It says “Grand Touring” on the window sticker, so what better way to test the “touring” of the 2011 Mazda CX-9 AWD than to put a couple grand miles under its tires? And so we did, rolling up just shy of 2,000 highway miles at highway speeds Americans, at least those east of the Mississippi, drive, testing both its day long seat comfort and the fuel economy of its 3.7-liter V-6 in an undeniably large package.
Of course, size is what the Mazda CX-9 buyer is looking for, else the friendly Mazda dealer will gladly sells the Mazda CX-7. Unlike the CX-7, however, the Mazda CX-9 is a true three-row, seven-passenger vehicle, with in the case of our test CX-9, the added security of all-wheel drive. The latter, of course, is added security for winter travel, even if it does impact fuel mileage.
More mpg Fuel mileage is the 2011 Mazda CX-9’s biggest news. The CX-9 officially gained one mile per gallon in both front- and all-wheel drive configuration in both city and highway driving…except for the front-drove city mode that’s up two mpg. Mazda credits refinements to the overall engine calibration, transmission tuning, reductions in engine friction for the improvements. Not glamorous but it’s how it’s done.
Other changes for 2011 include–new wheels and automatic locking. That’s it. Not even new colors. Which is what happens after the major mid-cycle updates to the exterior and exterior to the 2010 Mazda CX-9. The CX-9 was an all new model when it was added to the Mazda line in 2007.
The Mazda CX-9 competes against other three-row crossovers including the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Touareg, Mitsubishi Outlander and others. Mazda being Mazda, the CX-9 is positioned as zoom-zoom sporty, and we’ll credit the designers for carrying out the theme. It certainly looks smaller than it really is, at least until one gets up close. Mazda says the CX-9’s 113-inch wheelbase allows a roomy interior, but it also makes the CX-9 a big vehicle. Even the 20-inch wheels standard on the CX-9 Ground Touring don’t look oversized.
The inside story The interior of the CX-9 lives up to Mazda’s assertions. Seating includes sumptuous front buckets, a comfortable second-row bench contoured for two, and a third-row two-seat bench that folds flat for easy cargo loading. The second row folds, too, but the backrest comes close but doesn’t go all the way to flat. The second row does, however, slide forward which (a) makes access to the third row easier, (b) allows adjusting second- versus third-row leg room and (c) with the second row as far forward as it will go, makes reaching toddlers in car seats easier to reach from the front seats.
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring’s interior befits a premium brand–think Lexus to Toyota–except of course with a mainstream badge. It’s plush inside and the two-tone treatment of the seats is classy, matching the similar treatment of the dash and door panels. The controls are easy to use and the navigation system didn’t require a deep dive–or any dive, for that matter–into the instructions to understand.
The nav system, however, required two CDs, one for each half of the country. We’re not sure how it works, but the western disc is required to enter an address for west of the Mississippi but can find its way from any point east. Like we said, we don’t know how it works, but it does, especially after turning off the “avoid freeways” feature in the nav system setup, obviously left that way by some naughty prankster journalist who had the car before us. A feature we like is the time-of-arrival display as opposed to travel-time-remaining. We like to know just how late we’ll be.
Info in red The info center in red at the top of the dash is a Mazda design cue and centralizes the most important auxiliary information, including the interior temperature setting and ventilation mode, trip computer, audio system setting and external temperature.
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 rides as good as it sits. Several long days at the wheel were comfy keen with soft but supportive seats and minimal road and wind noise. The top two gears of the six-speed automatic transmission are overdrive so the CX-9 lopes along easily at speeds that are sweet fodder for the Ohio State Patrol’s radar guns–not that we had any personal conversations about vehicular velocity, but cruise control was more useful for keeping speeds down rather keeping speed up. The CX-9 cruises effortlessly and silently well into the naughty sections of the speedometer.
Our mpg We didn’t have the opportunity to test the efficacy of the all-wheel drive system in low-traction conditions and our 2,000 mile test was conducted largely at highway speeds. Although certain legs of our trip varied slightly above or below, our final fuel mileage calculated exactly 20.0 mpg. That’s short of the EPA estimate, but the EPA test procedures, we’ll betcha, don’t include, well, travelling at the same speed as everyone else except for the guy who blew past us all until he was having that official conversation we alluded to above.
While the term “grand touring”–often abbreviated “GT”–has traditionally applied to high performance coupes and evokes images of red cars with load exhaust echoing off the stone walls of the Stelvio Pass, upshifting and downshifting for the hairpin turns, that’s not the 2011 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring. Grand touring in the Mazda CX-9 is about picking a destination for the navigation system, setting the cruise control and tuning in Sirius satellite…and setting off on a road trip halfway across the country.
Or one could pick up the kids after school, drop one off at soccer practice, another at swim team and a third at music lessons, then reassemble in reverse order. The 2011 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring will do that tour as well.
2011 Mazda CX-7 Grand Touring, prices and key specifications, as tested
Base price: $34,535
- Rear bumper step plate: $150
- Power lift gate: $400
- Navigation RDS based w/ real time traffic: $1,665
- Moonroof/Bose package (power moonroof, Sirius satellite radio, Bose audio with Centerpoint, 10 speakers): $2,255
- Destination: $795
Body style/layout:4-door hatchback 7-passenger crossover SUV, front engine/all-wheel drive
- Type: 3.7-liter 24-valve DOHC V-6
- Displacement, cc: 3726
- Block/head material: aluminum/aluminum
- Horsepower: 273 hp @ 6250 rpm
- Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
- Recommended fuel: unleaded regular
- Fuel economy, EPA est.: 16/22 mpg city/highway
- Fuel economy, observed: 20.0 mpg
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Suspension, front/rear: double wishbone / multi-link
- Wheels: 20 x 7.5-inch alloy
- Tires: 245/50R20
- Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 12.6-inch dia. front/12.8-inch dia. rear
- Steering: Engine-speed variable assist rack-and-pinion
- Turning circle: 37.4
- Wheelbase: 113.2 in.
- Length: 200.2 in.
- Height: 68.0 in.
- Width: 76.2 in.
- Curb weight: 4,546 lbs
- Cargo volume, min./max.:17.2/100.7 cu. ft.
- Fuel tank: 20.1 gal.
Warranty:5-year/60,00 mile powertrain; 3-year/36,000 bumper-to-bumper
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