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Mazda adds standard features, available equipment as it repackages CX-9 for 2020

The 2020 Mazda CX-9 has gotten significant upgrades including available captain's chairs and a long list of standard features.

Photo courtesy of Mazda North America Operations

Mazda has give the CX-9 a midcycle refresh that elevates the model to a premium offering in its highest grades and boosts the oomph coming from its turbocharged 2.5-liter engine. The automaker has also loaded the base model with more standard equipment.

The three-row SUV's plush interior now features available captain's chairs in the second row, which decreases the seating capacity from eight to seven.

Mazda is giving the SUV a hands-free power liftgate in Grand Touring and Signature trim levels.

Though the 2019 Mazda CX-9 has a competent powertrain, the automaker is upping its torque for the 2020 model year. The SUV's turbocharged 2.5-liter engine now delivers 250 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque when the CX-9 is filled up with 93 octane fuel and 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque when running on 87 octane. This is up 10 pound-feet over the 2019 model.

 G-Vectoring Control Mazda diagram how it worksMazda's G-Vectoring Control helps keep the SUV planted through the corners.Photo courtesy of Mazda North America Operations

The CX-9 is Mazda's first vehicle to offer off-road traction assist, which replaces the traditional traction control button and allows for automatic torque vectoring management. G-Vectoring Control Plus is also standard for 2020.

The base model CX-9, the CX-9 Sport, will now come standard with heated front cloth seats, power driver's seat with lumbar support, Gray Metallic 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated outside mirrors, automatic on/off headlights and automatic high beams.

A 7-inch infotainment scree, LED head- and taillights, one-touch rear and front power windows, tri-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, rearview camera, keyless entry, and push-button start are also standard.

The CX-9 Touring trim adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, leather-trimmed seats, a power-adjustable passenger seat, second-row center armrest with storage, two USB charging ports. A 9-inch infotainment touch screen is available in this grade. Mazda's next-gen key fob design and keyless entry system are standard on this trim, as are second-row power slide and tilt capabilities.

Adding the CX-9 Touring Premium Package gives the model two USB charging ports in the third row, a power moonroof, 12-speaker Bost premium audio system, SiriusXM, LED fog lamps, front and rear parking sensors, and second-row retractable sunshades.

The CX-9 Grand Touring the features and equipment from lower trims and the available Touring Premium Package and adds 20-inch aluminum ally wheels, 360-degree monitor, Active Driving Display with traffic sign recognition, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, automatic folding mirrors, power moonroof, LED door-pocket, LED front door handle and switch, Adaptive Front-lighting System, chrome exterior accents, satin chrome roof rails, windshield wipers de-icer, and overhead front center console illumination.

Second-row captain's chairs are available in models with the CX-9 Touring Premium Package and the Grand Touring trim level. Grand Touring models also get heated second-row seats.

The top-tier Mazda CX-9 Signature model comes standard with second-row captain's chairs. A second-row center console, similar to the one up front, also comes in the model and provides additional storage, USB ports, and cup holders. It comes upholstered in either Deep Chestnut or Parchment Nappa leather. The CX-9 Signature's steering wheel features a unique darker silver finish. It is available with a unique Soul Red Crystal premium exterior paint job. This model also includes a hand-stitched, leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED grille accent lighting, and supplemental interior lighting near the shifter.

Each CX-9 also comes standard with a suite of safety features include adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Advanced Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection, active brake assist with collision warning, lane departure alert, lake keep assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

The 2019 Mazda CX-9 starts at $33,790 and tops out near $46,000, not including destination and delivery charges.

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The CX-50 is surpsingly capable off-road.

Mazda

I have driven all of the Mazda vehicles that have been sold in the US market over the past three decades. On everyday roads and on racetracks. I’ve appreciated their “zoom-zoom”. Good power. Punchy torque just where it was needed. Well-balanced and sporty handling. A bit of growl for the versions that called for it. Plus, tasteful-but-modest styling and more or less elbow room, depending on the model. Mazda’s have been made for sports-car enthusiasts and to ferry families. But, I had never known a Mazda called an “overlander”. Until now.

2023 Mazda CX-50Towing capacity extends to 2,000 pounds.Mazda

The 2023 Mazda CX-50 moves this traction-sophisticated automaker into the lands where the pavement ends and now takes the brand ‘off-track’. Although it’s not a new thing for many of today’s carmakers to add a backcountry model or two to their lineup, it’s new for Mazda. I traveled to Santa Barbara, California to check out this all-new crossover built on Mazda’s seventh-generation small SUV platform that is shared with the smaller CX-30. This 5-passenger utility is longer, lower and wider than the CX-5 that rides on the previous generation’s underpinnings. The CX-50 has been crafted with a roomier second row and more cargo room for the goods and gear that weekend warriors and adventurers want to carry.

The CX-50 comes with a choice of two engines: a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with cylinder deactivation that gets 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and Mazda’s Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo-charged powerplant with 256 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque; both shift through a six-speed automatic transmission. The sport ute can tow up to 2,000 lbs. with the naturally aspirated motor and up to 3,500 lbs. with the turbo-charged mill and Intelligent Drive Select (Mi-Drive) that brings a tow mode as well as Normal, Sport and Off-Road. The newest Mazda model has been made for North America only and is built in Alabama. It is the first Mazda vehicle with auto start/stop that can be deactivated.

