Behind the Wheel

2020 Mazda CX-9 Review: An elegant family hauler that blends in with the competitive crowd

The Mazda CX-9 is an elegant, three-row family hauler.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

For seven years, I lived in a small tourist town in Southwest Colorado. Thanks to nearby Mesa Verde National Park and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, not to mention mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery, we had a constant flow of Texans and Californians wanting to see "The West."

For a remote town of some 20,000 people, Durango was remarkably well-stocked with amazing restaurants. Thanks to our tourist friends as well as a well-heeled second-home community, Main Street was lined with top-notch eateries that wouldn't be out of place in any major city across the country.

2020 Mazda CX-9 The model features Mazda's signature exterior blunted nose and heavy wheel cladding.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

Whether we wanted sushi, steak, Greek, whatever — we were absurdly spoiled for choice. It was heaven. Though I live in Boston now, which saw its own culinary resurgence in the half-decade I was away, I still miss the restaurants of Durango.

My favorite was always East By Southwest. You wouldn't expect a sushi joint in the middle Rockies to blow you away, but the chefs were creative and I was always delighted with whatever they came up with. My favorite was the BLT&T roll, which swaps seaweed for lettuce and adds tuna to the lunchtime staple. It was topped with a garlic pesto aioli and I could eat it every day for lunch.

As I slipped behind the wheel of Mazda's Japan-built CX-9 SUV for a test drive, I found myself thinking about all those restaurants. See, the Mazda CX-9 is a very nice premium three-row SUV. My test unit, a top-of-the-line Signature trim, was $47,385 with all the toys.

It has Mazda's excellent 2.5-liter turbocharged Skyactiv engine, all-wheel-drive, 20-inch wheels, a full safety suite including adaptive cruise control, a lovely Bose sound system, nice leather, and on and on.

2020 Mazda CX-9 Mazda's large grille fronts an imposing figure.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

There's a five-year 60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a three-year 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper. It has three-zone climate control (the rear seats are the third-zone). It seems well-built, assembled in Mazda's Hiroshima, Japan plant and shipped over to the states.

I particularly like the heads-up display and the easy-to-read dashboard, which is common to all Mazdas. Too many carmakers end up filling every available inch with icons and graphics that you just don't need. The infotainment is not the best (I've complained about Mazda's user interface before so I won't belabor the point), but the screen is solid and CarPlay works well.

Visibility is good and the handling and drive performance are excellent, with the little turbocharged four-cylinder delivering 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The inside is luxurious and all the buttons and touch points are lovely.

2020 Mazda CX-9 The interior of the CX-9 Signature trim level is as luxurious as many higher priced models.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

However, like with all those amazing restaurants in Durango, we are spoiled for choice in this segment.

The Hyundai Palisade is tremendous, as is its sister-vehicle the Kia Telluride, and at the top-trim you're at the same price point as this Mazda. There's the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas as worthy competition too. If you don't really need the third-row, you're starting to get into the price range of the smaller luxury SUVs as well.

But it's the Palisade that really gives the Mazda a run for its money. Of course, the Hyundai is brand new and any new vehicle is going to have an advantage in tech features, but it also looks better (Hyundai is killing it in design these days), has quilted leather and heated and ventilated rear seats in the Limited trim, as well as a far better warranty, running 10-years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain.

2020 Mazda CX-9 Second- and third-row passengers are not treated like afterthoughts in the CX-9's design.Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations

And, the Hyundai's lane-centering functionality is so far beyond what most other vehicles have that, for commuters especially, it's hard to recommend anything else.

Viewed in a bubble, the Mazda CX-9 is great. As a vehicle, it's comfortable and luxurious and you'd be perfectly happy owning it. But when you look at the competition, it's a much tougher comparison.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Langen Two Stroke will debut at Salon Privé.

Photo courtesy of Langen Motorcycles

Langen Motorcycles, a new British company, is set to launch its first bike, the Two Stroke, at Salon Privé this week. The Two Stroke is a road-legal bike that, according to the company, "will attack your senses through the sound, smell and sheer thrill that only a lightweight, two-stroke can deliver."

Intrigued yet? The new model is powered by a two-stroke 250cc V-twin engine that relies at 14,500 rpm. The heart is produced for Langen by Vins, which is based in Maranello, Italy. It makes 75 brake horsepower and 33 pound-feet of torque. Lagen describes its development: "Born from an 'extra-curricular' passion project from members of the Ferrari research and development department, the CNC-machined engine has been developed over the last five years."

Langen Motorcycles Two Stroke Each Langen Two Stroke is handmade.Photo courtesy of Langen Motorcycles

The motorcycle's chassis is made from large-diameter, laser cut aluminum tubing with bonded and machined connection points and has Ohlins front forks and British K-Tech rear shocks. Hel Performance brakes, Dunlop tires, and a K-tech suspension also take residence on the motorcycle. The Langen Two Stroke weighs just 251 pounds and has a power-to-weight ratio that is better than most supercars.

Each Two Stroke is a handmade, bespoke creation. The bodywork, including the fuel tank is made from hand-laid carbon fiber, as is the gold leaf detailing. Buyers can customize their moto's paint color, chassis finish, suspension type, and wheels. Ergonomics can be customized to the buyer's preference.

