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Mazda CX-9


Volvo XC60

Summary

Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 is Mazda's big, SUV flagship and it has been updated with more cool tech, better safety features, better handling and real wood. Yup, you read that right: real wood. There's also been a price rise on this seven-seater.

You did know it was a seven-seater, right?  And not all seven-seat SUVs are the same. There are off-road capable ones which can be as uncomfortable as a tank on city streets. Then there are those that feel like giant, cushy lounge rooms that handle like a ship really and are just big cars so you better not take them off road. There are others which say they're seven-seaters but in reality those extra two seats in the third row are just for kids – and even then you'd only put your least favourite ones back there. So, what's the Mazda CX-9 then?

That's what this review is all about and by the end of it you'll know if this new Mazda CX-9 the right seven-seater for you.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.8L/100km
Seating7 seats

Volvo XC60

If this was 10 years ago I’d be making jokes about Volvo drivers, IKEA and ABBA, but those those stereotypes are all irrelevant now. Safety is not nerdy, and Sweden really is more than flat-packed furniture and catchy pop music. Yep, a lot has happened in the 10 years since the Volvo XC60 first arrived, and now a decade on the second generation of the mid-sized SUV is with us.

The most popular Volvo SUV in the world, the XC60 may not be the first SUV people think of when asked what you might compare a BMW X3 to, or an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLC, but that’s their loss. 

Could the XC60 quietly be the best mid-sized prestige SUV on the road in terms of value, design, comfort, safety and driving? Let me help you with that question – read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeHybrid with Premium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency2.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda CX-98/10

The previous CX-9 was excellent and now the new one fills in many of the gaps which were missing such as the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the safety tech standard across all grades and great ride and handling. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better large seven-seater all-rounder without stepping into the $100K prestige territory.

The Touring is the sweet spot in the CX-9 with its leather seats, 8.0-inch display and good price.

Is there anything Mazda has missed with its CX-9? Or is this SUV almost as good as it gets at this price? Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Volvo XC608.3/10

The XC60 is an outstanding mid-sized all-wheel drive SUV. A great selection of engines and a plug-in hybrid means buyers can better suit their purchase to lifestyle. Super safe, stylish and effortless to drive. The best value is to be had lower in range with the sweet spot being the Inscription grade.

Would you choose the XC60 over a BMW X3 or Benz GLC? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Design

Mazda CX-98/10

Nothing has changed to the exterior of the CX-9 in this 2018 update – but that's a good thing, because this is a striking and beautifully styled SUV. More a tall, sleek wagon than upright boxy SUV, there's that in-your-face grille, the long nose the set-back cabin and the hatchback rear end. The only element which irks me are the taillights – they seem a bit small for that big bottom.

All CX-9s look almost identical on the outside, but you can tell the higher grades form their larger-sized wheels and LED fog lights.

There's not much in the way of a body kit, but there is that subtle roof top spoiler, that sculpted front bumper and the little shark fin antenna.

The cabin is a premium feeling place (have a look at the images) – this is Mazda flagship after all. Materials feel soft to touch even on the dash and door sills back and front, while there's a high-quality fit and finish throughout. With big interior dimensions this is also a roomy place, despite that sloping roofline.

The Azami LE is by far the most decadent grade with its nappa leather upholstery and real wood trim. Mazda was not able to tell me what type of wood has been used and could only go as far as confirming it was real wood, however, in the United States the top-grade CX-9, known as the Signature, uses a similar looking material and officially calls it rosewood.

Mazda also told me that the adhesives and materials used in the cabin were also chosen to minimise bad smells – not from the people in it but from the leather's plastics and glues. If only all car companies would care enough to do this – some new car smells make my eyes water.

At almost 5.1 metres long, nearly 2.0m wide and getting onto 1.8m tall you'll need a pretty big garage to house the CX-9.


Volvo XC60

Remember when Volvos were boxy? Well they’re back baby, but in a better way that the 240 GLE from 1992. No, this is sexy.

There’s that long, sculpted bonnet with the cab set back and the heavily raked windscreen makes for a pleasing profile. The concave door panels and the mirrored wings in the rocker panels below add more toughness to this elegant beast.