2023 Mazda CX-50Mazda is a master of upscale interiors. Mazda

The new crossover starts at $26,800 and comes in S, S Select, S Preferred, S Preferred Plus, S Premium, and S Premium Plus with the base motor. Turb-charged versions come in Turbo, Turbo Premium, and Turbo Premium Plus that tops out at close to $42,000. A long list of technology and safety features are standard or available. Mazda says that Meridian, a fourth turbo trim will arrive soon with even more off-road cred; it will be set up with 18-inch black wheels AT, hood graphics and other backcountry goodies.

When you look at the CX-50, the first thing you’ll notice is exterior styling that speaks to its adventure-ready mission. Muscular bodywork, such as extra cladding, wide fender flairs and larger, more aggressive tires mean that this crossover has been designed not only to give a nod to the looks of a rugged crossover but to provide enhanced traction and a tad more suspension stretch for motoring over uneven terrain and along bumpy dirt roads. Planted on its haunches with functional air vents, it eschews minivan styling with a low and wide footprint that allows owners to have easy access to high-strength roof rails for loading gear on top; the roof has been made stronger than other Mazda crossovers to accommodate heavier loads, such as a roof-top tent. A panoramic moonroof- a first for Mazda- and attractive antiglare hood graphics and are tasteful additions.

The interior is attractive and roomy, with horizontal lines and “cleanable” surfaces as a nod to outdoor endeavors. Our Turbo Premium Plus model had bright orange reverse stitching that popped the cabin that has been crafted with uplevel trims and materials and brought heads-up display. A 7-inch infotainment screen is standard, while the top models get a 10.25-inch version. A wireless charging pad and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on all trims. Of note, is the rear power and programmable liftgate to the wide and deep rear cargo compartment, with a load floor that flush with the liftgate opening to help slide heavy items in and out of the back. An available line of cargo accessories makes stowage easier.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 is family roadtrip ready.Mazda

How did it handle over the 200-plus miles of our ride and drive? The Turbo Premium Plus CX-50 offers a lot like; many of its driving attributes are consistent with Mazda’s tuning and handling priorities across its product line. Traveling along coastal highways, carving mountainous twisties with tight turns and accelerating on flat and straight well-graded pavement, it has great Mazda manners: i.e., there is enough power and torque in the right bandwidth to move it well; precise steering with a slightly heavily-weighted leather-wrapped steering wheel and well-modulated brakes, especially with towing a 3,500-lb. load. We enjoyed using Sport mode for carving corners, as it brings elongated shifts from the six-speed automatic; a crisp response comes when sport shifting in “manual mode” and provides a quick throttle response.

We tried out the Off-Road mode on a course that included flat and uneven dirt roads, as well as hill climb and descent. Although there is no downhill descent control system, the brakes worked well, along with manual gearing. Of note, Mazda would be wide to add downhill descent engineering for steeper and slicker terrain. We were able to test the difference between Normal and Off-Road over a special section of the course with sandy corners and a winding track at a speed of 30 mph showing the improved traction in the Off-Road programming and the aid of Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control that brings a bit of magic to transfer torque to the wheels where it is needed to keep the intended track-think of it like an enhanced traction control program that helps with steering and yaw control.

2023 Mazda CX-50The CX-50 comes with off-road driving modes. Mazda

Other aids for off-road and backcountry travel are: the i-Activ All-Wheel Drive system that is standard equipment on all CX-50s, with a 50/50ish power transfer front to back; 8.6 inches of ground clearance; an 18-degree approach angle and a 24-degree departure angle; and an optional 360-degree camera system.

*EPA reports: base motor fuel economy 24 city/30 highway mpg, while the turbo option gets 23/29 mpg and can run on regular or premium fuel.

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New subcompact crossover

Honda announces freshened HR-V for 2023

The new HR-V is based on the Civic.

Honda

With the release of the all-new Civic and its performance variants, Honda's lineup grew more exciting this year. Even so, the automaker can't forget about its bread and butter models, which in the United States means SUVs. Its smallest, the HR-V, is getting an overhaul for 2023 with fresh styling and a more responsive powertrain. Honda hasn't elaborated on pricing or given out an exact release date for the HR-V, but we know the SUV is coming this summer.

2023 Honda HR-VThe new HR-V gets fresh styling and a more responsive powertrain.Honda

The 2023 HR-V gets a new grille with a longer hood and sweeping roofline. Honda notes that the new HR-V is based on the Civic, so while we don't have full powertrain and tech details for the new SUV, we can draw some inferences from that information. The new Civic comes standard with a 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a CVT, which would be a reasonable choice for the HR-V. As it did in the Civic, the base will likely also bring a lively driving experience and confident handling to the HR-V.

2023 Honda HR-VThe HR-V will hit the streets this summer.Honda

Honda says the HR-V features a large greenhouse with door-mounted mirrors and a low cowl for better visibility. LED headlights and tail lights are standard, and the new rear-end design features a more rounded, grown-up shape than the previous model.

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