Mazda CX-9 VS Volvo XC60
- New 10.25-inch display
- Seven-seater's versatility
- Comfortable ride
- Expensive AWD option
- Six-seater's compromises
- Older ANCAP safety rating
The second-generation Mazda CX-9 may have been on sale in Australia for nearly five years now, but it remains the second best-selling large SUV using unibody construction (as opposed to old-school, off-road-focused body-on-frame).
That said, it is getting on a bit, so Mazda’s given it an update with a twist for 2021, hoping to inject a little bit more life into its flagship model.
And when we say twist, we mean it. After all, who would’ve thought there’d ever be a six-seat CX-9? Well, we’ve checked it out to see if it’s the version we needed all along. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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.
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.
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design T8 2018 review
Read More: Volvo XC60 Momentum 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 2018 review
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
The CX-9 is still a great option for families looking for a large SUV, even if it is starting to show its age as new rivals continue to launch with newer technologies.
That said, the availability of a luxury-focused six-seat configuration (Azami LE AWD) for the first time might be enough to convince some buyers to give it further consideration.
But for others who need the versatility of seven seats, this is still the CX-9 we’ve all come to know and love – but just a little bit better – particularly in its best-selling Azami AWD form.
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.
Given its latest update is relatively minor, the CX-9’s exterior largely looks the same as before, which, depending on your point of view, is a very good thing. As far as we’re concerned, it certainly is.
That said, train-spotters will notice some differences, with the GT SP (new), Azami and Azami LE (new) grades getting a refreshed grille that’s slotted and available in two grade-specific finishes unlike the insert their carryover Sport, Touring and GT siblings still have.
And aside from the GT SP, Azami and Azami LE’s new sets of 20-inch alloy wheels (again in grade-specific finishes), the only other exterior change is the Azami and Azami LE’s larger-diameter chrome exhaust tailpipe extensions. Sporty!
Inside, the CX-9 has more changes in store, headlined by the new ‘floating’ 10.25-inch central display all but the Sport and Touring get (they stick with 7.0- and 9.0-inch units respectively).
The new set-up is powered by Mazda’s latest multimedia system, which is certainly an improvement over its predecessor, and a much needed one at that.
Worth noting, touch is not an input method, with the rotary controller on the centre console the only option, which is actually great for safety, so we’re all for it.
The Azami and Azami LE also get new quilted Nappa leather upholstery, which looks and feels great, and adds to the overall high-quality theme.
Otherwise, it’s pretty much business as usual, which is great because the CX-9 has always had a well-designed interior. Yep, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
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.
Being an SUV that’s 5075mm long, 1969mm wide and 1747mm tall, practicality is arguably the most important thing for the CX-9, and with the option of six seats for the first time with the new Azami LE, it’s even more versatile.
All seven-seat grades have a 60/40 split-fold second row that manually slides and reclines the same as before, with only the Sport missing out on one-touch tumble operation, which makes accessing the 50/50 split-fold third row even easier, even if it’s still not graceful.
But the six-seat Azami LE is configured differently, given its second row has two captain’s chairs instead of a bench. That said, it operates in a very similar manner, just with power adjustment.
I still had around eight centimetres of legroom and four of legroom behind my 184cm (6'0") driving position, while the large transmission tunnel that’s a foot-space issue in seven-seat versions... isn’t.
One key difference with the very roomy and comfortable Azami LE is it only has four top-tether child-seat anchorage points, while all other grades have five thanks to their extra seat. Either way, four ISOFIX child-set anchorage points are split across the second and third rows.
Alternatively, the third row can be used by adults on shorter journeys, although they won’t have a lot of space to enjoy. Again, I'm 184cm tall and it’s tight back there, with no headroom or legroom on offer, but children will, of course, fare much better.
The CX-9’s boot is still pretty usable with all three rows in action, with 230L of cargo capacity available, but you can stow the two rear seats to get 810L in total.
And if you want maximum cargo capacity, the middle seats can also be folded, but not in the Azami LE, annoyingly.
Either way, the CX-9 doesn’t have a load lip but does have a flat floor, so loading bulkier items is a cinch, while two bag hooks and four tie-down points are on hand for securing loose items if they can’t fit in the double map pockets on the front seat backrests.
There are two cupholders in the third row, another two in the second row’s fold-down armrest (seven-seater versions) or large centre console (Azami LE), and another two in the first row’s larger centre console, while the front and rear door bins can also take bottles – and other knick-knacks.
All grades get USB ports in the first row, while the Touring and above also have them in the second row, and the GT and above also feature them in the third row. It’d be nice if there was no differentiation, though.
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
The CX-9 has become more expensive, with some grades up a little, while others are up a lot. The range now starts from $45,990, plus on-road costs, and reaches $73,875 (see pricing table below), but there is more standard equipment now.
Either way, two new grades have joined the now-comprehensive CX-9 line-up, bringing the total to six, with the new GT SP slotting in above the mid-range GT but below the previously flagship Azami, which is now bettered by the new Azami LE.
The entry-level Sport and Touring round out the line-up, with each grade coming with front-wheel drive as standard, although all-wheel drive is an expensive $4000 option for all but the Azami that instead asks for a $4435 premium, and the Azami LE which gets it as standard.
Features-wise, the Sport gets dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, a 7.0-inch central display, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a six-speaker sound system, a head-up display, three-zone climate control and black cloth upholstery.
While the Touring has the same 18-inch alloy wheels, it steps up with keyless entry, a 9.0-inch central display, paddle-shifters (new), power-adjustable front seats with heating, and black leather upholstery.
