SKYACTIV-G 2.5T AWD Petrol Engine and Fuel Consumption
I could have started anywhere, but we'll start off with maybe the biggest star of the show - the brand-new engine. The 2016 CX-9 across all models features the new SKYACTIV-G 2.5T, a 2488cc four-cylinder masterpiece that has a maximum rated output of 170 kW at 5000 RPM and an impressive maximum rated 420 Nm of torque at just 2000 RPM.
Before you yawn in boredom of the thought of a four-cylinder engine, hold up a second. It packs in a direct injection turbo which features dynamic pressure adjustments to help overcome traditional issues such as turbo lag, at most given speeds. The CX-9 is no race car, but it is definitely no slouch either. I haven't pushed my new baby to the extremes just yet, but I've pushed it somewhat with the all-new sports mode enabled, which, like in most cars, holds the gears a bit longer for optimal performance. There is an ever-so-slight delay in the turbo kicking in - we're talking roughly 0.2 to 0.3 seconds - and then you feel the zoom-zoom. As expected, traction is a total non-issue with the brilliant all-wheel drive system and other safety features working for you in great ways.
There's a bit of time to reach 20km/h (12mph), but then 25km/h (16mph) to 70km/h (44mph) is quick. The six-speed automatic gearbox glides through effortlessly and pretty much unnoticeably. There is a bit of acceleration slowdown from around 75km/h (47mph) to 85km/h (53mph) or so, and then it kicks up again hitting 110km/h (68mph) with good pace. Keep in mind; this is on a car that hasn't passed 400km (250 miles) yet, so that might improve in time. One of the other nice things, too? It's no V8, but I was fairly jubilant to be presented with some relatively meaty tone from the exhaust while putting the car through its paces. It's a family car at the end of the day, but fathers (like me) will get a smile on their face when mothers reject the sports car as an option.
One of the things that bothered me with the 2014 CX-9 was its fuel consumption. I'm happy to report that the new CX-9 is around 33% more fuel efficient (Mazda rated 8.8L/100km or 23 miles per gallon average and 91RON or higher/E10 suitable) than the old model. Technologies like i-ELOOP and i-stop help that figure, and I will address them in detail later. The speedo according to my tests is mostly consistently 3km/h (1.86mph) below your actual speed, and this was at varying speeds (60km/h or 37mph, 80km/h or 50mph, 90km/h or 56mph and 100km/h or 62mph) - I was able to verify this as I had a NavMan dash camera setup that gets your actual speed via GPS. My old CX-9 had a varying speed differential, so it was great to note the consistency this time around.
LDW and LAS: "Put Your Hands On The Steering Wheel!"
Besides the massive smile on my face driving home from my Mazda dealership, I was also laughing to myself a good part of the trip. I've read pretty much all there is to read on the new CX-9, and as soon as I hit the highway, I put some of the amazing technology to work. The first tech in the i-ACTIVSENSE safety list we're going to discuss is the Lane Keep-assist System (LAS) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW). The latter alerts you when you are about to or have crossed into another lane, by way of an audible alert and a yellow/orange lane indicator on the HUD on the crossed lane.
LAS and some of the others make the new CX-9 somewhat autonomous; sure, it's no Tesla, but it doesn't cost anywhere near as much. And when I say autonomous, this car won't drive itself, but it has the brains to take action and assist you.
LAS uses the car's various cameras and sensors to know when you are about to and/or cross into another lane or across a marked line off the road. On one long left bend, I purposely let the car veer off course to the left, LAS kicked in straight away with vibration to the wheel (pretty much the same feeling you get when you cross rumble strips painted on road markings) and steered me over to the right. But for a bit of fun, I let the car continue to drive too far to the right, where the car started to enter the wrong side of the road. It was at that point that just after the car corrected itself back into my lane, a message appeared on the HUD: "Put Your Hands On The Steering Wheel!". Naturally, that message was greeted by a hearty laugh from me. A laugh that was inspired by being amazed and impressed.
And I couldn't be sure about this as I haven't seen it clearly stated anywhere, but I'm willing to say that LAS not only makes steering corrections for you, but it resists you steering off course, before you've even done it. I didn't notice it at first, but after more driving, the steering wheel becomes much firmer and resists you from steering too close to the middle of the road and too far to the other side. This is more apparent when there are oncoming cars, or you are driving on a bend or curvy road. I find it amazing that this car is apparently reading the road in front of you, in a more advanced way than I thought possible.
My mother asked an interesting question which I think needs to be included - she asked, "what if you need to steer a certain direction, will the car stop you?." The answer is "kind of". At first, it will guide you back, but you always have control and say over what the car does. The steering corrections are gentle; you can take control of the steering direction at any time by continuing to steer in your desired direction; LAS obviously detects you want to be there (well, hopefully, be there).
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