The Two Stroke has been designed and engineered in England. Each model will be built in Wigan, Greater Manchester.

Langen Motorcycles Two Stroke The motorcycle's ergonomics can be adjusted to best fit the driver.Photo courtesy of Langen Motorcycles

'The company has been founded with the aim of producing motorcycles with a simplicity and purity of days gone by, like the 'Ton-up boys' and their Caf racers – yet pushing the limits of modern technology," said Chris Ratcliffe, creator of Langen and designer of the Two Stroke. "My dream has always been to create a small piece of British motorcycling history. To be able to launch this special motorcycle under a completely new brand really is a dream come true. The aim is to continue to push boundaries and create more interesting bikes, which we hope will really please people"

Langen Motorcycles Two Stroke The company is new to the retail landscape.Photo courtesy of Langen Motorcycles

The first round of builds will be limited to 100 individually numbered models. Production is targeted to begin in summer 2021.

A further 150 motorcycles will be produced starting 2022, which will be available in homologated form for road use in other countries around the world. The total number of builds will be strictly limited to 250 bikes, each of them built to order.

Langen Motorcycles Two Stroke Each motorcycle's suspension is customizable.Photo courtesy of Langen Motorcycles

The Two Stroke is priced from £28,000 plus VAT where applicable. Pre-orders are now being taken with a £1000 refundable deposit to secure one of the 100 initial bikes.

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New features and some trim level shuffling are in store for the Silverado in 2021.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

The 2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is getting a refined list of offerings for the new model year, including the Multi-Flex Tailgate that was announced last week. Production of the model will begin in September and it will arrive at Chevrolet dealerships throughout the autumn.

According to the company's polling, 96 percent of light-duty pickup truck owners tow less than 10,000 pounds. Two Chevy trucks are getting a boost to get them closer to that benchmark.

2021 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 The new Multi-Flex Tailgate is just like GMC's MultiPro Tailgate.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Models powered by Chevy's turbocharged 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that are equipped with a Crew Cab and Short Box see their towing rating increased by 2,500 pounds to 9,300 pounds for the 2021 model year. A new Regular Cab/Long Box configuration offers a tow rating of 9,600 pounds with the same engine.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500 models powered by a 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine have their trailer capacity increased by 1,900 pounds for 2021 to 9,500 pounds on two-wheel drive models. Chevy has also given these trucks a $1,500 price decrease for the new model year.

The Silverado 1500 has also gotten new camera technology for 2021. These upgrades are similar to what is in the GMC Sierra for the coming model year. In addition to its previous 15 unique camera views, Chevy adds:

  • Trailer Length Indicator - When making a lane-change maneuver with the turn signal activated, a red overlay twice the length of the compatible trailer is shown on the center console screen, which can help show when other vehicles are present.
  • Jack-Knife Alert - Tracks the position of the compatible trailer in relation to the vehicle and provides an alert if a potential jack-knife situation is imminent.
  • Cargo Bed View enhancement - Cargo Bed Zoom View and Bed Hitch Guidance are now available, which help to align and hook up a gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer.
  • Rear Trailer View now features guidelines and Trailer-Angle Indicator - Enhanced to include assisting guidelines when backing a compatible trailer into place and a Trailer-Angle Indicator shows the relationship between the truck and trailer3.
  • Rear Side View enhancement: Provides a split view, automatically biased based on the trailer's angle, of the left and right sides of the truck and compatible trailer. This view was previously only available while driving forward and is now available in Reverse for better visibility when positioning a trailer.

The 2021 Silverado 1500 also adds more customer-friendly content at all price points to an already compelling truck lineup, including:

  • Custom and Custom Trail Boss are now standard with Custom Convenience Package and Infotainment Package, which include EZ Lift power lock and release tailgate, bed LED cargo area lighting, remote start, available SiriusXM radio, available OnStar, and more.
  • Work Truck, Custom and Custom Trail Boss now offer 40/20/40 split-bench front seat and a new Safety Confidence Package (late availability), which includes Forward Collision Alert, Automatic Emergency Braking, Front Pedestrian Braking, steering wheel audio controls, and 4.2-inch driver information center.
  • Custom Trail Boss and LT Trail Boss are now available with 20-inch black wheels with Goodyear Territory MT Tires (late availability).
  • LT and RST now come standard with the All Star Edition content, which includes the Convenience Package, Trailering Package, and an auto-locking rear differential.
  • LTZ now comes standard with the LTZ Convenience Package, Safety Package, and 20-inch polished wheels.
  • Wireless phone projection through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard on LTZ and High Country, and available on LT, LT Trail Boss, and RST.
  • A first for Chevrolet, Adaptive Ride Control is now available on High Country models with 22-inch wheels to provide enhanced ride comfort.
Three new packages are available: All Star Edition Plus, Texas Edition Plus, and LTZ Premium Texas Edition. Details on these packages are forthcoming.

Three additional exterior paint job options are also being made available: Mosaic Black Metallic (late availability and at extra charge), Oxford Brown Metallic (available at extra charge), and Cherry Red Tintcoat (available at extra charge).

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