The GT goes even further with 20-inch alloy wheels, a hands-free power-operated tailgate, a sunroof, the aforementioned 10.25-inch central display (new), a 12-speaker Bose sound system, a wireless smartphone charger (new) and heated outboard middle seats.
As its name suggests, the new GT SP is the sportier version of the GT, adding a unique black finish to its 20-inch alloy wheels and side-mirror caps as well as burgundy leather upholstery and red stitching for just $500 more.
Meanwhile, the Azami has 20-inch alloy wheels with a bright finish (new) as well as adaptive LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, a 7.0-inch multifunction display, a heated steering wheel and 'Pure White' or 'Walnut Brown' quilted Nappa leather upholstery (new).
And finally, the new Azami LE mimics the Azami but replaces its middle bench with two power-adjustable captain’s chairs with heating and cooling plus a dedicated centre console, so six seats in total instead of the usual seven.
Also of note, the CX-9 has a new metallic paintwork option: 'Polymetal Grey', which helps it stand out from the crowd.
For reference, the CX-9’s rivals include the soon-to-be-replaced Toyota Kluger ($44,850 to $68,574) and the recently launched facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe ($43,990 to $61,660) and new-generation Kia Sorento ($45,850 to $63,070).
2021 Mazda CX-9 pricing before on-road costs
|Sport FWD||automatic||$45,990 (+$70)|
|Sport AWD||automatic||$49,990 (+$70)|
|Touring FWD||automatic||$53,490 (+$180)|
|Touring AWD||automatic||$57,490 (+$180)|
|GT FWD||automatic||$62,990 (+$1270)|
|GT AWD||automatic||$66,990 (+$1270)|
|GT SP FWD||automatic||$63,490 (NEW)|
|GT SP AWD||automatic||$67,490 (NEW)|
|Azami FWD||automatic||$66,190 (+$1297)|
|Azami AWD||automatic||$70,625 (+$1686)|
|Azami LE||automatic||$73,875 (NEW)|
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 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
All CX-9 grades are powered by a carryover 2.5-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, which produces 170kW of power at 5000rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
If you’re after a diesel-powered seven-seater, Mazda also has the similarly sized CX-8 in its line-up, but it still doesn’t offer a hybrid option in any of its SUVs, even though many rivals are moving in that direction, including the aforementioned Kluger, Santa Fe and Sorento.
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.
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.
According to the official combined fuel consumption figures (ADR 81/02), FWD variants of the CX-9 sip 8.4 litres per 100km, which isn’t too bad for a petrol-powered large SUV that weighs just shy of 1900kg. Claimed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 197 grams per km.
And given they weigh a whisker more than two tonnes, AWD versions of the CX-9s drink a slightly higher 9.0L/100km and emit 211g/km.
We covered 188km in the Azami AWD and Azami LE AWD at the CX-9’s launch and recorded 11.5L/100km after primarily driving on country roads and highways.
While that figure is nearly 30 per cent higher than Mazda's claim, it’s not outlandish considering the type of vehicle the CX-9 is. Either way, results will vary.
For reference, AWD variants have a slightly large fuel tank (74L) than their FWD counterparts (72L), but they all take more affordable 91RON petrol at minimum.
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.
As far as large SUVs go, the CX-9 is one of the better ones to drive. It’s certainly not confused; it knows what it needs to do and does it well.
The engine is properly punchy down low, serving up plenty of initial torque, so much so that you rarely need to chase its top-end power. In that way, it’s very diesel-like, despite being petrol. Needless to say, acceleration is surprisingly brisk. Not bad, then!
And the transmission it’s matched to also does its job well. Gear changes are pleasingly smooth, if not quick, while it's receptive to heavy applications of the accelerator, kicking down a ratio or two with little hesitation. Yep, don’t bother with its Sport mode.
The CX-9 also rides pretty well thanks to its independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and multi-link rear axles with passive dampers. Indeed, the kids aren’t going to be upset when they’re onboard.
Again, we mainly drove on country roads and highways, but it proved to be comfortable, particularly at high speed. And even during those rare, in-town, low-speed moments, it still impressed, on lower-quality roads or not.
And while the CX-9’s electric power steering is well-weighted, some buyers might be left wishing it was a tad lighter, especially when parking, but that’s more about personal preference than anything else.
What is more universal, though, is the system’s lack of feel. Obviously, we’re not dealing with a sports car here, but a little communication through the wheel wouldn’t go astray, particularly on a twisty road.
Speaking of which, the CX-9 handles its mass pretty confidently around a corner. That said, while it is relatively tied down, it still regularly exhibits a fair degree of body roll to remind you that you’re dealing with a large SUV.
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.
ANCAP awarded the CX-9 its maximum five-star safety rating in 2016, and despite the test occurring nearly five years ago, its results still stand.
Needless to say, the game has moved on, with the Santa Fe and Sorento recently resetting the standard, while the Kluger is soon to follow suit.
The CX-9 does, however, get front and side airbags as well as curtain airbags that cover all three rows, whereas the Santa Fe and Sorento only cover the first and second rows.
All grades of the CX-9 also get front and rear autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist and driver attention alert.
A reversing camera and rear parking sensors are also standard in all grades, but the Touring and above add front parking sensors, while the Azami and Azami LE also get surround-view cameras.
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.
As with all Mazda models, the CX-9 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with five years of roadside assistance, both of which are average when compared to Kia’s market-leading seven-year terms with ‘no strings attached’.
Service intervals are 12 months or 10,000km, with the distance on the shorter side, although capped-price servicing is available for the first five visits, costing $2022 in total at the time of the writing, which is very reasonable.
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).