2020 Mazda CX-9 sside.jpg

Entry: $33,890; 

as tested: $43,595

This week, it’s the impressive second generation 2020 Mazda CX-9 we review, arriving in Grand Touring trim with front-drive and featuring three rows of seating. New for 2020 is a more torque coming from its Skyactiv engineered 4-cylinder engine along with more standard amenities across every trim level. 

The torque enhancement comes from the already peppy turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-4. It now generates 320 lb-ft of torque, up 10 from last year’s 310 when using 93 octane fuel. If you choose to use 87 octane, which will not hurt the engine in any manner, torque stays at 310. The horsepower figures are 250 on the 93 or 227 on the 87.

Coupled to a 6-speed automatic, EPA fuel estimates are 22 city and 28 highway for front drive CX-9 models, while the AWD’s come in at 20 city and 26 highway. Expect zero to 60-mph in about 7.0 to 7.6 seconds depending on fuel octane choice.

As for the amenity additions, the entry CX-9 Sport adds a power driver seat, heated front seats, on/off headlights, automatic high-beams, rain-sensing wipers, and enhanced side mirrors.

On the safety side, all trims now come with Mazda’s I-Activesense safety and driver-assist features. Those include lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and Smart Brake. When you add the already standard safety items like rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot warning, Smart City Brake Support, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, Mazda now offers one of the best entry level safety vehicles in the industry. 

Our Grand Touring model also found some nice upgrades compared to the 2018 and 2019 models. The previous 8-inch touch screen is replaced by a new 9-inch display, although lower trim CX-9s like the entry Sport still use 7-inch display. The Touring trim and up finds the second-row bench seats with a power tilt and slide feature. If you opt for a Grand Touring model, a hands-free power liftgate, two USB ports for third row passengers and 20-inch tires and wheels add to the improvements. 

Pricing across the line starts with the entry front-drive CX-9 Sport starting at $33,890, followed by the Touring at $35,710, Grand Touring at $41,550 and top line Signature at $45,215. Adding AWD to the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring will cost $1,900 more while AWD is standard on the Signature series. 

As for history, the initial CX-9 came to market in 2006 and went all the way through model year 2015 in its first generation. Built in Hiroshima, Japan, all CX-9 models highlight Mazda’s Skyactiv build integration principles and then apply some of its “Zoom-Zoom” performance enhancements thanks to the aforementioned improved turbocharged four-cylinder engine. 

Categorized by the EPA as a midsize SUV, this second generation CX-9 is not only shorter in length than the last generation, it offers a longer wheelbase by 2.1-inches that impacts several areas of its design. Notable are the larger interior dimensions yet a lighter overall weight by some 170 pounds, resulting in upping performance and fuel mileage thanks to lighter and stronger build components. The lighter curb weight also contributes to increased fuel mileage, overall.

When you add the above mentioned new CX-9 attributes and the Skyactiv vehicle dynamics into the build equation, you end up with a 2020 CX-9 that delivers a correctly matched suspension, fine shifting transmission, turbo engine and computerized high-tech safety. This results in a Mazda SUV that is sure-footed in the handling area while delivering brisk performance. 

All CX-9 models feature a family resemblance that follows the progress of its other “CX” SUV siblings, specifically the CX-3 (sub-compact), all new CX-30 (compact) and CX-5 (larger compact) models.

Outwardly, CX-9 is pleasing to the eye, and the Grand Touring features a 12-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System with AudioPilot, LED Fog lights, power sliding-glass moonroof with one-touch open feature, interior sunshade, front parking sensors, rear backup sensors, second-row retractable window sunshades, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with trial subscription, and a Mazda Navigation System all as standard fare. There’s no need for any expensive options with this trim.

Inside, third row passengers will appreciate the addition of the aforementioned two USB ports and extra legroom the CX-9s longer wheelbase offers. As for cargo, with third row seating in the down position there’s more than ample space for everyday needs. However, when you drop the second row seats there’s more than 70 cu. ft. of space available for those visits to the local hardware and home improvement stores.  

In summary, our tester included just a few options, including $595 for special metallic paint, $200 for all weather floor mats, and $150 for front and rear splash guards. With $1,100 delivery it brought the final retail to $43,595.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 115.3 inches, 4,225 lb. curb weight, 8.8 inch ground clearance, 38.8 ft. turn circle, from 14.4 to 71.2 cu. ft. of cargo space, 3,500 lb. tow capacity and a 19.5 gal. fuel tank.  

Check with your Mazda dealers on availability, as the Covid-19 issues have played havoc with inventories. Also check for incentives and lease opportunities when you visit.

Likes: More standard features, high-tech safety now standard, great looks.

 Dislikes: Sport models don’t offer some other high-tech safety, not much else.

Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist.