2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE review (video)

Mazda’s flagship large SUV has received an update just in time for the new year. The 2019 CX-9 is more feature-packed than ever, and debuts a new top-line Azami LE variant. If you’re in the market for a huge SUV, the CX-9 is among the largest non-off-road-oriented models available.

The Japanese brand finally succumbed to the benefits of turbo-powered engines in recent times, but it hasn’t budged on making a diesel engine available in the CX-9 – for that you need to go for the new CX-8. A bit like Toyota’s philosophy with the Kluger, partly due to its US market influence. Nonetheless, the solely offered petrol engine here is a solidly performing one. It comes matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, in all variants.

The lineup kicks off with the Sport, and moves up to the Touring, the GT, and Azami, and at the very top is the all-new Azami LE. All models except the top spec are available with the choice of front- or all-wheel drive, with the Azami LE only available with the latter.

Prices kick off from $44,990 for the base Sport. Here we’re testing the king of the crop Azami LE, which retails from a fairly steep $$66,490 (excluding on-road costs).

2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 170kW@5000rpm / 420Nm@2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 20×8.5, 255/50
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1885kg
Power-to-weight: 11.08:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.8L/100km
Economy during test: 9.7L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 74L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 19.31kW:L/100km

0-60km/h: 3.83 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.89 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.44 seconds*
1/8 mile: 10.35 seconds at 114.0km/h*
1/4 mile: 15.98 seconds at 143.2km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.623g
100-0km/h braking: 3.34 seconds at 43.70 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.115g
Decibel at idle: 37*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 80*
Priced from: $66,490

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE – THE PACKAGE

Mazda seems to have earned a winning formula when it comes to design. Australians love the look of Mazdas – that might be why all models share a very similar design language. The CX-9 inherits the large grille and small headlights, with a protruding bonnet shape like a bull shark. Many curvy contours flow along the body to produce a strong and fluid appeal.

The interior is a wonderfully smart and stylish place, too. Tried and won over by many, and still modern since its original launch in 2016. In the LE, the cabin is presented in deep Chroma Brown Nappa leather, and parts of the centre console and door trims feature real wood garnishes. On paper, it might seem unpleasant, but it really helps increase the sophistication of the in-car environment. The Chroma Brown, including across the dash, helps to push the CX-9 into genuine luxury car territory we think.

Once you invest some time into getting used to the MZD Connect hand controller on the console, it soon becomes very apparent what a great safety tool it is. It allows you to keep your eyes on the road. It’s easy to steer through all of the menus without the need to reach out to touch the screen, and the interface now comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

In what you’d expect from an SUV with this amount of space, the seats are beautifully supportive and fit for long trips. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the front or rear. There’s a plethora of adjustments that can be made to suit all shapes. The second and third row passengers are looked after with dedicated air vents placed in all rows, with separate multi-zone climate control in case you want to send the kids to sleep in the back with a warm and cosy temperature.

The CX-9 is a true seven-seat SUV. This seating layout was developed with the car from the beginning – the third row isn’t simply squeezed into the back of the vehicle. And once you get yourself up into the back, you’ll find the seats are large enough for agile adults, and you’ve got dedicated cup holders.

Even with all three rows up there is still leftover space for a decent boot. It measures in at a huge 810 litres with the second row in use, or 230 litres with the third row in use. This is far larger than the Toyota Kluger’s 195L/529L, but shy of the Nissan Pathfinder’s 453L/1354L capacities.

Being the top spec model, the Azami LE comes with everything a modern family needs. You get 20-inch alloy wheels for shopping centre car park bragging rights, blind-spot sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping aid, forward and reverse collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, power front seats, an electric tailgate, rear window blinds, and a 12-speaker Bose sound system. There’s also surround-view parking cameras, with frontal views.

Resale value is a strong point for Mazda. And the brand now offers a generous five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. However, servicing is required every 10,000km or 12 months, which is comparatively frequent if you plan to do lots of kilometres.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE – THE DRIVE

Mazda keeps things simple by only offering one engine. But it should keep most diesel enthusiasts satisfied as it produces 170kW and an impressive 420Nm of torque. It will aggressively throw down the gears and get that big body up to speed enthusiastically. The engine is happy to rev as well, and the torque is a blessing for such a large car. We clocked 0-100km/h in a very respectable 7.89 seconds.

