Fit and finish, and a gas bill, to widen your eyes with Mazda CX-9

 18 Nov 2017 - 11:05

Fit and finish, and a gas bill, to widen your eyes with Mazda CX-9
The 2018 Mazda CX-9/Signature all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle is a beautifully crafted machine, reviewer Warren Brown writes. Mazda handout photo by Morgan J Segal

By Warren Brown | The Washington Post

I like the illusion of having something made just for me, as if the creator actually knew and was thinking of me at the moment of creation.

It is, perhaps, too big a wish for any object, or anything as common as a motor vehicle.

But it is not too far a slide into hyperbole in describing the 2018 Mazda CX-9/Signature all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle.

It is a beautifully crafted machine, which is the most arresting thing - the remarkable craftsmanship, the wonderfully close eye for detail, especially in the cabin, where it matters most.

Examine this space. It goes beyond basic fit and finish. Materials blend into one another - vinyl into metal into wooden pieces into leather, as if one is the natural component of the other.

And finish - wow! Look at the wooden accent pieces on the floor-mounted center console. They appear to be thick, heavy, freshly carved, lacquered and deeply polished, far more robust than the veneer pieces they actually are.

The leather-covered seats - are they car seats or Sleep Number beds? They are comfortable - front, middle and rear.

Driving? Readers of this column might have noticed that things such as speed and handling are the least of my concerns - for many good reasons. I've made peace with the realities of the world. Doing so helps me to live longer, stay healthier and remain solvent.

It's crazy out there! Drivers calculate how far they can go above the speed limit without getting caught. Or they try to see whether the automotive marketers, many of whom apparently aspired to be fiction writers, were telling the truth when they told us that their particular vehicle was faster and tougher than anything else on the road, that their car can turn in a tiny radius without harming itself or anything or anyone else, that all traffic enforcement officers are sleeping or don't care.

Please accept this truth: Most automotive commercials, to put it mildly, are outright flights of fancy.

Accept reality. The new CX-9 gives it to you in high-quality doses. It comes with a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine (227 horsepower, 310 pound-feet of torque). It primarily hauls people and some of their stuff.

It can run, especially if you flip it into "sport" mode. But you don't want to do that often. It consumes more gasoline and invites you to get uncomfortably close to a speeding ticket - or accident.

Besides, there is so much more to simply enjoy about this Mazda. We've cited the remarkable craftsmanship. It also is loaded with helpful technology: head-up windshield display to keep vital traffic information in front of your face; blind-side and lane-departure monitoring; rear cross-traffic alert, and much more.

Mazda has crafted a nice machine here. It is well worth a look.

Nuts & Bolts

Bottom line: The 2018 Mazda CX-9 is perfect for midsize to large families of reasonable affluence. "Reasonable" means you don't have to spend top dollar to get CX-9 quality by buying a Signature edition model. The CX-9 starts at $32,150. Trim levels include Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature. Front-wheel and all-wheel-drive models are available.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It is likable in all respects.

Head-turning quotient: It is attractive, with its wide-mouthed grille and finely sculpted rear end outside, and tasteful chrome pieces where they should be. The interior is simply beautiful.

Body style/layout: The 2018 CX-9 is a front-engine, four-door sport-utility vehicle. It is available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive depending on the model chosen. An automatically operated rear hatch is available.

Engine/transmission: It comes with a 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder, 16-valve gasoline engine with variable valve timing (227 horsepower, 310 pound-feet of torque). The engine is attached to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Capacities: Seating is for up to seven people with all three seating rows raised. Cargo capacity with all three seats up is 14.4 cubic feet. The fuel tank (Signature trim) holds 19.5 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade is okay.

Mileage: Mileage is awful. There's no other way to put it. I averaged 19 miles per gallon in the city and 21 miles per gallon on the highway. I am glad this one uses regular-grade fuel.

Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock braking system; emergency braking; blind-spot and lane-departure warning; stability and traction control; side and head air bags; post- and pre-collision safety systems; and automatic high-beam headlamps.

Pricing: The 2018 Mazda CX-9 starts at $32,150 (Sport), but can reach past $44,000 (Signature) depending on trim level and options. The best value probably is the Touring with all-wheel-drive.