There’s also that stately grille wearing its famous Volvo ‘sash’, those Thor’s hammer LED headlights and the very Volvo vertical taillights. This is a prestige SUV but not one of the BMW, Benz and Audi usual suspects.

The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.

How do you tell the difference between the grades visually? Well that’s a tricky one. From the outside you can spot at R-Design T8 by its sunroof while the Momentum D4 and T5 both have 19-inch wheels which look a tad too small for those wheel guards.

Inside all XC60s are exquisite, bordering on modern art with that minimalist dash decluttered of its buttons thanks to most of the functions being moved to that stunning 9.0-inch vertical touch screen.

There are nine colours to choose from including Fusion Red, Passion Red, Bursting Blue Metallic, Onyx Black Metallic, Osmium Grey Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, Electric Silver Metallic and Ice White.

The accessories list for the XC60 is huge there’s everything from towbar hitches and floor mats to roof boxes, kayak cradles, and tablet holders for rear seat entertainment - but not bullbars.

Practicality

Mazda CX-98/10

There are a stack of reasons to buy a seven-seater. You may have a big family and really need the third row, or you're just a small family that likes to pack a truck-load of gear for holidays while having a couple of extra seats just in case you're put on the spot after picking the kids up from karate and end up with more ninjas to drop home.

There are other seven-seaters where those third-row seats are just a bonus – the Santa Fe is a bit like that, but SUVs such as the CX-9, Kluger and Sorento offer much better room back there.

Even at 191cm tall I can sit in the third row comfortably, with just enough head and legroom. That said, I wouldn't want to be there for an epic road trip, but it's fine for kids and shorter adults.

Legroom in the second row is excellent – I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of space between my knees and the seat back – headroom isn't as generous as the Kluger or Sorento but there's still plenty, even for me.

If you're lifting babies and children into car seats you may find that coupe styling to the roofline makes the process a little harder – it did for me with our little one.

Also, this SUV is fairly high up. I've had my toddler do a face plant falling out of one while trying to climb in. Oh, don't judge me.

Entry into the third row is made easier by a 60:40 folding second row on rails. It's also good to see that the smaller foldable section is on the curb side of the car.

The CX-9's boot space with the third row down is outstanding at 810 litres (VDA) – the Kluger can only manage 529 litres and even with those back seats in place the luggage capacity is 230 litres, check out my video above where I demonstrate the size with a live human being.

Storage in the cabin is also excellent with six cupholders (two in the first row, two in second and the others in the third) and all grades above the Sport come with storage in the fold-down centre armrest, which also contains a USB port.

All CX-9s come with a USB port up front in the giant split-opening centre console bin and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area.


Volvo XC60

How many seats does an XC60 have? The answer is five and no there isn’t a seven-seater version. I have a small family with just the three of us, but if you have a lot more take a look at the bigger XC90. 

The XC60’s cabin is spacious, but not XC90 spacious – this is, remember, a mid-sized SUV. Still there’s plenty of legroom in the back seats for me even at 191cm to sit behind my driving position and good headroom even with the panoramic sunroof in the T8.

Let’s talk about the boot space. A luggage capacity of 505 litres isn’t huge not compared to rivals such as Audi’s Q5, BMW’s X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which all have 550 litres of cargo space. But XC60s with the optional air suspension like the T8 I drove can lower themselves to make loading the boot easier.

Cabin storage is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size. 

You won’t find a sunglass holder in here though – but does anybody actually use those anyway?

Price and features

Mazda CX-98/10

The Mazda CX-9's price has gone up but you're getting more features in return – and that goes for all grades in the range. Also, there's now a new grade and king of the Mazda CX-9 range – the Azami LE. Right, let's get into the details.

The most affordable CX-9 is the Sport at $44,990 (an $1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive version and another $4000 for all-wheel drive. Coming standard on the Sport for the first time is a head-up display and being introduced to the CX-9 range finally is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard features include a 7.0-inch screen with sat nav, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, digital radio, three-zone climate control, LED headlights, black cloth seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Touring grade sits above the Sport and is arguably the best value with its list price of $51,390  ($1100 increase) for the front-wheel drive and again $4000 more for the AWD. In addition to the Sport's features, the Touring comes standard with black leather seats (power adjustable and heated in the front), an 8.0-inch touch screen, proximity key, front parking sensors and LED fog lights.

