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2010 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD Review & Test Drive

posted by Harvey Schwartz  
Filed under Automotive, Featured, Mazda, SUV, Test Drives

The 2010 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD crossover is a great fun and easy to drive vehicle for family vacations whether you have a family of five or seven as the three row seating arrangement has plenty of room for all.  It is also perfect for taking care of your daily chores whether it be shopping or taking the kids to their extra-curricular activities.

If people moving isn’t your greatest need, the two rear rows fold flat enabling you to load the CX-9 with cargo be it bulky or long items.

An instant success when it first hit the market in 2007, the CX-9 raised the bar for three-row crossover vehicles.  From its dynamic styling and safety to its versatility and performance, the Mazda’s flagship crossover continues to wow customers as it moves into its fourth year of production.  For 2010 the CX-9 receives a significant upgrade to the exterior and interior, as well as added safety and convenience features.

While most other crossovers have a utilitarian look, the CX-9 is designed to evoke a special bonding with owner and Mazda.  Without sacrificing versatility or efficiency, the CX-9 strives for the sophisticated appearance of a vehicle costing two to three times as much.  Its lines are smooth and flowing in silhouette with prominent wheels and tires, muscular fenders that are finished in black molding, a full-perimeter chrome strip around the greenhouse, chrome pull-out door handles, and a steeply raked windshield A-pillar, all giving the CX-9 a dramatic-but-refined look.

The front end is unmistakably Mazda with its elegantly sculpted sporty five-point grille and wide, bold bumper.  A horizontal streak of chrome floats on the front grille bar giving a distinctive and high-quality feel.  Below the front bumper is a wide-mouth air intake with a chrome strip running its length and one horizontal strip in the middle.  The side foglamps also are ringed with chrome strips.  The cat’s-eye headlamps are HIDs to enhance your forward vision at night.

The rear fascia complements the front with large, wraparound LED lamp clusters, step-up bumper, optionally clad in aluminum, a roof mounted rear spoiler, and unique, trapezoid, dual chrome exhaust pipes that accentuate the fine detail put into the design.

New this year is a bolder, five-point grille, radiator grille, front combination lamp cluster and foglamps, larger, more aerodynamic side mirrors and a new exterior color ‘Dolphin Gray’ metallic that my test CX-9 was painted.

Open each of the four wide-opening doors and you are greeted by a neatly organized combination of cylindrical shapes and blacked-out instruments on a T-shaped instrument panel.  The fully-loaded Grand Touring AWD model that I tested features brightly edged gauges, faux dark wood trim around the center stack and door trim, plus indirect blue illumination setting a cool mood.  Indirect lighting also is embedded in the ceiling for a warm glow.  Horizontal elements in areas such as the center panel, door trim and seat design intersect with vertical accents to create the same harmony present in fine furniture.  The instrument cluster mimics the Mazda ‘soul of a sports car’ feel with red electro-luminescent gauges, a three-spoke, leather wrapped/tilt/telescoping sporty steering wheel with audio/cruise-control buttons, leather-wrapped/chrome shifter in a chrome gate that is easy to reach and use, plus very comfortable and supportive optional leather trimmed bucket seats up front.  These seats are also heated and fully adjustable including lumbar support.  All buttons, switches and dials are easy to reach operate and are fully illuminated for safe nighttime travel.  New this year are chrome accents on the center instrument panel, A/C controls, transmission lever knob, vent louver knobs, inner door handles and door trim.  Mazda offers new seating fabric that is a higher density providing a richer and softer touch, new double-lid design center console storage bin for ease of opening and has ample storage for up to four DVDs and nine CDs.

