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Test Drive Review: 2017 Mazda CX-9

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“This is big. Real big. A little too big.” Those words were continuously playing in my mind the moment I got behind the wheel of the all-new 2017 Mazda CX-9. How big? Well, the Mazda CX-9 is marginally larger than the Audi Q7. No, really..

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For its second iteration, Mazda has reworked the CX-9 from the ground up, plus the introduction of a new 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbocharged engine with what they call Dynamic Pressure Turbo. Power figures are 228 hp and 420 Nm, which goes to the front wheels via the company’s SkyActiv Drive six-speed automatic. Other markets get the option of AWD.

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Engine aside, the Mazda CX-9 is big. As I mentioned earlier, the Mazda CX-9 is ever so slightly larger than the Audi Q7. Overall length of the Mazda CX-9 is 5,075 mm, with a width of 1,969 mm. Versus the Audi Q7, the Mazda is 23 mm longer and 1 mm wider. Throughout my time with the CX-9, the size is apparent, especially when it came time to park the Mazda. Because of its length, most parking lots around town cannot fully accommodate the CX-9, though thankfully enough, a reverse camera is fitted.

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Then there’s the interior. In short and simple terms, the Mazda CX-9 has a really plush interior. During my time with the SUV, I noticed that the interior was very well put together with generous usage of high-quality bits and pieces. There was no odd rattling noises to be heard and Mazda’s ample use of soft touch materials meant that most touch points feel good.

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On top of the high-quality, I also like the layout of the interior, which is obvious that Mazda has put a lot of thought into designing. Buttons may be aplenty, but placement and tactile feel is top notch. Even smaller details, like the placement of the rear USB points are worth mentioning, as putting those in the rear arm rest makes far better sense than placed on the centre console.

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Mazda touts the CX-9 as a 7-seater SUV, but the rear-end is a bit cramped for adults, but kids should fit in just nice. The second row air-con blower does a decent job of cooling those at the back, though with the fan speeds cranked up, it can get a bit noisy. Not a big issue as the Mazda CX-9 is equipped with an excellent Bose 12-speaker set up.

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Behind the wheel, you won’t find Mazda’s Jinba-ittai here. Granted, the Mazda CX-9 drives well, especially for an SUV that tips the scales at almost 2 tonnes. Through corners, expect the large CX-9 to lean ever so slightly, though the large Falken rubbers does provide ample grip. Speaking of grip, due to the CX-9’s front wheel drive nature and monstrous torque available from a lowly 2,000 rpm, breaking traction even on dry surfaces is comically easy.

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I also noticed that the organ-type throttle pedal is really sensitive. Couple that with the rather addictive engine note, driving the Mazda is surprisingly fun. Sure, the SkyActiv six-speed gearbox may have six forward gears, but shifts are quick and smooth. Even though electric power steering is fitted here, acceptable levels of feedback can be felt through the steering. Granted, the Mazda CX-9 will never be able to challenge the MX-5 when it comes to driving dynamics, but against other SUVs, the Mazda does hold its own rather well.

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Unlike other Mazda models, the flagship model from the Hiroshima-based company boasts excellent noise, vibration and harshness levels. Road noise and tyre noise is almost non-existent, very unusual of Mazda. Our test car is fitted with large 20-inch wheels and Bermaz did promise to offer these wheels when the CX-9 goes official in June. Despite the large diameter, ride comfort is commendable, though I did notice that bump absorption could have been a bit better.

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Oddly enough, stuff like auto door lock or even a door unlock button is missing from the Mazda. I found it quite a hassle needing to manually lock the doors each and every time. Apart from that, the 8-inch MZD Connect system takes a while to load the radio station list, though general navigation is snappy. Then there’s the electronic parking brake, which curiously lacks an Auto Brake Hold feature, a feature that even some cheaper compact SUVs offer. I also noticed that the rear tailgate, though powered, does not seem to offer pinch protection, so parents might be extra wary of that.

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At the beginning, I was fairly skeptical about the Mazda CX-9. For me, the ideal size for an SUV would be in the region of the Mazda CX-5. However, as I spent more time with it, and thinking about the price point Bermaz plans to offer it at, the large Mazda CX-9 starts to make more sense.

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During the preview late last year, Bermaz said that they are planning to offer the CX-9 for roughly RM250,000. Impressive price, considering that the Mazda CX-9 has virtually no direct rivals at that price point. In terms of size, the Audi Q7 comes close, but with a price tag that’s more than double the CX-9.

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So, for those of you out there that is on the market for a large SUV without breaking the bank, wait for the Mazda CX-9 to go official here. Bermaz did say that most of the features here are likely to be offered when the CX-9 is launched in June. Could the Mazda CX-9 be the best value for money large SUV in Malaysia? You bet.

2017 Mazda CX-9 Specifications

Price: est RM250,000
Engine: 2.5-litre inline-4 SkyActiv-G Turbocharged
Horsepower: 228 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 420 Nm from 2,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic

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