The GT grade is getting into pricier territory with the front-wheel drive listing for $59,390 (an increase of $1000) and $4000 more for AWD, but along with all of the Touring's features it has a power tailgate, sunroof, 20-inch alloy wheels and heated second-row window seats.

The once-king-of-the-range Azami lists for $60,990 in FWD form (an increase of $4200), again $4000 for the AWD, but now there's a level above it – the Azami LE which is $66,490 and only available as an all-wheel drive.

What's the difference between them? Well let's start with what's the same. Both come with the GT's features plus adaptive LED headlights, heated steering wheel, a 360-degree view monitor, ventilated front seats, windscreen de-icer and a 7.0-inch centre digital instrument cluster.

What the Azami LE gets that the Azami doesn't is real wood trim panels on the centre console, nappa leather seats, box stitching on the steering wheel and different overhead console styling.

As a model comparison you could also take a look at the Toyota Kluger which ranges from about $45K to $70K. There's also the Kia Sorento which ranges from $43K-$60K and I'm going to throw in the Hyundai Santa Fe – it's not as big as the CX-9, but the new one is larger than the previous model and it's a seven-seater, too.


Volvo XC60

The XC60 comes in three trim levels: there’s the entry-grade Momentum, the Inscription is the mid-point and the R-Design lords over all of them. So how much does an XC60 cost? Let’s look at a price list. 

The most affordable XC60 in the range is the D4 diesel variant in Momentum grade which lists for $59,990 (RRP) while its T5 petrol sibling is $62,990.

Stepping up to the Inscription there’s the D4 version for $66,990 and the T5 petrol for $69,990. 

You can have an R-Design with the more powerful D5 diesel for $73,990, the gruntier petrol T6 for $76,990 and the petrol-electric hybrid for $92,990 sits at the top of the XC60 range.

As for driveaway prices for the XC60, put the pressure on the dealer and you’ll be surprised what they can do.

The XC60 is great value … depending on which grade you go for, because even the lower priced ones come with an extensive list of standard features. 

All XC60s comes standard with a 9.0-inch vertical touch screen with Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch driver display, WiFi hot spot, Bluetooth, sat nav (gps navigation), 360-degree parking camera, auto parking system, front and rear parking sensors, a 10-speaker premium sound system with digital radio (DAB), leather upholstery, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key (keyless entry), roof rails, LED headlights and a power tailgate.

That 9.0-inch screen is for more than just for multimedia and infotainment – many of the car’s functions, gadgets and the owner’s manual are controlled through the display.

The Inscription adds four-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and 20-inch alloys.

The R-Design D5 and T6 come with 21-inch alloy wheels and R-Design treatment to the steering wheel, grille, pedals and leather seats.

And the R-Design T8 comes with a panoramic sunroof, crystal gear shifting knob, and only dual-zone climate control.

So the R-Design T8 is not great value, but the Momentum T5 and D4 really do represent good features for the money. 

All XC60s come with LED headlights and the Thor’s hammer daytime running lights – no xenon headlights here, thankfully.

If you want heated seats it’ll cost you $500 for the front ones and $350 for the back row, while a heated steering wheel is $350. Ventilated seats are a $2950 option, but you’ll get leather perforated upholstery with them. Tinted glass is a $650 option and the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo costs $4500. Oh and a CD player is a $160 option, but you can’t have it on the R-Design T8.

The $2490 air suspension is also an option, but a very comfortable one as I found on the T8 I road tested.

A quick model comparison shows the XC60 is priced well – the Mercedes-Benz GLC ranges from $67,500-$99,900 (more for the AMG), the Audi Q5 ranges from $65,900 to $86,611 and the BMW X3 starts at $62,900 and top out at $87,700. 

