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Entry price: $32,130 

Price as tested: $45,555

This week, we’re driving the 2018 Mazda CX-9, a three-row SUV delivered in top class Signature dress with all-wheel-drive (AWD). Although listed as a midsize SUV, you’ll feel like you’re driving a full size SUV when you get behind the wheel.  

Built in Hiroshima, Japan, the history of the Mazda CX-9 finds its debut in 2006 with Ford engines under the hood, which means Mazda was a little late to the SUV midsize revolution. 

Relying on then partner Ford for assembly line assist, CX-9 was an impressive SUV that lasted through 2015 on the same design sans the usual yearly tweaks to exterior and interior. 

This new second generation “all-Mazda” CX-9 delivers solid good looks and a company-built four-cylinder turbo that not only runs like a V-6, it sounds like one too. The CX-9 offers three row seating and delivers the sporty handling that Mazda manufactured vehicles are known for.  Notable, too, is how the designers worked magic in the CX-9 blueprint by making it smaller and bigger at the same time. The end result is a CX-9 that is shorter in length than the last generation yet offers a longer wheelbase.  Notable is that although built in Japan, the CX-9 is too big for the Japanese mandates resulting in a government approved CX-8 selling there instead.

The new design also offers the bigger interior dimensions we mention above, and then caps off with a lighter overall weight, too.  

This all delivers better performance, more room and better mileage in what really is a smaller dimension package. Further, our i-Active AWD equipped 2018 CX-9 Signature is nearly 300 lbs. lighter than the previous generation as Mazda closely follows its core philosophy Skyactiv vehicle dynamic. For those who don’t know what Skyactiv means, it centers on properly matched suspension, transmission, engine and subsequent computerized technology to make everything work in tandem. The end result is CX-9’s surprising handling, comfort and spirited performance.  

Under the hood sits a 250-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo four that generates 310 lb. ft. of torque and mates to a six-speed automatic. Fuel mileage is decent as the EPA numbers are 22 city and 28 highway for front-drive models and 20 and 26, respectively, for the AWD CX-9. Zero to 60-MPH acceleration arrives in 7.6 for the AWD and 7.1 for front drive models. 

The CX-9 Signature tri-color cabin comes standard with Nappa leather seating, aluminum trim and real Rosewood touches. A 12-speaker Bose stereo system with all the modern gadgetry fills the cabin with music while third row passengers will appreciate the extra room (although still tight for taller adults). 

Likes:  Mazda quality build, interior, great looks, peppy engine.

Dislikes: Entry models don’t offer some high-tech safety features. 

Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.


Auto Bits

Amazon’s Alexa coming soon to your automobile

Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, is exploding in popularity. Now Alexa is coming to your next new car.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, automakers and their suppliers showed off the next big infotainment developments. 

Both Toyota and Panasonic announced that they will be adding Alexa to vehicle platforms starting this year. 

Toyota promises to incorporate Alexa into its Entune 3.0 App Suite and Lexus will add Alexa integration to its similar Enform App Suite 2.0 starting this year in limited models and will expand availability in 2019. “Voice services are rapidly becoming more popular and through our integration with Amazon Alexa, Toyota and Lexus customers will soon be able to easily speak to Alexa in their cars while on-the-go,” said Zack Hicks, senior vice president and chief information officer of Toyota Motor North America and chief executive officer and president of Toyota Connected.

Toyota offered examples of what its Alexa integration could do, and listening closely one does not hear that Alexa will be performing vehicle operations. 

It will be interesting to see what Alexa is allowed to control and not control.

— John Goreham/BestRide