2013 Mazda CX-9

Sport FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6

2013 mazda cx-9 Reviews and News

Final Four Comparison Front View
This is Automobile Magazine's Family Crossover Comparo, our comparison test of the kind of vehicle that you see during America's summer vacation, the three-row family crossover.
Final Four Comparison Front View
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger family crossovers, and we're going to sort them out. We've driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
The way we see it, these are the best family crossovers available in America right now. We've done our best to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features -- nicely equipped, as they say -- yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren't all priced exactly the same, but we've done our best.
These family crossovers include: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013 Dodge Durango, 2013 Ford Explorer, 2013 Honda Pilot, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, 2013 Mazda CX-9, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe prevailed over the 2013 Dodge Durango
  • 2013 Honda Pilot bested the 2013 Ford Explorer
  • 2013 Mazda CX-9 edged out the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2013 Nissan Pathfinder knocked out the 2013 Toyota Highlander
As the tournament continues, the competition involves less driving and a lot more arguing, as the comments below indicate. It's not just about whether these family crossovers excel in this category -- because they all do -- but instead it's about finding the right kind of combination that meets our expectations.
As the tournament continues, here are the match-ups for our Final Four:
  • 2013 Honda Pilot vs. 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe vs. 2013 Mazda CX-9

Honda Pilot vs. Nissan Pathfinder

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum
  • The Pathfinder ticks a lot of the right boxes for us. There's a yin for every yang, yet it all evens out to a pretty good car.
  • "The suspension pounds the road, and you feel like you're wheeling around a mini bus," says Joe DeMatio.
  • "It's anonymously attractive," says Donny Nordlicht. Another editor responds, "Like a Labrador retriever, or black dress pants."
  • Shade of Gray: Arctic Blue. It's blue, no doubt about it, but the Pathfinder somehow turns gray when surrounded by seven gray cars. Are there really fifty shades of gray?
  • A nice manifestation of big crossover ideals. It looks big outside, but it's also big inside. So that's good. Also, it has excellent fit and finish.
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) isn't bad, but we'd prefer a conventional automatic transmission. Feel>fuel.
  • "Wasn't the Pathfinder cool?" asks a young editor. "Totally," replies old dog DeMatio. "No one who used to own a Pathfinder would own this thing, but you'd be a complete idiot to throw out such an iconic nameplate."
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 12.7 seconds. You'll get wet trying to load up your groceries in the rain, but it's just water, people.
  • Panoramic sunroof is a must for third-row passengers. Otherwise, pray they're not claustrophobic.
  • "It's a Nissan that presents itself as a luxury car," says Michael Jordan. "It makes me less impressed with the Infiniti JX35," replies David Zenlea.

2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Vs 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Front Left Side View
2013 Honda Pilot Touring
  • Sales don't lie -- this is the most popular vehicle in this group among the American public, and by a large margin.
  • "It's the Wrangler jeans of the group -- it makes a lot of sense, but hell if I want to be seen in it."
  • "It's a box and it drives like a box, but it's a very useful and well-built box," says DeMatio.
  • It's an appliance.
  • Shade of Gray: Alabaster Silver.
  • Most of us don't have kids, but forward-facing LATCH anchors in the third row are essential to some people, like proud dad Rusty Blackwell. Can you guess which of these four had them? Yep: "Two in the third row," notes Blackwell, "and six in the second row, which is impressive."
  • Honda has brand equity. You know that, when you buy this Honda Pilot as a used vehicle in five years, it'll run for at least another eight years.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 13.7 seconds. That extra second over the Pathfinder might not seem like a lot, but what if you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain when zombies come out of nowhere? It could mean life or death…
  • "You wouldn't want to take the Pilot on a road trip," says Jordan. "It's made only for trips to and from the soccer field."
  • The Pilot is fortunate to have Honda's reputation of reliability attached to it. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't be a top seller.
2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD Vs 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Rear Right Side View
The 2013 Honda Pilot is functional, straightforward, and as boring to drive as it is to look at. The 2013 Nissan Pathfinder is functional, too, but it leans toward passenger comfort rather than all-around utility. Because this reflects our own choices in the way we drive crossovers, the Pathfinder is awarded the win. - Christopher Nelson
Winner: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum. The Pathfinder moves into the final round.

Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Mazda CX-9

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited
  • This is the biggest surprise of the day. No one expected this crossover to make it past the first round, or be as good as it is. And it's pretty damn good.
  • "How much horsepower does that V-6 engine have?" "290." "Wow, it felt like more than that."
  • The third-row seats are bolted directly to the floor, and the second-row seats shake when no one is sitting in them and the car is in motion.
  • Shade of Gray: Iron Frost.
  • The greatest panoramic sunroof we've seen aside from that of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Definitely worth springing for the $2900 Technology package.
  • It feels agile and light on winding roads, although not as sporty as, say, the Mazda CX-9.
  • Shifts from the transmission are slow but not clunky. It's a wash.
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 5.3 seconds. (Quick time assist goes to the two handles on both sides of the cargo area that remotely fold down the second-row seats.) Forget the zombies; they'll never catch you. You might not even get wet when you're trying to load up your groceries in the rain.
  • Things that make this your classic Hyundai: finish that's much better than fit; rear suspension that clunks over road imperfections; and a sport mode that changes steering effort and nothing else.
  • "I'm blown away," says DeMatio. "Getting into this car reminded me that crossover interiors don't have to be grim and depressing. This is the most carefully packaged vehicle in the group."

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Grand Touring AWD Front View
2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
  • People like us -- people who care about the driving experience -- will err on the side of the Mazda. But most people -- those who actually buy seven-passenger crossovers -- won't.
  • "Mazda nails the basic dynamic qualities that other automakers overlook, which makes this the most enjoyable seven-passenger crossover to drive," says Zenlea.
  • Worst third-row seating of the bunch. Tiny side windows, no panoramic sunroof, and no cup holders. And it's not if you'll fit, it's how you'll fit. Knees up, heads down.
  • Shade of Gray: Meteor Gray.
  • "The interior is a horror story -- a black hole," says Jordan. "Really?" replies Nordlicht. "I think it's upscale without being pretentious."
  • 22 mpg on the highway? Yeah, this old Ford V-6 needs to go away.
  • If you want to see what the outside temperature is, why do you have to press the "outside" button? Why can't it just always be on display?
  • Emergency second- and third-row fold-down time: 25.4 seconds. If you're loading up your groceries in the rain when zombies attack, getting wet is the least of your worries. Leave the food, or the zombies will eat you.
  • "The seats make you sit very upright," says Jordan. "It's like you're getting your portrait done."
  • "The CX-9 is a fabulous value," says Nordlicht.
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Grand Touring AWD Rear View
The Mazda is the best driver's crossover, but it's too one-dimensional to be a family-friendly beach cruiser. We're as shocked as you are, but it seems like the new Hyundai Santa Fe is going to upset an Automobile Magazine favorite. - Christopher Nelson
Winner: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited. The Santa Fe moves into the final round.
Come back to automobilemag.com tomorrow for a head-to-head comparison of our finalists (we go to a local drive-in for an old-fashioned, family-style meal) and to find out which crossover comes out on top.
2013 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Front View
This is Automobile Magazine's Family Crossover Comparo, our comparison test of the kind of vehicle that you see during America's summer vacation, the three-row family crossover.
As we noted in our Day One introduction, we've gathered eight of the best all-wheel-drive, seven-passenger family crossovers, and we're going to sort them out. We've driven all of them at the same time on the same roads, and we've made our notes and organized our facts and then argued about the results.
The way we see it, these are the best family crossovers available in America right now. We've done our best to ensure that our test vehicles represent a useful level of features -- nicely equipped, as they say -- yet don't cost too much. Given the practical realities of acquiring so many test vehicles at the same time, they aren't all priced exactly the same, but we've done our best.
These family crossovers are: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse, 2013 Dodge Durango, 2013 Ford Explorer, 2013 Honda Pilot, 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe, 2013 Mazda CX-9, 2013 Nissan Pathfinder and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
To make our comparisons as direct as we can, we've organized a different kind of testing scheme. Yesterday, we presented an accounting of four vehicles in two head-to-head matchups. Today, we're doing the same thing, matching four vehicles and knocking two of them out of contention. The winning vehicles from today and yesterday will go head-to-head in a Final Four comparison on Thursday, and we will declare the winner on Friday.
  • 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe prevailed over the 2013 Dodge Durango
  • 2013 Honda Pilot bested the 2013 Ford Explorer
Today the competition continues with these randomly selected match-ups:
  • 2013 Chevrolet Traverse vs. 2013 Mazda CX-9
  • 2013 Nissan Pathfinder vs. 2013 Toyota Highlander