A lack of full-sized spare tyre is disappointing. Sure a space saver spare (which comes with all XC60s apart from the R-Design T8) is okay in the city and so is the puncture repair kit on the T8, but in Australia it can be a long way between towns. 

Engine & trans

Mazda CX-97/10

All CX-9s have the same engine – it's a 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol that makes 170kW and 420Nm. That's simple isn't it? Also simple is this: all CX-9 have the same six-speed automatic transmission.

Every grade apart from the Azami LE comes with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The Azami LE is purely all-wheel drive.


Volvo XC60

The XC60 range has four engines and one petrol-electric unit, but you can’t get them in any grade you like.

The Momentum and Inscription come with the diesel D4 and its petrol sibling the T5. Both are lower-powered versions of the D5 diesel and T6 petrol variants found in the R-Design grade.

The D4 has a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making 140kW and 400Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.4 seconds. 

The D5 is powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel making 173kW and 480Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.2sec. 

The T5 is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol variant which makes 187kW and 350Nm, and has a 0-100km/h time of 6.8sec.

The T6 is also a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol variant but a higher horsepower version with a supercharger that helps it make 235kW and 400Nm, and it has a 0-100km/h time of 5.9sec. That’s an impressive performance figure.

And finally the T8 – this is the big daddy and uses the same 235kW and 400Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbo-plus-supercharged petrol that’s in the T6 in combination with a 65kW/240Nm electric motor. The T8 is a plug-in petrol electric hybrid.

All XC60s use a smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission - you won’t find a manual gearbox here.

The XC60 comes as all-wheel drive only, there’s no front-wheel drive (4x2) version. That said this isn’t four-wheel drive and you wouldn’t take it places you’d go in a hardcore 4x4.

I didn’t experience any automatic transmission problems or any other issues but keep an eye out for our XC60 problems page for any faults, complaints, maintenance or reliability issues that crop up.

Fuel consumption

Mazda CX-98/10

Big car, big drinker? The CX-9 used to be back when it had a V6, but not any more. The turbo-four is efficient, with Mazda saying that front-wheel drive version will use 8.4L/100km, while all-wheel drives will use 8.8L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads. You'll also only need to feed it 91 RON – that's the cheap petrol.

My testing on the launch saw me use 10.3L/100km, according to the car's trip computer, but I was really getting into those roads and stamping on that accelerator like it was a funnel web spider, so for it still to be that low is great.


Volvo XC60

After a combination of urban and open roads, Volvo claims the diesel D4 will achieve 5.4L/100km and the more powerful diesel D5 should need 5.6L/100km. Meanwhile, the petrol T5 should use 7.8L/100km and its big brother the T6’s official mileage is 8.0L/100km.

The eco-warrior of the range is the petrol electric T8 with its impressive claim of 2.1L/100km. This isn’t an EV, you’ll need to fill it up with petrol as well.

If somebody tries to sell you a new LPG XC60, be suspicious ... very suspicious. 

When I road tested the R-Design D5 my fuel economy was 9.4L/100km, and this is where it gets embarrassing: my mileage in the R-Design T8 was 14.0L/100km. That’s because I never re-charged using the cable, instead I let the regenerative braking add charge to the batteries. This meant I forced the SUV to mainly use the petrol engine and carry myself along with 200kg of batteries and electric motor around. This - and me taking full advantage of the great acceleration at every traffic light - would have something to do with my high fuel usage.

Yes, if you go for the R-Design T8 make sure you charge it regularly and drive conservatively otherwise you too will use lots more fuel than Volvo’s serving suggestion.  

Driving

Mazda CX-98/10

There is no way to make a 5.1m long, 2.0m wide, two-tonne SUV feel small in a supermarket car park and you'll feel its size particularly in multi-storey ones as you navigate the HMAS CX-9 up through the levels. I've lived with a CX-9 and I'm not ashamed to admit that I find it tricky to manoeuvre in tight spaces. But you have AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors at the back and good visibility to make it as easy as it possibly can be.

Get the CX-9 out on the street, though, and it feels a lot less cumbersome. And on the open road the CX-9 is brilliant. Not only does it just much up miles in comfort, it has such great handling ability that it defies my logic.

