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Mazda CX-9 steps up

9 lives: Mazda’s all-new CX-9 will feature the i-Activ all-wheel-drive system on some variants when it arrives about mid-year.

Second-generation 2016 Mazda CX-9 SUV heads in a more premium direction


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2 Feb 2016


MAZDA Australia is counting on expanding the CX-9’s customer base beyond mainstream brands when the second-generation version of the large SUV launches mid-year with a more contemporary design, premium interior, improved driveability and reduced fuel consumption.

Unveiled at the Los Angeles motor show last November, the all-new seven-seat CX-9 was presented at a Mazda i-Activ All Wheel Drive demonstration event in Colorado this week, but inclement weather put the brakes on our first drive of the new model.

Speaking with GoAuto at the event, Mazda Australia sales director Vinesh Bhindi revealed that the CX-9 – the brand’s most important model launch this year – is ready to face up to a new breed of competitors.

Boosted by sizeable gains in showroom appeal, Mr Bhindi said he believes the newcomer will help bridge the perception gap between mainstream and premium SUV manufacturers in the eyes of consumers.

“The new CX-9 is very important to Mazda’s SUV portfolio, as it now has the potential to attract buyers from the luxury segments, while giving existing customers the opportunity to upgrade into something better,” he said.

“As the final Mazda to come with the Kodo design language and full suite of SkyActiv technologies, it completes the SkyActiv rollout for this generation of passenger vehicles, first started by the CX-5 in 2012.

“So we can leverage all the progress in technologies and design that SkyActiv brings, to offer something truly exciting within the seven-seater SUV sphere.” While Mazda is adamant that no diesel engine is under development for the CX-9 due to the lack of global demand, Mr Bhindi said he was confident the (still-to-be-confirmed) fuel economy gains achieved as a result of the new 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine – coupled with weight savings of up to 130kg, depending on the variant – will attract buyers who previously might have otherwise gone for a diesel-powered rival.

“We believe the significantly reduced consumption will make up for the lack of diesel,” he said. “We believe that the new turbo-petrol engine will be class-leading in terms of fuel economy and efficiency. So even though it is not on offer in CX-9, we are confident that the lack of diesel will not create any shortcomings or obstacles for the CX-9.” The last turbocharged petrol Mazda was the CX-7 SUV, sold between 2006 and 2012. Featuring a 175kW/350Nm 2.3-litre DISI direct-injection four-cylinder unit also found in the sporty Mazda6 MPS, the CX-7 was slightly larger than the top-selling CX-5 and could accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds, but was scuppered by its high 11.5L/100km average fuel consumption.

While Mr Bhindi said it is too early to talk pricing and specification, he confirmed that Mazda will not offer a stripped-out ‘Neo’-style sub-$40,000 range-opener to take on entry-level rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Holden Captiva 7.

Instead, the new CX-9 will most likely mirror the current model’s positioning at the bottom end of the range, which kicks off from $43,770 plus on-road costs for the two-wheel-drive Classic.

New safety and driver-assist technologies are also expected to push the AWD flagship significantly beyond the $61,680 mark that the Grand Touring AWD variant currently occupies.

Mr Bhindi would not be drawn on Mazda’s revised sales targets, and the extent to which the company planned to bridge the sales gap between the current CX-9 – which managed 3384 sales last year – and the segment-leading Toyota Prado (15,255) and Kluger (13,955).

Other key rivals include the Captiva 7 (10,239 sales last year), Santa Fe (6760) and Nissan’s Pathfinder (6433). Offered in five- as well as seven-seat configurations, the Australian-built Ford Territory recorded 8902 registrations in 2015, and will be replaced by a fully imported new model at some point after local production has ended.

The new CX-9 will be especially well placed to take advantage of the Territory’ s demise, particularly as fleets move toward user-chooser options where drivers can pick a vehicle in much the same way as private buyers.

“Obviously we hope the new CX-9 performs better in this segment as a result of its upgrades and new technologies it receives,” Mr Bhindi said. “But again, it is way too early to say.” The new CX-9’s i-Activ on-demand all-wheel-drive system is identical to the one used in the CX-5, and even uses the same basic hardware as Mazda’s previous AWD set-up that dates back to the original Mazda6 of 2002 – and sold in Australia in the Mazda6 MPS, CX-7, and CX-9 AWD variants – but within a completely redesigned housing structure that is upwards of 25kg lighter overall.

Mazda Motor Corporation R&D vehicle development engineer Dave Coleman explained that the main difference is that the new technology employs “predictive” software which anticipates traction loss via electronic systems such as the G-sensor in the stability control device – as well as steering inputs to send torque rearwards before slippage even has a chance to start – via an electromagnetically actuated Active Torque Control Coupling.

The G-sensor and steering inputs are just two of 27 channels that the system checks at 200 times per second, according to Mazda.

In this way, the back wheels are already being turned for faster responses, reduced lag times, increased efficiency (since there is much less inertia to overcome as the wheels have not had a chance to experience traction loss), and – in some extreme conditions such as snow – reduced fuel consumption.

The i-Activ system is also fitted to some versions of the CX-3 crossover.

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