The only area where the engine just doesn’t come close to the benefits of a diesel is in fuel consumption. We didn’t see a consumption rate lower than 9.7L/100km, according to the trip computer, which is more than the already fairly high official 8.8L/100km average. A 74L fuel tank means that you should be able to travel at least 750km in the real world before refuelling, however, some diesels of this class will stretch to 900km per tank.

Although six gears could be considered as a fairly low number by today’s standards, the engine ties with the gearbox perfectly. Gear shifting is so smooth and refined, you’d never feel it as a passenger – under light or heavy acceleration. It thinks ahead and selects the right ratio before you accelerate out of a slow turn, and thanks to that strong 420Nm available from 2000rpm, the powertrain rarely feels stressed. We guess, an additional gear ratio or two might be able to help reduce fuel consumption, though.

On country roads you can feel the CX-9 is a bulky car. Keeping in the lane can be an effort – and the lane-keeping aid steps in more than other systems do – as the width is measured at just under two metres (1969mm). Bumps are undertaken confidently and without disturbing the balance or comfort, and there is healthy feedback coming through the lovely three-spoke sports steering wheel. We wouldn’t call this a spirited-handling vehicle, but the grip and body control is quite good for a vehicle of this size and class.

Road noise and vibration levels are kept to a minimum as well. Even the engine noise is refined and progressive, partly thanks to Mazda’s excellent noise and vibration suppression measures it engineers into its cars. Overall, the CX-9 offers class-rivalling driving dynamics that are well suited to Australian roads.

Although the Azami comes with all-wheel drive, the CX-9 was never really designed to be an off-road vehicle. Sure, it’ll tackle dirt roads with no problem, but the AWD grip is more about safety and assurance. In regions where snow is common, or places where it frequently rains, the additional grip and forward stability will be most appreciated.

In terms of the driving assist technologies, they work just as well here as they do in the most prestigious brands on the market. Except for the radar cruise control. We found it can have trouble maintaining your selected speed. Even with no other vehicles in front, the speed has a tendency to fluctuate with a slight incline or descent in the road. It could be a fuel saving technique engineered into the cruise control software, but it can become annoying, especially on roads that have a lot of speed cameras.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE – THE VIDEO

2019 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE – THE VERDICT

The CX-9 is a great car for buyers looking for a huge wagon with decent ground clearance. This is also a vehicle for those that want a stylish and modern design, good driving dynamics, and something that’s packed with all of the modern conveniences. Should you go for the new Azami LE? It is jam-packed with features, there’s no denying that, but it will set you back a lazy $70k if you include on-road costs.

With that price in mind you’re bumping into the luxury car market. But we think the premium touches do catapult the CX-9 into that territory. It feels and looks like a genuine premium vehicle on the inside, there’s no doubt about it. We would’ve like to see some more exclusive touches for the exterior, but still, this is a much smarter buy compared with the premium models. Mazda has a solid brand reputation that most of the premium brands just can’t compete with.

PROS:
– One of the roomiest 7-seat crossovers on the market, with massive boot
– New LE variant adds real premium touch
– Extensive safety tech
– 5-year warranty with big dealer network
– Nice interior and exterior design
– Very user-friendly

CONS:
– Pricey top-spec Azami LE
– Adaptive cruise control could do with further refinement
– More gears could help with economy
– 2000kg max towing capacity doesn’t compare well with some SUVs in this class

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Mark is a contributing road tester at PerformanceDrive, and is an expert in technology and efficiency. He has had a passion for cars since before he can remember. With the soul and background of an IT nerd, Mark especially appreciates technology advances, safety, and attention to detail. His first car was a rusty powder blue 1972 Volvo 144 sedan. When he's not road testing vehicles, his daily drive is still a Volvo only now it's able to steer and brake all by itself.