2013 Chevrolet Traverse vs. 2013 Mazda CX-9

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD
2013 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Front View
Although it has had as many mild facelifts as a Hollywood housewife, the Mazda CX-9 hasn't changed much since it went on sale some six years ago. Not that it has had to, since we called it "one of the best-handling big crossovers on the market" when it became a 2008 Automobile Magazine All-Star.
The 2013 Mazda CX-9 has not changed much since then because, like a shark, the CX-9 has not had to evolve to remain at the top of the food chain. Even so, it is now reasserting itself among the crossover competition with its most significant refresh to date (even though calling it "significant" is generous). The most noticeable changes can be seen on the front fascia, where Mazda tweaked the grille, headlights, and ducts. Otherwise, it's business as usual.
Doing the Utility Thing
The CX-9 still has 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space when all the seats are upright. With both the second- and third-row seats folded flat, you're looking at 100.7 cubic feet of cargo space. This may seem like a lot, but the cargo area feels as long and as narrow as a hotel hallway, so packing isn't easy. Sitting in the third-row seat is also a tight fit, even for grade-schoolers.
So, while the 2013 CX-9 doesn't do the functional thing as well as it might, it still drives well. Calling the seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive Mazda "sporty" is a stretch, but it's an apt term when you compare it to the company it keeps. The 4552-pound CX-9's suspension is damped well. The steering is reassuringly direct -- if you were to drive a minivan for comparison, it would feel like you're steering an elephant with its ears. Even so, when you arc the CX-9 through a tight corner, you know you're in a seven-passenger crossover, not a Miata. Things this big don't rock; they roll.
Drive Away for Less
Regardless, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 feels like a much smaller vehicle than it is. You get that vibe from the driver's seat, too. Part of the reason might be the 3.5-liter V-6 with its output of 273 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque, which works well with a six-speed automatic transmission that changes ratios pretty frequently to make the most of the power. It gets 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway.
The Mazda CX-9 also remains a great value. The price for this Grand Touring model is $39,605, and it has a long list of standard luxury features, such as 20-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic xenon headlights, automatic tri-zone climate control, a rearview camera, a blind-spot monitoring system, and keyless entry and ignition.
So there you have it: the 2013 Mazda CX-9 is a lot of the same with a touch of new. Put another way, it is exactly what the Mazda CX-9 needs to stay relevant. -- Christopher Nelson
2013 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT
2013 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 2LT Vs 2013 Mazda CX 9 Rear View
The Chevrolet Traverse is another crossover that's trying to stay relevant. The Traverse helped dig GM out of the grave it buried itself in four years ago, yet what has the Traverse received in the way of thanks? It wasn't until the introduction of the 2013 Traverse that this seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive crossover received an overdue allotment of updates.
The first thing you'll notice is that the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse is much prettier than its predecessor. Chevy massaged every inch of the Traverse's sheetmetal, a task we think was well worth the investment. The Chevy version of GM's big crossover also has received some major interior upgrades, including a 6.5-inch touchscreen interface and a rearview camera as standard equipment.
Big Space, Lots of Stuff
This Traverse has a long list of standard luxury equipment, comparable to those in the Mazda CX-9, but with two major differences. The Chevy has a power liftgate and remote start, features that Asian-label crossovers are only just beginning to include. Nevertheless, if you get crazy with the options sheet, the Traverse 2LT with navigation becomes a $40,000 vehicle. Oh, and you want leather-trimmed first- and second-row seats? You're quickly on your way to our test vehicle's price of $42,880.
In a way, the Traverse also has a similar powertrain to the CX-9. The single-exhaust 3.6-liter V-6 makes 281 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, and it works through a six-speed automatic to deliver 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. It also feels a bit dated in its performance, just like the Mazda V-6. That said, it has enough power to coax this 4956-pound dreadnought out of the harbor, and the six-speed automatic transmission changes gears quietly and smoothly. Even so, we're not sure that the package is up to carrying everything you need for a full summer vacation at the lake, even with its tow rating of 5200 pounds.
Both the 2013 Traverse and the 2013 CX-9 have nicely appointed interiors, with comfortable seats, good materials, and fine build quality. The cabins feel much different, however. The CX-9 feels like a sports car that's been pumped up like a balloon to become a passenger vehicle, whereas the Traverse feels exactly how you'd expect a three-row crossover to feel. There's enough natural light coming in the windows to make all three rows feel spacious, and you're never squeezed into a seat that's in desperate need of more elbow room -- plus there's cargo space besides.
Do Sales Matter?
The Chevrolet Traverse also walks all over the CX-9 in the popular vote. Consider that Chevrolet sold almost 200,000 examples of the Traverse in 2011 and 2012 combined, while Mazda sold only a third as many CX-9s in the same time period.
Despite the fact that the 2013 Chevrolet Traverse excels over the 2013 Mazda CX-9 in so many practical categories that relate to utility and comfort, the Mazda has a performance margin over the Traverse in every dynamic respect. We've found that driving makes a difference not only in safe maneuverability around town but also secure maneuverability in those remote places where vacation travel takes you. It's this factor, which is all-important to Automobile Magazine, that makes the Mazda CX-9 the winner in this match-up. -- Christopher Nelson
Winner: 2013 Mazda CX-9

