Mazda last year blew out the candles on a very large cake.
2020 was the brand’s 100th birthday and – along with some nostalgic talk about its origins as a cork manufacturer – it’s celebrating with a bevy of special editions.
Most expensive of the lot is the Mazda CX-9 100th Anniversary Special Edition.
At $1900 pricier than than high-spec CX-9 Azami, it packs a unique tri-tone interior and a smattering of special badges, along with its Snowflake White Pearl paint to justify the price.
It doesn’t mess too much with the formula, but that isn’t a bad thing.
With a starting price of $72,575 before on-road costs, the 2021 CX-9 100th (as we’ll be calling it) sits between the top-spec CX-9 Azami AWD and Azami LE AWD models in the range.
Pricing for the CX-9 range kicks off at $45,990 before on-road costs for the base front-wheel drive model.
Just 110 examples are being sold, so you get a sense of exclusivity and some extra school-run credibility. If that’s what you’re into, the 100th will appeal.
A 2021 update has brought a new 10.25-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to CX-9 GT models and above, with the more advanced software debuted in the Mazda 3.
Kit such as leather, keyless entry and start, heated front seats, parking sensors front and rear, and powered front seats carries over from the lower end of the range.
Also included from models such as the GT are wireless phone charging, a hands-free powered tailgate, a sunroof, a 12-speaker Bose sound system, third-row USB ports, and heated outboard second-row seats.
The Azami on which the 100th Anniversary is based packs adaptive LED headlights, a 7.0-inch digital instrument display, a heated steering wheel, a frameless rear-view mirror, ventilated front seats, a surround-view camera, and LED ambient lighting.
The 100th Anniversary has burgundy leather seats, colour matched with the floors and carpets and contrasting with the black and white dashboard treatment.
It also rides on wheels with unique 100th Anniversary centre caps, and has a special edition key.
The exterior is finished in Snowflake White Pearl paint. Mazda says the colour scheme is a nod to high-end versions of the R360, its first-ever car.
With power from a 356cc v-twin engine, it was a long way removed from the seven-seat CX-9.
The CX-9 has a five-star ANCAP rating based on testing carried out in 2016. It achieved an overall score of 35.87 out of 37.00.
Dual front, side-chest and side curtain airbags are standard across the range. All three seating rows are covered by curtain airbags, and all seats have seat belt reminders.
All 2021 Mazda CX-9 models also come with the following assistance systems:
- Front and rear autonomous emergency braking with night time pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver attention monitoring
- Traffic sign recognition
- Lane departure warning
- Lane-keep assist
The CX-9 has always been big and comfortable, and the 100th Anniversary is no different.
What it does have, however, is an extra dash of wow factor thanks to the tri-tone trim finishes.
Burgundy leather won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it helps make this special edition feel a bit more… special.
The embossed headrests, 100th Anniversary badging, and colour-matched floor mats also help the limited-edition stand out from the pack.
Beyond the colours and trim changes, the 100th Anniversary feels like a quality item. The seats are well-stuffed armchairs, and the leather on the steering wheel feels supple and smooth.
You could happily spend all day behind the wheel – we did last year – and not get tired. The ergonomics are excellent, and there’s acres of storage for bottles, cups, lollies, wallets, and all the other paraphernalia that comes with road tripping or parenthood.
Where the pre-update CX-9 fell down was in the technology department, with a laggy infotainment system and small screen that were both decidedly out of keeping with its billing as a large, luxurious flagship.
The 10.25-inch system in the new model is a huge step forward. The graphics are sharper, the responses are faster, and the overall aesthetic of the system is hugely improved.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, but they can’t be controlled by touch. Instead, the infotainment system in the new CX-9 is rotary controller-only.
Things are excellent in the second row, where there’s space for tall adults sitting behind tall adults. Despite the sunroof there’s ample headroom, and the USB ports and air vents for rear passengers are welcome.
Although a two-seat middle row with captain’s chairs is optional in the Azami LE, our tester was a seven-seater with a conventional three-seat bench.
The third row is one of the best in the large SUV class, with enough space for big kids. They aren’t reserved for short trips, either, with enough knee- and headroom to make road trips survivable back there.
There’s also cupholders and USB vents back there. As a set of part-time seats for the soccer run they’re perfect, although parents who are constantly using all seven seats should look into a proper people mover.
With the third row in place, the CX-9 offers 230L of cargo capacity, expanding to 820L with it folded.
For parents with multiple kids, the second-row chairs offer ISOFIX and top-tether points, while both seats in the third row offer top-tether points too.
Power in the CX-9 comes from a 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, mated with a six-speed automatic transmission and an on-demand all-wheel drive system in this specification.
Peak power is 170kW at 5000rpm, and peak torque is 420Nm at 2000rpm.
Claimed fuel economy is 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle, we saw just under 11L/100km during our time with the car.
The CX-9 is big and comfortable on the inside, and it’s big and comfortable on the open road.
Although it sells well in Australia, the current CX-9 is an American product first and foremost. That’s why there’s no diesel, which isn’t necessarily ideal Down Under, but it’s also a big part of why the car has such a relaxed character on the open road.
Even though it rides on 20-inch wheels the CX-9 has a brilliant ride, soaking up the worst the outside world can throw at it without breaking a sweat.
It’s smooth at low speeds, where the car hides its bulk well, and even average Australian back roads can’t break its composure. It’s also whisper quiet on coarse-chip roads.
Last year we were impressed with how the pre-update CX-9 handled a fully-loaded road trip from Melbourne to the Victorian high country. The 2021 model has the same indomitable feeling about it when you point its nose at the open road.
Of course these family crossovers spend most of their lives in the city. Thankfully, the CX-9 can do that well too.
Although it’s more than five metres long, the high driving position and light steering conspire to make the car easy to place in tight laneways. You get a surround-view camera, but it’s not exactly the last word in quality – a sharper picture would make it more useful when you’re parking.
There’s no diesel option, but the petrol engine in the CX-9 feels more than muscular enough to compensate.
It’s smooth and quiet, and peak torque kicks in at just 2000rpm so it isn’t what you’d call sluggish. The way it surfs the low-down pulling power is very diesel-like, and makes the car feel unstressed in day-to-day driving.
There’s also enough pulling power to handle highway driving with a load on board, although the engine does get thirsty when you lean a bit harder on it.
Speaking of which, the CX-9 is can handle itself if you’re a parent in a hurry. The steering is linear and well-weighted, and the torque converter automatic shifts fast enough in manual mode to make taking charge worthwhile.
The brakes are up to the task of stopping such a big, heavy beast, and body roll is kept in check. Driven with respect for its size the CX-9 is able to get a bit of a move on.
The CX-9 is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 10,000 kilometres. Most rivals offer longer 15,000km intervals, which is worth keeping in mind if you do a lot of highway driving.
The first five visits cost $363, $408, $363, $408 and $363, totalling $1905 for the first five years or 50,000km.
The CX-9 might be getting long in the tooth, but its blend of luxury and practicality is still hard to match.
Mazda has made some smart upgrades for 2021, chief among which is the new infotainment system. It’s a huge step forward from the creaky MZD Connect software, and makes the CX-9 feel significantly more modern.
The 100th Anniversary Special Edition will appeal to a specific group of buyers, given its unique interior and exclusive billing.
They’re getting a handsome take on a well thought-out family SUV.
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