Mazda has been receiving some recognition for its range of SUVs recently, with the mid-sized CX-5 being singled out for praise by many industry scribes.
The CX-5's bigger and older sibling, the CX-9, is also worthy of applause. While the all-wheel- drive version can handle gravel roads and bumps without too much hassle, Mazda realises most buyers looking at a sleek seven- seater like the CX-9 will use it mainly to ferry a number of people in an urban environment, which it does with much aplomb.
Steering is remarkably nimble, with a relatively tight turning circle, and a reversing camera makes parking effortless. Good visibility to the rear via well- positioned windows also makes lane changes safe. Add side mirrors which automatically tilt downwards when reversing and it all adds up to an experience without the accompanying anxiety a car this size can sometimes elicit.
It is long, however. At a tick under 5.1m, it's about 40cm longer than the similarly priced Toyota Kluger or Subaru Outback. Mazda has applied its "Kodo" design also seen on the new Mazda6 to the CX-9, giving it a bold front grille which looks good and helps the car stand out, although the Bill Lawry-esque schnoz can be closer to vehicles and objects in front than you realise.
The top-spec Grand Touring model has front obstacle warning plus extras such as blind-spot monitoring and high-beam control, but costs roughly $6000 more than the Luxury.
The 3.7-litre V6 offers a lot of get-up-and-go considering the car's size and often has the feel of a far smaller vehicle. There's a price to pay for all that zoom-zoom however. While not the heavy drinker it once was, the CX-9 will still chew through 11.2 litres of fuel per 100km.
Running around town resulted in the test vehicle entering the 15L/100km range and there's no diesel option as yet.
Inside, the middle row of seats can be moved forwards or back to provide comfortable leg room - so good in fact that when moved all the way back even Aaron Sandilands could stretch out.
All seats can be easily folded down to load cargo, while small perks like cup holders for every passenger mean those shunted into the very back aren't short-changed in the comfort stakes.
The multimedia and sat-nav are fine, offering a USB input and Bluetooth connectivity, though the interface isn't all that intuitive to use.
In all, the CX-9 is great. The Grand Touring is a steep increase in price but also addresses most of the (very minor) issues in the Luxury spec range.
City dwellers may opt for the cheaper two-wheel-drive variant, but any option is likely to leave most owners satisfied.
Safety: Not yet rated
COMPETITORSJEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
Safety Four starsSUBARU OUTBACK
Safety Five starsTOYOTA KLUGER
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.