Also standard in the CX-9 GT AWD is power windows/door locks with front express up/down ability, AM-FM-CD audio system with 6-speakers, intermittent wipers/washers, Bluetooth hands-free phone, auto-dimming rearview mirror, three 12-volt power outlets, 3-zone automatic climate system, grab handles above each passenger door, dual map lamps, dual lighted vanity mirrors with extenders, sunglass holder in the overhead console, dual cupholders with closing lid, storage pockets in each door, thick-cut pile carpeting with floor mats, Mazda advanced remote keyless entry and start system.  The second row features a pull-down dual cupholder with storage, 60/40 split fold-down setup, with five-inches of fore-aft slide travel and a reclining headrest.  Options offered include a factory towing package, power sunroof, Bose audio system, power liftgate, a rear seat entertainment system packaged with the Bose audio system, rear backup camera and a DVD navigation system.

The CX-9’s styling mimics Mazda’s sleek and sexy lines while the interior shows excellent fit and finish utilizing the finest materials available.  To be a full-fledged Mazda in pedigree, the engine, powertrain, suspension and brakes have to have the soul of a sports car with fun to drive Zoom-Zoom, and the CX-9 doesn’t disappoint.

The 2010 CX-9 is powered by a 3.7 liter DOHC V6 engine making the most complex pursuits as easy and pleasurable as possible.  The 60-degree short-stroke V6 is state-of-the-art throughout.  Advanced features include a die-cast aluminum block with cast-in iron cylinder liners and aluminum cylinder heads for minimal weight.  The valvetrain includes chain-driven dual overhead camshafts for minimal maintenance, four valves-per cylinder with direct acting bucket-type actuators, and variable intake valve timing.  A high 10.3:1 compression ratio maximizes efficiency and power output while the throttle is electronically controlled for instantaneous response.  Computer-aided-engineering analysis was extensively used to configure the cylinder block casting, to shape intake and exhaust ports, and to design the high-volume exhaust system fitted with three large mufflers.  Very low back pressure is one of the reasons why the power curve is still ascending at the 6,500rpm redline.  Engineering details even extend to a roller-chain- cam-drive sprocket lined with rubber for quiet operation.  A power peak of 173hp at 6,250rpm provides the CX-9 with excellent acceleration and passing performance.  The torque curve keeps 250lb.ft. from 3,000 to 6,000rpm and peaking at 270lb.ft. at 4,250rpm.

To combine excellent acceleration and high fuel mileage, CX-9 employs an Aisin-supplied six-speed Sport AT automatic transmission with manual-mode as standard.  Broad ratios maximize flexibility by providing enthusiastic launch acceleration with quiet cruising at highway speeds.  The top two gears are both overdrive ratios.

Front-wheel drive is standard in the CX-9 for excellent drivability over many road surfaces and conditions, with Mazda’s Active Torque all-wheel drive optional.  This system rapidly adjusts to changing traction needs by monitoring wheel slippage, steering angle, yaw rate, lateral acceleration and available driveline torque.  In normal driving, 100% of the driving torque is delivered to the front wheels.  During aggressive acceleration or when one front wheel is on the verge of slip, a controlled % of the available torque is directed to the rear axle.  A power take-off device is integrated with the CX-9’s transaxle spins a drive shaft attached to an active coupling built into the rear differential.  Commanded by a control module, the servo-controlled multi-plate coupling can route from zero up to 50% of the available torque to the rear wheels.

For the CX-9 to war the Mazda brand symbol, it had to be more than a 273hp powered crossover with a six-speed automatic that many of the competitive crossovers have.

It had to be a true Mazda, embodying the company’s philosophy of ‘Soul of a Sports car’, and so engineers determined that the CX-9 had to have an independent suspension at all four corners.  In front, the perimeter frame mounted to the unibody through six rubber isolators supports the powertrain, the engine-speed sensitive rack & pinion steering and a lower friction strut-type suspension using coil springs.  The multi-link rear suspension consists of one trailing arm and three lateral locating links per side.  To minimize cargo-compartment intrusion and permit a wider load space, the rear coil springs are positioned between the lower lateral links and the unibody.  A damper is located as close as possible to each rear wheel to provide excellent motion control with minimal friction.  Anti-roll bars at each end maximize agility and control during spirited driving.  Twenty-inch cast aluminum wheels wrapped with V-rated, low-profile radial tires, 245/50R20) are standard equipment on the to Grand Touring model while Sport and Touring models roll on eighteen-inch cast aluminum wheels wrapped with 245/60R18 tires.  As a result, CX-9 looks and feels unusually nimble for its size and is the clear class leader for driving pleasure and fun, pure Zoom-Zoom.