2013 Nissan Pathfinder vs. 2013 Toyota Highlander

2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Vs 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 Front View
The Nissan Pathfinder has been like an aging rock star struggling for relevance. One of the progenitors of the SUV craze, it fell to the wayside as the segment evolved. But now the all-new 2013 Nissan Pathfinder has found itself some new managers and is aiming for the top of the charts.
Much like the opening lines of a catchy pop song, the Pathfinder's styling is at once fresh and a little familiar. A flowing Coke-bottle shape clearly communicates that this is now a unibody, carlike crossover rather than a body-on-frame truck. Nissan designers also resisted their weirder impulses (reference the Cube, Juke, and Murano CrossCabriolet) and instead went for what one of us describes as "proportional and clean" and another thinks is "anonymously attractive."
Living the Crossover Life
The interior likewise aims for the segment's sweet spot. First- and second-row passengers have acres of space. The third row feels more hospitable than the specifications (30.7 inches of legroom) would suggest. "The optional moonroof helps brighten things back there," notes deputy editor Joe DeMatio.
Nissan is more adventurous with interior materials than most mainstream brands. Berber-weave floor mats and a nicely grained, almond-color dash warm up the cabin and further distance this crossover from its SUV forerunner. It's also worth noting that the materials are mostly the same hard plastics that we knock in competitors like the Toyota Highlander; Nissan's designers deserve credit for figuring out how to work with the cheap stuff in an impressive way. At $44,395, you pay for such details, of course.
Power with Responsibility
We thought Nissan's notoriously noisy 3.5-liter V-6 and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) would be a match made in hell. In fact, the engine and transmission get along reasonably well. The V-6's growl signifies 260 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque, and it sounds infinitely better than the buzzy four-cylinders we typically associate with CVTs. It's hard to argue with the results, since the Pathfinder's fuel-economy rating of 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway edges out the rest of the pack. "Pretty impressive for a large, four-wheel-drive crossover," notes DeMatio.
In driving environments representative of the typical crossover experience -- say on the freeway or in the parking lot at Chuck E. Cheese -- we enjoyed the Pathfinder's linear steering and comfortable ride. Even so, the 4471-pound crossover had a tough time hiding its size when pushed in corners.
Some of our more aged, tenured editors wistfully recalled what a sensation the original Nissan Pathfinder had been in the 1990s, when its snappy made-in-America design set it apart from mainstream trucks. Today's 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, like most of the pop songs on the radio in this new century, is polished and professional, if not particularly memorable. Yet, just as teens no longer line up to listen to rockabilly, most American families no longer want to drive around the suburbs in a truck. - David Zenlea
2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6
2013 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD Vs 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 Rear View
The 2013 Toyota Highlander is in many respects the grand dame of this segment. Toyota started offering a third row in the Highlander back in 2004 to make it an alternative to minivans and bulky, full-size SUVs. The second-generation model introduced in 2008 remains a strong seller that we simply can't ignore, even though an all-new version (based on the Camry, just as here) is on the horizon. Yet the opportunity to drive the 2013 Highlander back-to-back with its newer competitors provides evidence of the way this segment has evolved.
