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The Mazda CX-9 has gained appeal over the years because it’s always been considered refined, stylist, and from this vantage point, never as luminous in appearance as some other large sport utility vehicles in its class.

However, with that said, a further look into the 2015 Mazda CX-9 reveals it does belong in the large SUV class as a legitimate seven-seat passenger vehicle.

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Third-row seating is typically a not-so-appealing place to sit for anyone other than kids. Who wants to be there – nobody! But if forced to reside in the CX-9’s third row, it’s better than many competitors. Adults won’t feel too uncomfortable for short-term trips, yet any sizable journey probably won’t cut it.

2015 Mazda CX-9

  • Performance: 3.7-liter, V6, 273 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 16-24 mpg
  • Estimated Price: $29,985-$36,625
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/36,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

The CX-9’s third-row seating entry and exit are not a struggle, thanks to the large openings for the rear doors and a second row that slides up with ease. Note that seating in the CX-9 is above average in the front and second row. And the second row conveniently reclines, so comfort is not a concern.

In regards to cargo space, there’s little storage room behind the third row. But when the third row is folded down there’s ample room; the CX-9 ranks among the highest in this segment with 101 cubic feet of cargo space.

Mazda introduced both the five-seat CX-7 and its larger brother, the CX-9, in 2007. There have been no significant changes for either since a 2010 redesign. And that has gradually become a problem because the CX-9 needs a redesign.

Since it was introduced, many of the CX-9’s competition, which includes the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Dodge Durango, Ford Flex, and Chevrolet Traverse, have undergone a full redesign.

Among the issues for the CX-9 are small standard touchscreen that doesn’t offer access to smartphone app integration. The interior design is essentially behind the times and lacks the sophistication that some car shoppers now require. No V8 option is a negative as well and so is the 3,500-pound limit towing capacity.

Most drivers will have no problem with the performance of the CX-9, which comes in three trims – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. All three have a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. The CX-9’s only powertrain is a high performing 3.7-liter, V6 that produces 273 horsepower, has 270 pound-feet of torque and goes 0-60 mph in 7.4 seconds. That’s pretty good acceleration for an SUV that can still tow up to 3,500 pounds.

It’s mostly good news in the driving department. The CX-9 handles with agility and feels like a midsize SUV, providing good steering and the ability to handle corners adroitly. Yet it doesn’t offer a smooth ride over bumpy road surfaces when the ride can get choppy.

The CX-9 could definitely use a redesign, but thanks to its appealing looks, driving acumen, and passenger and cargo capability, it remains a pretty good option in the large SUV category.

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