LOS ANGELES – The ’16 Mazda CX-9 that debuted at the Los Angeles auto show is lighter, shorter and more economical than its first-generation predecessor that has been on the market for the past decade.
The all-new 3-row CUV becomes the final vehicle in Mazda lineup to receive the full SkyActiv efficiency treatment, starting with its powerplant. Gone is the Ford-derived 3.7L V-6, replaced by a 2.5L twin-scroll turbocharged I-4, the company’s first application of a gas-turbo engine.
Horsepower drops by 46 to 227 hp with the I-4 compared to the outgoing V-6, but torque is up 40 lb.-ft. (54 Nm) to 310 lb.-ft. (420 Nm), all available at just 2,000 rpm. Burning premium fuel ups horsepower to 250, but torque remains the same.
Mazda expects a 20% increase in fuel efficiency based on initial estimates of U.S. EPA testing cycles, which the company says should make the CX-9 among the most efficient vehicles in its class.
“The overall SkyActiv approach is to be more efficient,” says Tim Barnes, Mazda North America director-product planning and strategy. “What we’re focusing on is real-world performance. We’re reducing horsepower, but overall driveability and performance is vastly improved compared to the outgoing model.”
Mazda incorporates several features into the turbo system to create more efficiency and improve engine response. Chief among them is a unique Dynamic Pressure Turbo that uses a valve to route exhaust gases through a smaller port at low rpm to create higher pressure in the turbo, preventing turbo lag and allowing instant boost. At higher rpm, secondary valves open to allow free-flow of exhaust gas into the turbo.
Exhaust-gas routing also helps maximize turbo efficiency, with exhaust from the middle two cylinders directed through a single port while the outer two cylinders have individual ports. All three are mated into a single turbo inlet to assure constant exhaust pressure.
Finally, fuel efficiency is the goal of using a cooled exhaust-gas-recirculation system that reduces the need to inject extra fuel as a way to reduce engine temperature. Mazda says the cooled EGR helps cut exhaust temperature 932° F (500° C) to just over 212° F (100° C), allowing a high 10.5:1 compression ratio.
Mazda expects no EPA mileage benefit from the cooled EGR technology but says owners should see real-world fuel economy gains.
Weight Down, Efficiency Up
Overall, the front-drive ’16 CX-9 is 198 lbs. (90 kg) lighter than the first-gen model – all-wheel-drive is 287 lbs. (130 kg) lighter – despite additional safety equipment, sound-deadening insulation and thicker glass. Mazda says NVH is down 12% at 62 mph (100 km/h).
Mazda says the net effect of SkyActiv power and weight savings is that only 18 hp is needed to maintain 55 mph (88 km/h) – a 4-hp reduction compared to the previous model. The vehicle also requires far less downshifting to attain maximum power at highway speed.
The new CX-9 appears smaller than one might expect for a 3-row vehicle, due in part to its flowing styling that Mazda dubs Kodo – Soul of Motion design. The ’16 model at an overall length of 199.4 ins. (5,065 mm) is 1.2 in. (30 mm) shorter than its predecessor with shorter overhangs on both ends – 2.3 ins. (58 mm) in front and 1 in. (25 mm) shorter in the rear.
At the same time, the wheelbase stretches 2.2 ins. (56 mm), which aids third-row access and legroom and smooths the ride, while the A-pillars shift backward 3.9 ins. (99 mm) to give the hood more length and help balance the vehicle’s proportions.
Inside, the CX-9 is available with auburn-colored Nappa leather, Japanese rosewood and aluminum in the flagship Signature trim level.
Safety features include a suite of automatic braking, active cruise control and lane-keeping assistance systems.
The ’16 CX-9 is built at Mazda’s plant in Hiroshima, Japan. It goes on sale in spring 2016.