MAZDA Australia has announced a front-wheel drive version of its CX-9 crossover wagon, lowering the starting price of its popular seven-seat medium SUV range by $5590.
Two versions of Australia’s first front-drive CX-9 will be available for delivery by the end of July, with the Classic FWD automatic now opening the range at $44,425 plus on-road costs.
Also effectively replacing the range-opening Classic AWD, which has been discontinued from the revised 2011 CX-9 range and was last sold at $50,015, is the new Luxury FWD priced at $51,725 plus ORCs.
As part of the repositioning, the Luxury AWD is also now $790 cheaper at $56,225 – representing a $4500 premium over the Luxury FWD - and the flagship Grand Touring AWD is priced $1027 lower than before at $62,106.
In between, the addition of an integrated satellite-navigation system – comprising a seven-inch touch-screen, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming - sees the Luxury FWD priced at $54,325 and the Luxury AWD cost $59,233.
Mazda says the FWD CX-9 is designed for those who require the flexibility of a seven-seat wagon but do not need all-wheel-drive.
It joins front-drive versions of Toyota’s popular Kluger, Holden’s Captiva, Hyundai's Santa Fe and Kia's Sorento in the mid-size SUV segment, in which Ford’s homegrown Territory has been available in rear-drive guise since it was launched in 2004.
Like the former entry-level Classic AWD, the Classic FWD is fitted as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, cruise control, three-zone climate-control, power windows/mirrors and a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter.
Six airbags including full-length side curtains, electronic stability control, roll stability control, ABS brakes with EBA and EBD, and a reversing camera remain standard across the all-automatic CX-9 range.
In addition, Luxury FWD buyers gain 20-inch alloys, a powered glass sunroof, heated power mirrors with three-position memory and reverse tilt-down function, power-adjustable leather-clad seats with three memory positions and premium 10-speaker Bose audio.
All CX-9s continue to be powered by a 204kW/367Nm 3.7-litre petrol V6 engine matched with a six-speed Activematic transmission, a combination that returns fuel consumption of 11 litres per 100km in FWD – 0.2L/100km less than AWD models.
Consumption of the latter dropped from 13 to 12.2L/100km with a October 2009 facelift, then to 11.3L/100km last October. In what appears to be a continuing efficiency drive for Mazda’s largest model, the Ford-sourced V6 that powers CX-9 AWDs now returns 11.2L/100km.
On paper, the front-drive matches the 11.0L/100km figure Toyota states for all versions of the 3.5-litre V6 Kluger, which received a facelift and price cuts (to a low of $39,990, matching Ford’s facelifted Territory) last November.
All CX-9s are also now more efficient that the Captiva’s Melbourne-made 3.0-litre V6 (11.3L/100km), which joined the facelifted Holden SUV range in March, when a new 2.4-litre petrol four also lowered consumption in entry-level front-drive Captiva models to just 9.3L/100km.
However, the CX-9 falls short of the upgraded RWD-only petrol Territory’s 10.6L/100km figure and remains without diesel power.
Ford’s new Territory diesel returns just 8.2L/100km (RWD) and 8.8L/100km (AWD), while the Captiva’s new 2.2-litre oil-burner returns 8.3L/100km in both 2WD and AWD form.
As we’ve reported, the CX-9, which first arrived in Australia in December 2007, is due for replacement following the release of the all-new Minagi concept-based CX-5 by 2013, when it is expected to be fitted with Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D diesel engine.
A turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine based on Mazda’s upcoming 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G powerplant is also under serious consideration for the next CX-9.
CX-9 sales are 28.4 per cent down so far this year in a medium segment that is 14.6 per cent softer than the same period last year. Mazda’s medium SUV accounts for 4.4 per cent of the category.
That places it seventh behind Toyota’s Prado off-roader (17.7 per cent), the Kluger (15.4 per cent), Captiva 7 (12.5 per cent), Territory (11.3 per cent), Mitsubishi’s Pajero (9.0 per cent) and the Santa Fe (5.5 per cent).