Auto high-beam
- Halogen daytime running lights
- LED tail lights
- Rain-sensing window wipers
- Heated and power-folding side mirrors
- 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- DAB+ digital radio
- Satellite navigation
- 6-speaker sound system
- Head-up display
- Three-zone climate control
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Leather-wrapped gear shift knob
- Cloth upholstery
- Electric parking brake
- Push-button start
- Off-road traction assist (AWD only)
CX-9 Touring adds:
- 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Paddle shifters
- LED fog lights
- Front parking sensors
- Keyless entry
- Paddle shifters
- Black leather upholstery
- 8-way power driver’s seat
- 6-way power front passenger’s seat
- Heated front seats
- Rear centre armrest with storage and USB ports
- One-touch tip and slide switch for second row
CX-9 GT gains:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Power tailgate
- Power tilt-and-slide sunroof
- 10.25-inch infotainment system
- Wireless phone charger
- 12-speaker Bose sound system
- Leather upholstery (black, natural stone or beige)
- 10-way power driver’s seat with memory
- Heated outboard second row seats
- Third-row USB ports
CX-9 GT SP adds:
- Black 20-inch alloy wheels
- Black mirror caps
- Dark gunmetal grille
- Burgundy leather upholstery
- Red interior highlights
CX-9 Azami gains:
- Adaptive LED headlights
- Windscreen de-icer
- 7.0-inch information display
- Heated steering wheel
- Frameless steering wheel
- Ventilated front seats
- Surround-view cameras
- Real wood trim
- LED centre console ambient lighting
- Quilted Nappa leather upholstery (brown or white)
CX-9 Azami LE adds:
- Second-row captain’s chairs
- Heated, ventilated
- Second-row centre console
Is the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD safe?
The CX-9 has a five-star ANCAP rating based on testing carried out in 2016. It achieved an overall score of 35.87 out of 37.00.
Dual front, side-chest and side curtain airbags are standard across the range. All three seating rows are covered by curtain airbags, and all seats have seat belt reminders.
Standard safety features include:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Forward and Reverse
- Pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver attention monitoring
- Traffic sign recognition
- Lane departure warning
- Lane keep assist
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
- Tyre pressure monitoring
How much does the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD cost to run?
The CX-9 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty like the wider Mazda range.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres. Most rivals offer longer 15,000km intervals, which is worth keeping in mind if you do a lot of highway driving.
The first five visits cost $363, $408, $363, $408 and $363, totalling $1905 for the first five years or 50,000km.
CarExpert’s Take on the Mazda CX-9 GT SP AWD
The Mazda CX-9 still has plenty to offer, provided diesel power isn’t on your list of priorities.
It’s still plush and comfortable inside, with some of the better part-time third-row seats in the business, and recent technology updates have helped bring it up to speed with newer rivals.
The GT SP AWD occupies a nice niche in the sprawling CX-9 range, offering most of the luxuries on offer in the Azami without a price in the $70,000 range.
Is it worth waiting for the CX-90? With more power and a more modern cabin, it certainly shapes as an enticing option – but it also shapes as a more expensive one than the existing CX-9.
If what you want is the daddy of the Mazda range, it’s worth holding off. If you’re after a luxurious, capable family SUV that won’t completely break the bank, the CX-9 ticks all the boxes.
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MORE: Everything Mazda CX-9
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