The most notable shift is in size. The Highlander finds itself on the small end of this group, more like a mid-size crossover with bonus seats in back than a dedicated three-row vehicle. (It's still a bit bigger than other 'tweeners like the three-row Kia Sorento and Mitsubishi Outlander.) Toyota makes up some ground with smart packaging. The second-row center seat, for instance, folds neatly into the front center armrest. Still, the Highlander's third row seats were more cramped than those of any other vehicle in this group.
No Offense
The 2013 Highlander also betrays its age with its austere styling. There's nothing offensive about the Highlander's sheetmetal, but neither is there anything interesting. The interior proves versatile when it comes to utility, but it's trimmed throughout with rental-car plastics, which is noticeable in a vehicle priced at $41,855. "Toyota needs to get its act together in terms of interior quality," notes road test editor Christopher Nelson. That said, some appreciated the Highlander's minimalism. "I like the slim A-pillars, the shallow dash, and the ability to sense the front of the vehicle," says deputy editor Joe DeMatio.
The Highlander's hallmark remains its hassle-free driving experience. Although all the crossovers we tested drive like cars, the 2013 Highlander convinces you it really is a car. Credit the Camry-derived underpinnings and a silky smooth, 270-hp V-6 that gets 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway. Mind you, we're not talking about a very interesting or sporty car. The 4464-pound Highlander features the same flaccid steering and soupy handling that knocked the Camry out of contention in our recent comparison test of mid-size cars. There are, no doubt, plenty of buyers who desire an effortless, isolated driving experience, but they don't read Automobile Magazine.
Some Respect, Please
Even if we don't love the 2013 Toyota Highlander, we left this test with a healthy respect for it. "As old as this crossover is, it's still quite good," concludes DeMatio. Yet among this group of new and recently updated models, that's not quite good enough. An all-new, significantly larger Toyota Highlander debuts later this year. If it can build on the strengths of the outgoing car, Toyota should again have a formidable contender. For now it will have to settle for an honorable first-round exit. - David Zenlea
Winner: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder
8 Crossovers Comparison Front View 2
When summer arrives, America hits the road. There's something about this country that calls out to all of us, so we yearn to go and see for ourselves. Sometimes it's Yellowstone National Park in the Rocky Mountains and sometimes it's the World's Largest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas, and as Americans we embrace both with cheerful enthusiasm. When the weather turns warm, we're all about the road map, the road trip, and road food.
Best of all, it's no longer necessary to drive Clark Griswold's infamous Wagon Queen Family Truckster to get there, as in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983). Instead we have the three-row family crossover, a miracle of packaging efficiency, thoughtful convenience, and comfortable transportation.
It's not fashionable among car people to pay tribute to the crossover, but we're smart enough to understand that Americans have figured out what you need to cross the wide-open spaces of this country on all kinds of roads and in all kinds of weather. It turns out that an all-wheel-drive utility vehicle with the easy-going personality of a family sedan is exactly what you want.
That's what has led us to compare the eight best three-row family crossovers that you can buy right now: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse; 2013 Dodge Durango; 2013 Ford Explorer; 2013 Honda Pilot; 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe; 2013 Mazda CX-9; 2013 Nissan Pathfinder; and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
Crossovers, Automobile-style
We began with the full range of family-style crossovers, which we define as mid-size vehicles intended primarily for passenger use but also capable of weekend adventure. That includes the ability to pack a useful amount of stuff and perhaps do some light-duty towing as well.