In this update Mazda says it has refined the driving experience while making the SUV more responsive though suspension and steering changes. A thicker material behind the headlining in the ceiling has also been used to keep the cabin even quieter, too.

The result? A ride that's knocking on the door of German prestige SUVs and great dynamics.

Even on the 20-inch wheels and 50-profile tyres fitted to the Azami LE I tested at the launch, the ride was outstanding while the handling was excellent. Pushing the Azami LE hard in the corners should have had something of this size and weight leaning on its door handles, but a moment after entering the turn the CX-9 was able to compose itself, hunker down and hold its line in a controlled and planted way.

The Azami LE is all-wheel drive only, but the front-wheel drive version for the base grade Sport and the FWD Azami I drove felt just as composed with great body control and impressive handling ability for the class. In some ways the Sport being lighter and on smaller wheels and higher profile tyres meant the ride was more comfortable and acceleration a bit better.

That engine is a good thing, although part of me misses the old V6 from years ago for its smoothness and torque. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo has enough grunt and it's fuel efficient, but to me a six-cylinder suits this big flagship better.


Volvo XC60

I’ve road tested the R-Design D5 and the R-Design T8 and so can only vouch for the driving experiences of them.

First, the D5 – there’s much to like, such as all that 480Nm of torque barrelling in low down in the rev range at 1725rpm, the responsive brakes, the tranquil cabin, and good fuel economy. 

The downside to the D5 is a noisy diesel engine, particularly under heavy load. The diesel isn’t best suited to sporty driving either – I found myself busy paddle shifting constantly to keep the revs in the torque band which ends at 2250rpm. The twin-turbo set-up in the D5 is designed to spool up one to ‘pre-charge’ to reduce lag before the second kicks in – the result is an almost instantaneous power delivery.

Now, the R-Design T8. 

This is an impressive beast. The combination of that powerful supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder and the electric motor provides grin-making acceleration. The optional air suspension in our test car turned the ride cushion-soft but kept the car composed.

Just to sit in, the D5 and T8 both feel special and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that prestigious impression from the light and accurate steering to the great pedal feel and the responsiveness of the powertrains.  

A well-insulated cabin cuts out most of the diesel clatter in the D5, not to mention the T8's road noise - it is common for tyre roar to be noticeable in hybrid and electric cars, which don’t have a noisy engine to cover it up. 

The adaptive cruise control with steering assistance worked eerily well for me, it’s almost - but not quite -self-driving autopilot. That head-up display is one of the clearest and least intrusive I’ve seen.

Good visibility and a turning circle of 11.4m also help make the XC60 effortless to drive.

Safety

Mazda CX-99/10

Safety is another strong point of the CX-9 with its maximum five-star ANCAP rating and AEB which works forwards and backwards, blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert. This update has made the advanced safety tech suite standard across the full range adding adaptive cruise control with stop and go feature, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.

For child and baby seats you'll find three top-tether anchor points across the second row and two in the third, while there are ISOFIX points in the back as well and two in the second-row window seats.

Under that boot floor you'll find a space saver spare wheel.


Volvo XC60

Have you seen the Volvo XC60 TV ad? It’s full on, but I didn’t cry – there was just a high pollen count that day and… anyway it drives home how safety is Volvo’s ‘schtick’.

The five-star ANCAP score it was awarded in 2017 doesn’t reveal just how impressive the safety systems are on the XC60. This new-generation SUV is fitted with AEB (City Safety) which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars, there’s steering support, blind-spot warning, front and rear cross-traffic alert - and that’s on all XC60s. Adaptive cruise control is added to the Inscription grade and above.

You’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for child and baby car seats across the rear row, too. 

Where is the Volvo XC60 built? Volvo is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, but Australian XC60s are made in Torslanda, Sweden.

Ownership

Mazda CX-98/10

The CX-9 is covered by Mazda's five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month or 10,000km intervals. Servicing is capped and switch from $329 for the first visit, $371 for the next and then back to $329 for five services.


Volvo XC60

The XC60s has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. 

Volvo offers two service programs: the basic SmartCare and the more comprehensive SmartCare Plus. The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).