Mazda stretches CX-9 into $40,000s, taking on Explorer, Grand Cherokee

Mazda Motor Corp., hoping to sell more high-priced crossovers to bolster its bottom line, has set richer prices for the redesigned CX-9 that goes on sale in the U.S. this spring, adding a top-of-the-line Signature package that costs nearly $45,000.

Mazda will charge $32,420 with shipping for the 2016 CX-9 in base Sport trim with front-wheel drive, $1,555 more than for the current entry-level model.

The range-topping Signature package, which comes with all-wheel drive, LED accents on the grille and rosewood inlays supplied by Japanese guitar manufacturer Fujigen, will cost $44,915 before extras such as $300 for a Soul Red paint job, compared to $37,505 for the current top-of-the-line model.

At all four trim levels — Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature — the CX-9 draws its power from a new turbocharged version of Mazda’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, which delivers 250 hp and 310 pounds-feet of torque. The lower three trim levels offer awd instead of fwd for an extra $1,800.

The three-row CX-9, which is currently Mazda’s most expensive product, “portends a future of innovative technologies and amenities that we believe will further elevate our vehicles in their respective classes,” Robert Davis, senior vice president of U.S. operations at Mazda, said in a statement Thursday.

The pricing of the CX-9 will be an early test of Mazda’s near-premium strategy under new U.S. CEO Masahiro Moro. Moro, previously the Japanese automaker’s global sales chief, has expressed a desire to strengthen Mazda’s profit margins through increased sales of awd crossovers in the United States, the company’s No. 1 market.

Mazda set the base price for the CX-9 above that of the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, America’s best-selling large crossover and SUV. Yet the top-of-the-line CX-9 does not cost as much as the top-of-the-line Explorer and Grand Cherokee, which have decades of heritage as posh family-haulers in America’s suburbs.

Ford added a top-of-the-line Platinum trim for the Explorer in 2015, charging $53,915 for accoutrements that include quilted leather door panels, wood trim and a 500-watt Sony sound system. Of the nine trim choices for the Grand Cherokee, four — Overland, High Altitude, Summit and SRT — start above $45,000.

With the first full redesign of the CX-9 since its introduction in 2006, Mazda set a goal of selling 50,000 vehicles per year worldwide, 80 percent of them in North America. Mazda sold 18,000 units of the CX-9 worldwide in 2015.

Production of the CX-9 began at Mazda’s hometown assembly plant in Hiroshima, Japan, on Feb. 11. Sales in the United States are scheduled to begin in late spring.

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