First Drive: 2016 Mazda CX-9

– San Francisco, California

Literally and figuratively, the new Mazda CX-9 is just a big Mazda3. No foolin’ – the seven-passenger crossover actually shares a platform with the smaller compact hatch (modular architecture for the win). In a more abstract sense, the CX-9 follows in the same philosophical footsteps as the 3. Mazda isn’t trying to outdo itself here; the company is following through on its reputation for making cars that look good and drive even better. If you like what Mazda’s up to these days, the CX-9 should certainly pique your interest.

It’ll at least catch your eye, anyway, with a strong styling statement that’s bolder and sharper than anything else in the three-row crossover class. With the rest of the segment, you see design elements of the usual subjects across a wide variety of offerings – Ford Explorer cues here, Honda Pilot attributes there. But comparing the CX-9 to other crossovers turns up names like Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace. That alone is quite the compliment, but it makes a bigger splash when something this attractive shows up in a set of generic-ish two-box shapes.

2016 Mazda CX-9

 

Comparing the CX-9’s styling to other crossovers turns up names like Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace.

Across all segments, Mazda’s known for making the driver’s car of the bunch, and that same story stands true with the CX-9. Only one engine is available: a brand-new, turbocharged, 2.5-liter inline-four, good for 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-sp...