When Mazda redesigned its CX-9 three-row crossover for 2017 it faced a fork in the road. Mazda could match the competition and introduce a V6 displacing about three and a half liters, or it could start fresh and try to move the bar. Mazda isn’t known for copying the other guys and took the more difficult, but possibly more rewarding route. One of its first rewards is a Wards Auto 10-Best Engine award.
Mazda opted to use a 2.5-liter turbocharged, four-cylinder engine in the new 2017 CX-9. Torque News Tested the new engine this past week and we can agree with the folks at Wards that it deserves recognition. It is as powerful as the V6 in the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander? No, it is not. Does it matter to drivers who buy three-row family vehicles, certainly not.
The new Skyactiv 2.5-turbo earns a 23 MPG combined rating from the EPA using regular unleaded fuel. That tops the market-leading Highlander by 1 MPG. Not bad for a first-year engine that has not yet been further refined and advanced by its maker.
Power around town is more than adequate. The turbo engine is tuned to provide hesitation-free acceleration at low RPMs. That is the type of driving we all do most of the time. Thought the big V6 engines in its class do offer more passing power, the CX-9 is safe and can merge onto a highway with ease.
The new engine also has character. It has a unique engine note and the turbo is easy to hear in operation. As Wards Auto put it, “Putting a 4-cyl. engine into a 7-passenger CUV doesn’t usually send a thrill up the leg of automotive journalists, but Mazda worked some real magic with the new Skyactiv 2.5L.”