The CX-9’s safety features are highlighted by an advanced Roll Stability Control system that uses both body-roll rate and wheel speed sensors to determine when corrective action is necessary.  A momentary torque reduction, combined with an automatic brake application, assists in restoring the CX-9 to an even keel.

Four-wheel ventilated, power-assisted disc brakes include an ABS system to prevent lockup during emergency use.  Dual piston calipers up front squeeze 12.6in. rotors, while in the rear 12.8in. discs are squeezed by single-piston calipers.  Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) controls front-to-rear distribution of braking forces to take full advantage of available traction during stops.  In the event you apply the brakes too rapidly in an emergency but with insufficient force to engage the ABS functions, a Brake Assist function takes over to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible.  To provide you with a confident feel during stopping, the CX-9’s braking system is extra-rigid so that deceleration is more directly proportional to pedal pressure than pedal travel.  The payoff with this more linear response is enhanced controllability.  When excessive wheel slippage is detected, a Traction Control system automatically reduces driveline torque to help restore traction.  Dynamic Stability Control reduces driveline torque and automatically applies one or more brakes to minimize under-or-over steering during emergency maneuvers.

Protection inside includes sensor-activated side-curtain airbags which extend from the front to the third row.  Pretensioners automatically remove slack from the belt system immediately after a moderate or greater front collision and load limiters are incorporated to provide some give as the occupant moves forward.  The front headrest incorporate new design features, which are designed primarily to reduced neck injuries during rear impacts.

CX-9’s robust unibody uses the Mazda Advanced Impact-energy Distribution and Absorption System to help protect the cabin from deformation harm in the event of a collision.  A combination of large-section members, some made from high-tensile steel, envelope the passenger compartment to absorb impact energy while guarding against intrusion.

The new, optional Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system supports the driver when changing lanes on roads and highways.  At speeds of 20mph or more, the system monitors areas on both sides of the CX-9 to the rear.  When a vehicle enters the detection area on either side, the BSM notifies you by illuminating a warning light located on the door mirror on the same side.  If you then activate the turn signal, indicating a move in the same direction, the warning light will flash and the system will also sound an audible alert to immediately inform you of the potential danger in changing lanes.  I like it because you never know when a vehicle in either side enters your ‘blind spot’.

The crossover segment continues to grow in volume as these vehicles become larger with more sedan-like driving feel and interiors, sleeker body styling, more powerful engines, along with precise handling and high-tech safety features.  The 2010 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring All-Wheel Drive model that I tested stands at the top of the competition.

COPYRIGHT:2010:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base Grand Touring AWD $34,045.00 As-Tested $40.065 including destination
Type: Large SUV
Where Built: Japan
EPA Class: Sport Utility Vehicles

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 199.8 in.
Width: 76.2 in.
Height: 68 in.
Wheel Base: 113.2 in.
Curb Weight: 4500 lbs.
Gross Weight: 6049 lbs.

Interior
Front Head Room: 39.6 in.
Front Hip Room: 56.5 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 59.4 in.
Rear Head Room: 39 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 58.7 in.
Rear Hip Room: 56 in.
Front Leg Room: 40.9 in.
Rear Leg Room: 39.8 in.
Luggage Capacity: 17.2 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 101 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 7

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Size: 3.7 liters
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 273 hp
Max Horsepower: 6250 rpm
Torque: 270 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4250 rpm
Maximum Payload: 1499 lbs.
Maximum Towing Capacity: 3500 lbs.
Drive Type: AWD
Turning Circle: 37.4 ft.

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 20.1 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 15 mpg / 21 mpg / 17 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 301.5 mi. / 422.1 mi. / 341.7 mi.

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