We have chosen eight finalists that represent the best aspects of the category, whether it's packaging efficiency or simple drivability. By choosing one of them as the best, we hope not only to define the current state of the American family crossover but also the character that the people who read Automobile want in a practical, everyday kind of family vehicle.
We have specified the ability to carry three rows of passengers, and while we acknowledge that for most people this feature is useful only a limited number of times each year, it's always a consideration in the buying process. We have specified all-wheel drive because it snows in the mountains, rains in the woods, and can be muddy almost anywhere. Our selection of vehicles also includes only what is on sale today, since people are buying what's on sale today, not next fall.
Crossovers, Bracket-style
We can't pretend to be the average buyer because, well, that would be impossible. Just like you, we are who we are. If you want complete objectivity unconfused by education, enthusiasm, experience, and just plain good taste, well, good luck to you.
8 Crossovers Comparison Front View 2
Also, we've again based our test on bracket-style, head-to-head comparisons between vehicles, just as we did with our comparison of mid-size sedans. We're not going to dumb down the comparison process into some kind of SAT test, where like geeks we carefully add up the points scored in a thousand little categories of performance. When you do that, you reward broad-based mediocrity, not excellence. And at Automobile, we're all about excellence.
The question of choice is personal and powerful, and we think that a one-to-one confrontation between vehicles reveals character in a way that giant test groups do not.
The Clark Griswold Factor
Every family must have a place to go, and our destination was the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan. Every May, 500,000 people make the drive to this eight-day celebration, which began in 1929 with a suggestion by a local schoolteacher to beautify this town on the shore of Lake Michigan by planting tulips in honor of the original Dutch settlers. Some 6 million tulips bloom in town each spring.
There are three parades, professional entertainment, fireworks, and dancers in wooden shoes (wear six to eight pair of socks before you try it). We stayed in the Euro-style CityFlats Hotel, looked at tulips, ate the heavy Dutch food, saw Big Red (the lighthouse at the harbor's entrance), and drove by the eighteenth-century Dutch windmill. Sadly, we missed the wooden shoe factory and the place where they do Delft dinnerware. The locals are so nice that they even shut down part of Kollen Park to let us take souvenir pictures. It was great.
Best of all, we made it a road trip. We set our own schedule, played our own music, found our own roads, and leaned out the windows and barked at the cows if we wanted to. We stopped for lunch at Bell's Brewery Eccentric Café in Kalamazoo (perfect for us, eh?). In addition, there were no airports involved at any point during our adventure, which is always a blessing.
The Road Map
Just like any road trip, it will take a while before you reach your destination.
We begin the trip today by selecting the vehicles for our comparison: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse; 2013 Dodge Durango; 2013 Ford Explorer; 2013 Honda Pilot; 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe; 2013 Mazda CX-9; 2013 Nissan Pathfinder; and 2013 Toyota Highlander.
Tomorrow and the next day, there will be head-to-head comparisons between the vehicles, with four vehicles involved each day. The day after that we'll sum up some of what we've learned during our tests, which include a rodeo-style timed test of third-seat stowage and a very messy lunch at our local Sonic drive-in. The last day, we'll stage the final head-to-head comparison and determine the winner.
You might want to start preparing the plans for your own summer vacation right now.
2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Mazda CX-9

