2016 Mazda CX-9 First Drive

Automotive enthusiasts tend to obsess over spec sheets. How else could we know which cars and trucks are the quickest in a straight line, hold the road with the greatest tenacity, or tow the biggest trailers? More succinctly, what ammunition would we have in the seemingly endless back-and-forth of Internet forums if it weren’t for specifications?

Mazda’s engineers think they’ve found a better way. The 2016 CX-9 has less horsepower than its primary competitors. The only engine available is a turbocharged four-cylinder, hooked to a six-speed automatic. Drivers won’t miss the 23 horsepower (or more, as we’ll soon explain) lost in the changeover from 2015 to 2016, because Mazda applied its holistic Skyactiv approach to the largest vehicle it offers. That means less weight and, ultimately, more fun. Or so they say.

Are they right? Yes. And no. Most of the time, in normal on-road driving conditions, the 2016 CX-9 is the most fun you can have with three rows. But the real-world tradeoff didn’t go off completely without a hitch.

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Reasoning that real-world performance is more important than ultimate horsepower, Mazda specified a four-cylinder for its big, three-row SUV instead of a more traditional V6. Let’s get those all-important specifications out of the way: All 2016 Mazda CX-9s are fitted with a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 250 horsepower and, impressively, 310 pound-feet of torque at just 2,000 rpm. Unless you decide to use 87 octane, in which case you’ll be limited to 227 horsepower. Mazda doesn’t think owners will actually notice the difference in power levels, so there’s no Premium Fuel Recommended sticker on the back of the fuel door.

Mazda utilized some clever turbo trickery to deliver a diesel-like torque curve from its gasoline-fueled engine, which makes the small-displacement powerplant feel lively at low engine speeds. The flipside is that the CX-9 runs out of breath as the needle swings across the upper reaches of the tach. While that simply wouldn’t do for a sportscar like the MX-5, in the CX-9 it’s not necessarily a deal breaker.

One benefit to the downsized engine is that it doesn’t guzzle fuel. The EPA rates the CX-9 at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. Drop one mpg all around for the all-wheel-drive model. Those figures beat out all the CX-9’s most natural competitors, including the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. The turbo-four Ford Explorer matches the 28-mpg highway figure, but loses by three in the city.

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We couldn’t accurately gauge fuel mileage during our short stint behind the wheel, but Mazda promises class-leading efficiency for actual owners on actual roads. It’s all part of vehicle development engineer Dave Coleman’s stated goal of “ignoring competitive specs and focusing on the real world.” Based on the inherent goodness of Mazda’s previous Skyactiv efforts, we have a feeling that’s more than just marketing bluster.

We can say for certain that the CX-9 beats its rivals when it comes to ride and handling. Mazda’s three-row crossover rides seriously smooth, even on broken pavement. It’s also quiet, thanks to thicker floorpan steel and an extra 53 pounds of sound deadening material compared to the previous CX-9. Still, the 2016 model is about 260 pounds lighter than the 2015.

The benefit to the weight loss routine is best felt behind the wheel on a twisty road. We wound up and down Highway 1 north of San Francisco for a few hours, and found the CX-9 to be a satisfying partner. As long as you don’t drive like you’re in a Miata, the CX-9 feels calmer and more comfortable than a vehicle its size has any right to. Steering is light at low speeds, but firms up nicely once you really get moving. The transmission goes mostly unnoticed, which is one of the nicest things you can say about an automatic in a family car. Sport mode immediately drops a cog and downshifts further with a slight touch of the accelerator.

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The 2016 CX-9 is roomy. With the seat positioned for a six-foot driver, there’s enough room for an equally tall passenger in the second row. Even better, that same fullsize person can fit in the third row without embedding their legs in the seatback ahead or their hair grazing the headliner above. On the downside, the actual seating position in the way back isn’t very comfortable – tall occupants better get used to having their knees at chest height.

The only real way to make the CX-9’s third row more comfortable for adults would be to make the vehicle larger, and that’s antithetical to Mazda’s goal of making its ‘ute as practical as possible in the real world. After all, it’s not often that all seven seats will be filled (especially by adults). Plus, the CX-9’s sleek looks would be ruined with theater-style tiered seats.

It’s not easy to make a seven-passenger box on wheels look alluring. Mazda has done a pretty good job in that regard. There are plenty of angles and surfacing in the car’s bodysides to catch the light and engage the eyes, and Mazda’s signature oversized five-point grille fits more appropriately on the CX-9 than any of its siblings. The chrome wings that extend from the top of the grille into the headlights are a nice visual touch, as are the taillights with their pseudo eyeball and eyelash design.

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From the driver’s seat, every critical gauge and display sits directly in the driver’s field of view. Buttons and switchgear are within easy reach, lending to ergonomics that feel just right. The LCD display in the center stack is touch sensitive, but Mazda’s familiar click-wheel and buttons on the center console perform the same inputs and are just as easy to master. On top-level Signature models details like the sculptural door pulls play well with the genuine aluminum and Japanese Rosewood trim pieces to lend a luxurious feel to the cabin.

There’s 14.4 cubic feet of space behind the third row, and as many as 71.2 cubes with all the seats folded, and fortunately the space is flat. That’s less than the Highlander or Pilot, both of which boast more than 83 cubic feet. The Ford Explorer and brand-new 2017 GMC Acadia split the difference with around 80 cubic feet each.

If you’re the type likely to fill a crossover to the brim with people and cargo, the CX-9 probably isn’t your best bet. It’s a 4,300-pound vehicle with just 227 horsepower (on 87 octane, at least). In part-throttle situations and typical around-town speeds, the CX-9’s turbo four feels adequate, and mostly like a larger powerplant. When push comes to shove, though, we’d prefer more horsepower, especially when merging onto the highway with a full load of passengers and cargo. And if you want to tow more than a small trailer, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. The 2016 CX-9’s worst-in-class max rating of 3,500 pounds limits your options.

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Base 2016 CX-9s retail for $32,420, which is a few thousand dollars more expensive than the Explorer, Pilot, and Highlander. The previously top-level Grand Touring model starts at $41,070 (add $1,800 for all-wheel drive), and the new Signature trim level lists for $44,915 with standard all-wheel drive. That’s pretty much on par with Toyota’s Limited Platinum grade, but undercuts Honda’s Elite trim and is even further from Ford’s $53,665 Explorer Platinum.

Mazda’s effort to throw out the spec sheet and design a large crossover that excels in the real world is laudable. And it mostly works, as long as you don’t stray too far outside its baked-in capabilities. The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is a crossover that’s built not for passengers, but for drivers; for people who need a utility vehicle but aren’t ready to give up the notion driving should be fun. And that’s an idea we can get behind.

Mitsubishi president resigns in wake of fuel economy scandal

Personnel Changes (Resignation) of Members of the Board

Tokyo, May 18, 2016 – Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) announced resignation of members of the board as follows:

1. Member of the Board who will resign
Tetsuro Aikawa President and COO, Representative Director
Ryugo Nakao Executive Vice President, Representative Director

2. Reason for resignations
As our announcement today on the Report to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism concerning improper conduct in fuel consumption testing of vehicles manufactured by MMC shows, MMC has caused tremendous trouble and concern to our customers and all of our stakeholders. Considering this, Mr. Aikawa and Mr. Nakao decided today that they will resign as Representative Directors as of June 24, 2016.

3. Date of resignation
June 24 (the day of MMC’s ordinary shareholders meeting)

We will decide on the successors of both Representative Directors at our board of directors’ meeting and make an announcement promptly.

Seven great cars that nobody is buying

2016 chevrolet ss 015 2 Seven great cars that nobody is buying

7 Great Cars Nobody is Buying

Just because a car is a best seller doesn’t necessarily make the best pick for everyone. We analyzed auto industry sales results for the first third of 2016 looked at models that represent just a tiny fraction of their sales segments. And despite weak sales, some of these are terrific vehicles worthy of serious consideration.

If you’re in the market, or even if you know someone who is, check out some of these lesser-known models that represent less than 3 percent market share against the competition. 

There’s more good news. On many of these vehicles, big discounts may be available since these manufacturers are doing their best to boost sales. 

Research the 2016 Chevrolet SS

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Mazda Mazda6

A perennial underachiever, the Mazda6 is the midsize sedan most critics gravitate toward if we wanted a four-door in the $25,000 to $30,000 price range. It’s still the best looking midsize sedan and the Mazda6 offers near sports car-level handling plus excellent fuel economy. Infotainment updates inside have kept it current with the times, although we still wish it had a little more sound deadening. 

Through the end of April, Mazda delivered just 14,212 examples of its midsizer, representing a mere 1.9 percent of the segment. To put that in perspective, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda each sell that many Camrys, Altimas, and Accords every two weeks.

Buy the Mazda6 instead of the Honda Accord: Both the Honda and the Mazda are polished handlers, and while the Accord is really good, the Mazda still outshines it on a curvy road. Bonus: The Mazda is rated at 1 mpg better on the highway (38 vs 37 mpg).

Research the 2016 Mazda Mazda6

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Ford Flex

It’s the car almost everyone loves to hate: The Ford Flex. Decidedly dated, having hit the market back in 2008 (but updated for 2013), the three-row Flex remains an especially efficient way to haul around a big family. 

Strip away its angular body and the Flex is basically a Ford Explorer that sits a little lower to the ground. Since nobody is taking Explorers off-road (intentionally) anyway, the Flex offers sharper handling, a lower price tag, and available all-wheel drive. 

Representing just 1.5 percent of the massive midsize crossover and SUV market, the Flex apparently barely registers with consumers. Just 8,428 have been sold through the first third of 2016.

