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Mazda CX-9 2011 review

EXPERT RATING
8

VIRILITY was once established by a man's courage in the face of death. Fighting a lion using nothing but his bare hands was one early test, halted when the villages realised they were quickly running out of men.

A more sophisticated civilisation softened the need to pursue wildlife, replacing it with the ability to croon to a theatre packed with women. This was replaced by the ability to make lots and lots of money.

Which brings me to seven-seat wagons. Clearly, a bloke driving around in one of these says more about his reproductive potential than that of Tarzan, Bing Crosby and Donald Trump.

And let's not be sexist. A woman driving such vehicles is telling the world more about her desires behind the wheel than wearing a T-shirt imprinted with "Child Rearer".

But what seven-seat wagon has the style to pull it off? This one.

Value

Seven seat wagons generally aren't cheap because they're made with a lot of metal and fabric. The Mazda CX-9 comes in three versions priced from $50,015.

Tested is the Luxury at $57,015. It's about $11,000 above the five-seat Mazda CX-5 and basically adds more room, more seats and a bigger engine - though no diesel option.

It is a serious end of the market. Children aside, bigg-ish SUVs like the CX-9 are loved by outdoorsy people, even those that don't go outdoors.

The wagon must be flexible, roomy and with the ability to have a decent tow rating. The CX-9's enemy includes the new Ford Territory, now with the option of a diesel engine. I'd be carefully doing my sums before making judgement.

Design

This is a good looking wagon with a big smiley face.

Rear view of the Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring It follows the design of the smaller CX-7 and yet doesn't look like an awkward stretch job. More a 110 per cent enlargement. The extra 406mm length allows a third row of seats suitable for two small people. Trust me, if you're an adult you will not be comfortable back there.

Boot space shrinks, naturally, to the point where not much more than a suitcase will slip behind the third row of seats. But it's great for family and friends and the versatility of the seating - the centre row is on sliders - gives it a purpose for almost every occasion.

Lots of leather and an attractive dashboard is spoilt only by so-so sat-nav graphics and the foot-operated park brake. The rest is great.

Technology

Not rocket science - a 3.7-litre 204kW/367Nm V6 petrol and all-wheel drive oily bits under an attractive body. It's a well executed and pleasantly simple package.

Actually, the wagon is a front-wheel drive and will only start sending power to the rear wheels when needed - for example, when the front wheels slip on a wet surface or during heavy-footed acceleration.

Theoretically, you could venture off the bitumen and gravel but reality says this is not intended to compete with 4WDs and besides, I wouldn't want to dig its 2-tonnes out of beach sand.

Interestingly, the Toyota Kluger is near identical in spec and market but has almost four times the CX-9's sales - and there's no logical reason for this disparity.

Safety

Mazda scores a maximum five-star rating for practically all its cars and the CX-9 is no exception.

It also adds all the necessary electronic nannies, including ESC, ABS and rollover mitigation. Plus it's tall and looks like it wouldn't dint against a Mack.

Driving

Yes, it's big but it has a confidence about it that creates the impression it is nimble.

The steering is nicely weighted - though there's a bit too many turns lock-to-lock - and the automatic transmission puts down the cogs quickly and without fuss.

The V6 engine is silky smooth and willing to rev with a good dab of torque at low revs - about 330Nm is available from 2800rpm - which makes it pointless to scream it out to 6250rpm to find the 204kW of power.

Handling is secure though pushed hard will unleash understeer (the car wants to keep going straight ahead during a corner) and body roll. But it is so comfortable and quiet that you lose the desire to drive it quickly. It is, of course, a wagon for lots of people or luggage.

Verdict

During the week of the test, this was the car of choice from our garage to get to the city or down to the shops.

It was comfortable, had easy power and had good visibility thanks to park sensors and rear camera.

The fuel consumption was 12.3 L/100km on test around the suburbs which is on par with rivals including some large-category sedans.

Yes, there are some strong rivals to the CX-9 but I was partly swayed by the Mazda name and the fact it gave me a relaxed drive.

Pricing guides

$15,990
Based on 79 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$10,888
Highest Price
$20,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Classic 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,888 – 16,990 2011 Mazda CX-9 2011 Classic Pricing and Specs
Classic (FWD) 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,990 – 18,795 2011 Mazda CX-9 2011 Classic (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Grand Touring 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,990 – 20,000 2011 Mazda CX-9 2011 Grand Touring Pricing and Specs
Luxury 3.7L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,300 – 19,999 2011 Mazda CX-9 2011 Luxury Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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