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Driven: Mazda CX-9 sales set to double

9 lives: The Mazda CX-9 will be more popular than its thirsty predecessor, according to the Japanese car-maker.

Higher spec, lower pricing, slashed thirst to drive Mazda CX-9 demand

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Mazda logo8 Jul 2016

MAZDA Australia is confident that it can double the sales of the redesigned CX-9, based on stronger than anticipated consumer interest leading up to the seven-seater SUV’s launch this month.

According to Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak, sales should push up past last year’s 280-unit monthly average to about 500 per month, and could even exceed that if more supply can be secured.

“If we reach 6000 (sales annually), fantastic, that would be a record for us in that segment,” he told GoAuto. “Personally I would like a bit more, and certainly with the pre-launch numbers, the interest in this car is big… and if we do over-achieve, then we will have to go and ask for more.

“And if that means having to go and ask, and that means having to take it off somebody else, and that may or may not be easy.”

Additionally, Mazda is confident that the more profitable higher-specification Touring, GT, and flagship Azami variants kicking off from nearly $50,000 will account for 90 per cent of sales in the first 12 months, split evenly between the front-wheel drive and the $4000 more expensive all-wheel-drive versions, and only easing off by five per cent through the new-gen model’s lifecycle.

The head of the Mazda CX-9 program, Masashi Otsuka, worked on all the other CX SUVs, as well as the CX-7 and said he had hopes that Australians would embrance the new-generation model.

“I feel confident the new CX-9 is not only the most attractive and exciting three-row SUV in the market, it also meets the needs of all the market. I hope it will be a hit with customers in Australia,” he said.

Starting from $42,490, all CX-9s including the base Sport FWD feature advanced driver-assist technology like Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) in forward and reverse (dubbed Smart City Brake Support in Mazda-speak), and rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, to help it achieve a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

Building on the Sport’s standard reversing camera, satellite navigation, push-button start, three-zone climate control and 18-inch alloy wheels, the predicted best-selling Touring (expected to take up to 40 per cent of volume) from $48,890 adds foglights, auto on/off headlights and wipers, a powered driver’s seat, heated front seats, larger central touchscreen, leather upholstery and second-row centre armrest with extra USB ports.

Moving to the $57,390 GT ushers in front parking sensors, a head-up display (with Mazda-first windscreen projection), digital radio as part of an audio upgrade, seat-position memory, powered tailgate, sunroof, keyless entry, and 20-inch alloys, while the Azami from $59,390 adds adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED headlights, driver alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and smart-brake support. On all models AWD adds $4000.

Designed in Japan but developed and engineered over a 36-month period in the United States (the first time for a Mazda), the second-gen CX-9 is based on the CX-5. Slightly shorter than its American Ford Edge-derived predecessor (5075mm versus 5106mm), the overhangs are stubbier and the silhouette more cab-backward.

Conversely, the newcomer also gains a longer wheelbase and wider track/body, as part of its adoption of the brand’s much-heralded SkyActiv body, chassis and powertrain technology.

The wheelbase is 55mm longer than before at 2930mm, width increases 33mm to 1969mm, and its height jumps 19mm to 1747mm. All major interior space dimensions have improved over the outgoing model.

Weight tumbles between 94kg and 162kg depending on variant, with the lightest Sport FWD coming in at 1845kg and the heaviest Azami AWD at 1924kg. Mazda’s goal was for a 130kg fall. The i-Activ all-wheel drive system adds about 70kg.

Bonnet and front mudguards are aluminium.

A massive push to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measure – and not just compared to the pre-SkyActiv era cars – means there is now 24kg of insulation between the floor and carpet compared to 7.5kg combined with a thicker floorpan, improved panel gaps, better sealing, greater aerodynamic capability, more rigid steering column, and acoustic glass for the windscreen and side windows, NVH levels are said to slide dramatically.

On coarse road, at 100km/h, there is a 2.5dB noise cut. Body torsional stiffness rises by 65 per cent, aided by more high-tensile steel use (by 54 to 62 per cent).

Designed from the inside out as part of Mazda’s human-machine interface philosophy, the Japanese and American engineers researched previous-generation CX-9 user habits, prioritising rear-seat access and child-friendlier operation and ease. Both rear seat rows now fold flat for a completely flush floor. Note there are no third-row vent outlets as per some competitors because of heat soak from the floor reducing efficiency for occupants up front.

The Euro 5 emissions-rated powertrain represents a massive departure over the 2007 original, junking Ford’s 204kW/367Nm 3.7-litre V6 and six-speed auto combo for the first turbocharged iteration of Mazda’s 2.5-litre four-cylinder twin-cam variable-valve direct-injection petrol engine, also with six forward gears.

This move alone saves about 70kg. Note that the i-Eloop regenerative energy and i-Stop idle-stop systems are present, directly as a result of the Australian arm demanding them. Apparently the North Americans were not so keen.

Outputs are 170kW at 5000rpm, with the 420Nm torque top coming in at 2000rpm.

Compression ratio is 10.5:1 – lower than the naturally aspirated SkyActiv units, but high for a turbo.

The FWD averages 8.4 litres per 100km, 0.4L/100km better than the all-paw versions. Average carbon dioxide emissions range from 197-206g/km. Both are tuned to run on 91 RON standard unleaded. Putting in 98 RON boosts power to 186kW, though it is only noticeable at higher revs, according to the car-maker.

Strong low-end torque for improved response and better real-world fuel economy was deemed essential, ascertained after Mazda literally followed existing owners using their CX-9s picking kids up from school and taking them to various activities. The upshot is maximum torque at a low 2000rpm. No petrol-powered seven-seater SUV equivalent is as frugal, the company claims.

The AWD system is the same i-Activ tech as in CX-5 and CX-3, and is essentially on-demand FWD system that adds torque to the rear wheels when slippage is anticipated rather than merely detected, recognising weather, road, and other external conditions via 27 different data channels already in every CX-9. These include G-sensors, wiper activation, temp sensors, traction systems, throttle angles, ABS sensors and so on.

Towing capacity is 2000kg and comes with an electric brake controller with the tow bar kit.

As with the other SkyActiv Mazdas, the CX-9 uses an electric rack and pinion steering system, with a turning circle of 11.8m. The front suspension employs MacPherson struts while the rear is of a multi-link set-up. Brakes are 320mm x 28mm vented rotors in the nose of the car, and 325mm x 11mm solid rotors out back. Two tyres sizes are available – 255/60R18 and 255/20R20. The spare is a temporary item.

Cargo volume varies between 230 and 810 litres.

2016 Mazda CX-9 pricing*
Sport FWD (a)$42,490
Sport AWD (a)$46,490
Touring FWD (a)$48,890
Touring AWD (a)$52,890
GT FWD (a)$57,390
GT AWD (a)$61,390
Azami FWD (a)$59,390
Azami AWD (a)$63,390
*Excludes on-road costs

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