Every time that Mazda throws me the keys to their latest new model, I get excited. Of course it’s not quite the same as if Ferrari were to call and say that they were delivering a 488 Spider, but it’s still more exciting than many of Mazda’s competitors. The Mazda3 is one of the best compacts you can buy and you’ll never be in a bad mood behind the wheel of the new MX-5 Miata. So when Mazda gave me the keys to the new CX-9 crossover, I was excited to see how Mazda could add some excitement to the somewhat boring three-row crossover segment. Here are the five things I either hated or loved about the 2017 Mazda CX-9.
2You can only get it with four-cylinders
The Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander all offer V6 powertrains, but the CX-9 is only available with a turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder. The last-generation borrowed its V6 from Ford, but now that, that relationship is done, Mazda doesn’t have a V6 to replace it. So instead, of a naturally-aspirated V6 under the hood, the CX-9 is motivated by a 250 horsepower four-cylinder engine with a healthy 310 lb-ft. of torque. To compare the V6-powered Pilot has 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. And the Highlander with its 3.5L V6 is rated at 295 hp and 263 lb.-ft.
On paper the CX-9 does take a small hit in terms of horsepower, but it has more torque than the Highlander and Pilot. But on the road, it feels like the differences are larger. The CX-9 feels very underpowered and the engine’s coarseness takes some getting used to. The transmission does have a manual mode, but overall the engine feels outdated by the size of the CX-9. Put this engine in the Mazda3 and it would be amazing, but in 4,000 pound SUV it just strains and whines.