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Keen Motor Trend readers will note that not long ago, I welcomed our 2017 Dodge Durango RT to the long-term fleet. Normally I would have spent the better part of the year informing you all of my ownership experience, but our time with the Dodge was cut short. On the evening of May 21, 2017, on our way back from a photo shoot, the Durango and about $25,000 worth of my wife’s photography equipment was stolen out of the supposedly secured valet parking lot at a restaurant while we ate dinner.
I am sure there is a great quote that speaks about tragedy and loss and its ability to strengthen and rejuvenate, but for now, let me just say a warm welcome to my new long-term Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD!
On paper the CX-9 and the Durango share some similarities. Both vehicles offer three rows of seating, both cost just over $40,000, and both feature stylish exterior designs. Their personalities, however, sit at opposite ends of the automotive spectrum. The Durango, like most Dodge products, exudes masculine swagger with its crosshair grille and blacked-out trim and wheels. Where the Dodge paints with an industrial paint gun, the Mazda uses a Japanese calligraphy brush. It is no small feat to make a three-row SUV look light and elegant, but Mazda’s hard work paid off with a truly pretty design.
Sitting one notch up from the base Sport model, our Snowflake White Pearl Mica ($200 option) Touring AWD is comfortably equipped. Powered by a 2.5-liter turbo-four making 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the CX-9 isn’t a screamer, but it has plenty of grunt to move through Los Angeles traffic. Although regular unleaded fuel is acceptable, I opt to run premium unleaded, which gains me an additional 23 horsepower for a total of 250 hp. Unlike the rear-drive Durango, your $42,000 at Mazda gets you its i-Activ all-wheel-drive system, which diverts power rearward when it senses front wheelslip. Although some torque is always being sent aft, I wish there was a little more during initial acceleration in order to curb wheelspin and torque steer. Our Touring model comes with the standard but good-looking 18-inch alloy wheels shod in all-seasons. Suspension tuning is tight enough for twisty roads but is overall very comfortable.
Having driven the competitive high-riding, three-row people movers during last year’s SUV of the Year competition, I can comfortably say that the CX-9 has the best interior of the bunch. Our two-tone light tan and black leather interior looks especially sharp, and the seats are supportive enough to keep you in place but comfortable enough for long treks. The placement of the controls is thoughtful, and the design and materials share a premium feel, especially compared to the competition. We opted for the $1,745 Premium Touring package, which included a 12-speaker Bose stereo system, navigation, a power moonroof, auto headlights and wipers, LED foglights, second-row window shades, and rear backup sensors. All told, including the $450 roof rack side rails and $940 delivery, processing, and handling fee, our CX-9 rings up for $41,105.
Time will tell if the theft that led to the beginning of my year chaperoning the Mazda will lead to a stronger appreciation and better ownership experience. My first impressions of the CX-9 have been quite positive, and I look forward to spending the next year driving and living with it. And you better believe I am never valet parking this one.
|2017 Mazda CX-9 AWD (Touring)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$41,105|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.5L/227-hp/310-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,282 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||199.4 x 77.2 x 67.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.5 sec @ 89.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.80 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||17.3/28.3/21.0 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||20/26/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.87 lb/mile|
|TOTAL MILEAGE||5,852 mi|
|AVERAGE FUEL ECON||21.2 mpg|
|UNRESOLVED PROBLEM AREAS|