New For 2013

The 2013 Mazda CX-9 has new front and rear fascias and lights, a new shift knob, a restyled instrument cluster, new 20-inch wheel designs, and a newly available 5.8-inch touchscreen with navigation.

Overview

The Mazda CX-9 crossover is a great alternative to a minivan, because although it offers three rows of seats inside, the Mazda has much more interesting sheetmetal and better driving dynamics. The long wheelbase leaves lots of room for passengers inside, and with twenty-inch wheels pushed far to the corners, the CX-9 has the handling to match its sporty looks. Best of all, the CX-9 is blessed with what is likely the best steering of any crossover, making this a good choice for driving enthusiasts who need a larger vehicle. The only engine choice is a silky-smooth 3.7-liter V-6 that produces a more than adequate 273 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive and can send power to the front or all four wheels, depending on configuration. A lengthy list of luxury goodies is available, including a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic information and a rearview camera, heated seats, Bluetooth hands-free integration, blind-spot monitoring, and a Bose high-end audio system. The third row of seats and the cargo area aren’t as commodious as in the best minivans, but the CX-9 is still considerably more stylish than traditional boxy vans and SUVs.

Safety

Front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard, as are ABS, traction and rollover stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system. Blind-spot monitoring is optional.

You'll like:

  • Swoopy styling
  • Communicative steering
  • Strong V-6

You won't like:

  • Fuel economy isn't great
  • Not as roomy as a minivan

Key Competitors For The 2013 Mazda CX-9

  • Buick Enclave
  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • Honda Pilot
  • Toyota Highlander
2013 Mazda CX 9 Profile
The 2014 Mazda CX-9 crossover will start at $30,780, including destination, when it goes on sale later this year, Mazda said today in a statement. After the 2013 Mazda CX-9 received a substantial face lift, including a new Kodo-inspired front fascia, the crossover has only minor changes for this model year. There is a new 20-inch wheel design, and Jet Black Mica and Blue Reflex Mica paint colors replace Brilliant Black and Dolphin Gray.
2013 Mazda CX 9 Front Three Quarter Motion
We had a Mazda CX-9 in our Four Seasons fleet a few years back, and it was a vehicle I always enjoyed driving, thanks to its attractive exterior, useful packaging, and friendly driving experience. The 2013 CX-9 has been refreshed, but it still very much resembles the three-row crossover that debuted six years ago, both in looks and in driving experience.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

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$22,425

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2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Mazda CX-9
Sport FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6
17 MPG City | 24 MPG Hwy
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2013 Mazda CX-9
Sport FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6
$29,785
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2013 Mazda CX-9
2013 Mazda CX-9
Sport FWD 4-Dr Sport Utility V6
273hp
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2013 Mazda CX-9 Specifications

Quick Glance:
Engine
3.7L V6Engine
Fuel economy City:
17 MPG
Fuel economy Highway:
24 MPG
Horsepower:
273 hp @ 6250rpm
Torque:
270 ft lb of torque @ 4250rpm
  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Locks
  • Power Seats (optional)
  • Steering Wheel Tilt
  • Cruise Control
  • Sunroof (optional)
  • ABS
  • Stabilizer Front
  • Stabilizer RearABS
  • Electronic Traction Control
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Locking Differential (optional)
  • Limited Slip Differential (optional)
  • Airbag Driver
  • Airbag Passenger
  • Airbag Side Front
  • Airbag Side Rear (optional)
  • Radio
  • CD Player
  • CD Changer (optional)
  • DVD (optional)
  • Navigation (optional)
Vehicle
36,000 miles / 36 months
Powertrain
60,000 miles / 60 months
Corrosion
Unlimited miles / 60 months
Roadside
36,000 miles / 36 months
IIHS Front Small Overlap
N/R
NHTSA Rating Front Driver
3
NHTSA Rating Front Passenger
3
NHTSA Rating Front Side
5
NHTSA Rating Rear Side
5
NHTSA Rating Overall
4
NHTSA Rating Rollover
4
IIHS Front Moderate Overlap
Good
IIHS Overall Side Crash
Good
IIHS Rear Crash
Marginal
IIHS Roof Strength
Marginal

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5-Year Total Cost to Own For The 2013 Mazda CX-9

Depreciation
24.9%
Loss in Value + Expenses
= 5 Year Cost to Own
Depreciation
$8,650
24.9%
Insurance
$6,465
18.6%
Fuel Cost
$12,662
36.4%
Financing
$2,463
7.1%
Maintenance
$2,962
8.5%
Repair Costs
$1,165
3.4%
State Fees
$406
1.2%
Five Year Cost of Ownership: $34,773 What's This?
Value Rating: Excellent