Buy the Ford Flex instead of the Ford Explorer: As we just said, they’re essentially the same thing underneath. Ford routinely offers big discounts on the already less expensive Flex, so it’s a much better value. 

Research the 2016 Ford Flex

2016 chevrolet ss 012 2 Seven great cars that nobody is buying

Chevrolet SS

Talk about an under-appreciated icon. The Australian-built Chevy SS has found just 1,131 buyers so far this year, representing a mere 0.6 percent of the big sedan market in the U.S. 

That’s a crying shame since the SS is basically a four-door Camaro. OK, that’s not entirely accurate anymore—the 2016 Camaro rides on the newer Alpha platform, while the SS uses the older Zeta platform shared with the previous Camaro. That doesn’t mean this sedan is any less awesome. At about $47,000, the SS uses a 6.2-liter V8 cribbed and can sprint to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds while carrying five passengers in comfort. There’s evan an available manual transmission.

The SS is the car enthusiasts have begged for, but we don’t seem to want to buy. We’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Buy the Chevrolet SS instead of the BMW M5: Nothing against the M5. It’s great, as it should be for about $100,000 by the time you add any options. The SS is half that price and way more than half as good. Buy this future classic and keep the change.

Research the 2016 Chevrolet SS

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Subaru Legacy

The Legacy is a midsizer that’s essentially devoid of faults: It handles well, gets competitive fuel economy, offers plenty of stretch-out room in its upscale interior, and even comes standard with all-wheel-drive. 

Even as the rest of the Subaru lineup goes positively bonkers—its Lafayette, Indiana, assembly plant is running at full capacity—buyers are only barely starting to take notice of the Legacy. Just 2.7 percent of the midsize segment’s sales went to the Legacy, although it is gaining share against rivals.

Buy the Subaru Legacy instead of the Toyota Camry: Subaru used to build Camrys under contract for Toyota (which owns a sliver of Subaru), but the two cars have never been related. The Camry is fine, but the Legacy offers standard AWD and actually gets better mpg in the four-cylinder model (26/36 city/highway versus 25/35). 

Research the 2016 Subaru Legacy

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Hyundai Azera

Hyundai’s been successfully elevating its brand status for years, but still offers value for money across the lineup. The solid and sensible cars Azera is a perfect example of Hyundai doing things right. 

Then again,the same can be said for sister brand Kia, which sells the largely identical Kia Cadenza. Slightly more Cadenzas find buyers every month than Azeras, which comes as a slight surprise to us. Still, the Azera accounts for a mere 1 percent of the big sedan market, meaning it is essentially invisible. 

It may look like a big Sonata, but the Azera is almost a high-end luxury car inside, built to fight against Toyota Avalon but also stretch to challenge the Lexus ES350. 

Buy the Hyundai Azera instead of the Chevrolet Impala: The Impala is the undisputed sales leader in the big sedan class, and for good reason. It is a terrific sedan. But with less than one Azera sold for every 40 Impalas, it may pay to stand out a bit – and be easier on your bank account, too.

Research the 2016 Hyundai Azera

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Buick Regal

Buick sounds as American as apple pie, but dig into its lineup and you’ll find that almost all of its cars were designed and engineered elsewhere. That includes the midsize Regal, which benefits from its German pedigree.

Positioned slightly upmarket of the Cam-ccords that populate every parking lot in America, the Regal line was created by parent company General Motors’ Opel division in Germany as the Insignia. 

There’s a Regal for everyone, from the more comfort-oriented base models to the rip-roaring, corner-carving Regal GS. Still, Regal only accounts for 0.9 percent of the midsize sedan market so far this year.

Buy the Buick Regal instead of the Nissan Altima: As snappy as the Regal GS is, the base model may make the most sense. At about $28,000, it undercuts the range-topping Nissan Altima 2.5SL and manages to include more features in a nicer interior. It’s one of the better automotive values available today. 

Research the 2016 Buick Regal

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MINI Paceman

In the market for a funky hatchback with all-wheel-drive and a turbo engine? The Mini Paceman might be worth a look. Through the first four months of 2016, Mini’s dealership network has delivered just 39 examples of the puffed-up Paceman, representing a mere 0.00002 percent of the small SUV/crossover segment.

It may look like a standard Mini Cooper with a plump body, but the Paceman is actually based on the Mini Countryman. That means it offers all-wheel-drive and a roomier interior. The Paceman’s back seat isn’t that easy to climb into, but for the right type of buyer that just makes it a better deal.

Buy the Mini Paceman instead of the Nissan Juke: Nissan sells a lot of Jukes, but if rear seat access isn’t a priority, the Paceman is more polished inside and out. Plus you can get an All4 with a manual transmission; AWD Jukes are stuck with CVTs.

Research the 2016 Mini Paceman