“Some say that cars are much more than simple transportation from point a to point b, that they’re rolling-freedom and even works of art. Others say that cars are nothing but a way to get life done. Personally, I think they’re a mix of both.”
My reasoning is that vehicles need to fulfill a purpose; they need to meet a goal. Most of the time such goal is to transport an individual or a family to their destination, and most mass-produced vehicles fulfill this goal. Therefore leaving high-end or limited production cars to fall into the other more romantic category.
Missi and I recently had the incredible opportunity to learn more about the identity of one of our favorite auto manufacturers—Mazda. Most of the time these kind opportunities rely on spending many miles and hours behind the wheel of a particular new model, but Mazda took different approach. They set out to walk-the-walk and not just talk-the-talk, and show us that adventure and fun really are part of their DNA.
‘Active Lifestyle,’ is what Mazda calls it. The act of producing innovative, sporty, fun-to-drive and stylish vehicles that are equally reliable, high-quality and distinctive. In order to do this, Mazda relies on remembering their roots, staying true to their mission and evolving the brand. After all, Mazda is the only Japanese manufacturer to ever win the famed ’24 Hours of Le Mans’ endurance race. Not Toyota. Not Honda.
While these facts and insights are interesting, they must all deliver on one thing–sales. Mazda knows that the key to delivering an experience, and not just “a car” is to focus on who’s buying their cars, and what kind of activities they’re into. Perhaps this is why Missi and I weren’t surprised to see kayaking with dolphins, and bike riding throughout crocodile-infested South Carolina on their activity program. Because “Driving Matters” to Mazda owners, but so do their active lifestyles.
‘Active’ is all you can think of when you get behind the wheel of a hot little roadster like the Mazda MX-5, which focuses solely on the driving experience. But things get a little more complicated when you think about Mazda’s new family SUV, as “Driving Matters” gives way to “Family Matters.”
2016 Mazda CX-9
Family SUVs aren’t known for being fun-to-drive. Yet the first time I drove the CX-9 I immediately felt the Mazda DNA at work. The steering was communicative, and you could feel a real connection between the brakes, accelerator and the transmission. It all simply worked, and it made me feel in control of the car and not the other way around. This made perfect sense as I recalled Mazda’s philosophy of respecting the driver, his or her driving position, and interior layout. Sitting behind the wheel of the CX-9 felt as natural as wearing an old pair of shoes.
Our ‘Signature’ trim test-vehicle was fitted with gorgeous Nappa leather and genuine rosewood interior, which along with the usage of real aluminum to contour the dash; made the CX-9 look and feel like a much more premium vehicle than most would expect.
Another characteristic that’ll take you back is how quiet the ride is. Mazda added 53 pounds of sound-deadening material and employed sound-insulating glass, which add up to a very smooth and quiet ride. That’s until you turn on the 12-speaker Bose Sound System, of course, which we tested via USB full-rate audio files. The vibrant and crisp-clear tunes only improved an already dreamy back-road drive around Hilton Head, South Carolina.
“Josephine were on our way to the park, as the driver in front of us suddenly slammed on his brakes at 50 mph and turned on-a-dime. Both of his brake-lights were out, therefore giving me no warning whatsoever. The CX-9’s smart brake support emitted a loud warning and immediately applied the brakes. I can 100% thank I-Activsense for avoiding a collision.”
The previous-generation CX-9 was already a very family-friendly vehicle, but the new model is many steps ahead. The rear accommodations are second-to-none in this segment, and I was pleased to see that rear headroom wasn’t compromised due to the sleek and lower roofline. Access to the third-row is quite generous thanks to the second row’s sliding and tilting mechanism, which makes it super easy for little ones to hop in the back. Last-row passengers still enjoy ac/heater vents and even a power adapter located near the trunk. We didn’t have much need for the third-row during our test, but we certainly enjoyed the CX-9’s spacious 38.2 cubit feet of cargo space. (71.2 cubit feet with both rear seats folded down)
Of course, the CX-9 isn’t perfect; even if the driving experience it offers is. Mazda skipped on a few features that are somewhat considered “standard” at this price range, and will most likely disappoint a few comfort-focused buyers.
As I said, vehicles are in fact a way to get from point a to point b, but why not do so in a fun, engaging, and even adventurous manner? After this incredible experience, there’s no doubt in our minds that Mazda builds vehicles with soul, and that driving truly matters.
- Starts at: $31,520
- Price as tested: $45,215
- Hands-down sleekest SUV in the market
- Engaging and fun to drive
- Fuel-efficient. Averaged 21.mpg combined
- Lacking features such as: ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, heated second-row, one-touch lock tailgate button