2017 Mazda CX-9

Launched for the 2006 model year, the Mazda CX-9 has soldiered on relatively unchanged until now. The facelifts that Mazda rolled out in 2010 and 2013 brought only minor changes that included new front grilles, updated headlamps, and restyled bumpers. In 2008, Mazda ditched the 3.5-liter V-6 in favor of a 3.7-liter unit, but the larger engine, the only survivor of the brand’s partnership with Ford, has remained unchanged to this day. All told, the current CX-9 is long in the tooth and is long overdue for an overhaul. Fortunately, the much needed redesign is reportedly set to arrive by the end of the year.

According to , the three-row crossover will break cover at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November and will go on sale in the first quarter of 2016 as a 2017 model. The SUV will be previewed by the 2016 Mazda Koeru , a concept car Mazda described as its “latest venture into the growing crossover SUV market, where the company is again looking to surpass existing standards and raise the bar for performance, efficiency and overall value.”

The concept car is set to debut at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show with a KODO-styled front end and SkyActiv drivetrain technology. Meanwhile, a prototype was spotted testing in California , offering us the first hints as to what it might bring to the table in terms of design.

Exterior

Mazda Koeru

While the Koeru concept is a bit wild for a production car, the test vehicle caught stretching its legs in California suggests that the second-generation CX-9 will borrow heavily from Mazda’s current styling language.

The test vehicle caught stretching its legs in California suggests that the second-generation CX-9 will borrow heavily from Mazda’s current styling language.

Much like the 2016 Mazda6 sedan, which won a few design awards when it was launched in 2013, the upcoming SUV will have a long front overhang and hood that gives it a sporty and bold appearance.

Though the car’s nose is still wrapped in black camo, both the trademark shield grille and the Mazda6 -like headlamps are obvious. The bumper also seems similar to the sedan’s , with a long and thin air vent beneath the main grille flanked by LED lights with large, black surrounds.

Around back, the SUV looks like a larger 2016 Mazda CX-5 , sporting taillights, a tailgate and a bumper that are similar to its smaller sibling’s.

That’s good news if you ask me, as the CX-5 is arguably one of the sexiest crossovers in its segment. Not to mention it is a massive improvement over the current CX-9, which looked dated only a couple of years after it arrived in dealerships.

Interior

Mazda6

Note: 2016 Mazda6 interior shown.

The CX-9’s redesigned interior is still a mystery as of this writing, but it should mimic the face-lifted Mazad6’s in terms of styling. It should be stylish rather than fancy and include the brand’s three-spoke steering wheel packed with all sorts of controls, a simple center stack with an infotainment screen that pops out at the top, a taller center console, and a dashboard design that extends into the door panels. The instrument cluster will have new graphics and dials.

If the current Mazda6 is any indication, the SUV should get the same selection of black and white leather, along with black or sand-beige fabric inserts, but more colors are possible. New tech is likely to include Active Driving Display, Mazda Connect with Internet connectivity and the i-Activesense safety package.

Drivetrain

There’s no word as to what will motivate the new CX-9, but it’s time you forget about the Ford -sourced 3.7-liter V-6. The “Cyclone” unit, also used in the second-generation Mazda6, will be dropped, since Mazda no longer uses Ford engines now that they have developed a full range of SkyActiv, four-cylinder powerplants.

The 2.5-liter four-pot seems like the best choice here given the size of the vehicle, and some outlets have suggested Mazda might drop the turbo-four from the upcoming 2016 Mazda3 MPS under the CX-9’s hood. Whatever the case, the new engine should crank out more than the 273 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque coming from the previous V-6, while returning significantly better fuel economy.

Prices

It’s way too early to discuss pricing, but considering the current CX-9 retails from $29,985, it’s safe to assume that the redesigned crossover will fetch more than $31,000 before options.

Competition

2014 Toyota Highlander

Toyota Highlander

Launched five years before the CX-9, the Highlander is already in its third generation, having been redesigned for the 2014 model year. A strong seller since day one, the Highlander sports a boxier design and a bold Tundra-like front grille. In short, its styling remains true to the SUV ethos, unlike the CX-9, which employs a coupe-like roof and a sportier stance. Power comes from a 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet and a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 270 horses and 248 pound-feet. There’s also a hybrid version that combines the V-6 with three electric motors for a total output of 280 horsepower. Pricing starts from $29,765.

2016 Honda Pilot

Honda Pilot

Much like the Highlander, the Pilot has received its second redesign since its introduction in 2002. New for 2016, the third-gen Pilot brings a dramatic shift in design, ditching the boxy, truck-like appearance in favor of a more attractive look that better integrates it with other Honda SUVs and crossovers. Though it uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 spread across the entire Honda lineup, the update adds direct-injection, start-stop technology and an optional nine-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 is now good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Pricing starts from $29,995.

Conclusion

It’s too early to estimate how will the new CX-9 fare against its Japanese rivals in the U.S., but much like its smaller siblings, it should be the prettiest SUV in its niche. Sure, this won’t make the CX-9 as popular as the Highlander, but it should bump sales considerably, especially with the current model being nearly 10 years old.

LOVE IT

  • Attractive, sporty KODO design
  • Efficient SkyActiv drivetrain
  • Seating for seven people

LEAVE IT

  • Tough niche with strong competitors from Toyota and Honda
  • The lack of a V-6 might be a turn off to certain buyers

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