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2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE review

It’s been a kingpin of the seven-seat SUV market for a number of years now, but soon Mazda Australia will be retiring the CX-9 to make room for the CX-90 and the upcoming CX-80.

We thought we take one last look at the flagship variant for you as we could be about to see some enticing run-out deals appear in showrooms. Specifically, we’re looking at the 2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: Specifications

Engine: 2.5-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 170kW@5000rpm / 420Nm@2000rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 20×8.5, 255/50
ANCAP: Five stars
Kerb weight: 2011kg
Power-to-weight: 11.82:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 9.0L/100km
Our consumption: 11L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 74L/91 RON
Power efficiency: 18.88kW:L/100km
3.83 seconds*
0-100km/h: 7.89 seconds*
60-110km/h: 5.44 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.98 seconds at 143.2km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.623g*
100-0km/h braking: 3.34 seconds at 43.70 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.115g*
Decibel at idle: 37*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 80*
Starting price: $74,400

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-rear

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: How much does it cost?

Mazda Australia currently offers a comprehensive 11 different variants of the CX-9, although these are split in half with front- and all-wheel drive options. Trim grades span from Sport, Touring, GT, GT SP, Azami and Azami LE.

The LE is only available with AWD and starts from $74,400. At the other end of the spectrum, the FWD Sport kicks off from a respectable $47,600 (all excluding on-roads). It’s both a good and bad thing that all versions feature the same 2.5-litre turbo-petrol engine; on one hand the entry models don’t miss out on higher-spec engines, but on the other there is no exclusivity for the top-spec models, in terms of power.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-interior

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: Interior & packaging

Mazda has been making some of the most visually-pleasing SUVs in recent years, and the CX-9 has long been one of the standouts in the field. The Azami LE is packed to the brim with luxury and tech, and it looks the most impressive on the outside, showcasing a range of chrome trimmings as well as a set of 20-inch alloy wheels (same as Azami).

The moment you step into the Azami LE’s cabin you know you’re in for something special. Most areas are covered in either soft leather (Nappa for the seats) or soft-touch premium materials, and it’s all put together with excellent fit and finish.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-seats

Despite being around five years old now the CX-9 interior still looks modern and distinctive. The two-tone dash and door cards provide an intimate feel yet it manages to avoid seeming cramped or confined. As a unique luxury touch the Azami LE offers only six seats, with a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row replacing the usual three-seater bench.

Technology is a key focus for Mazda and in the Azami LE, it doesn’t disappoint. The 10.25-inch infotainment system, featuring the Mazda Connect interface, is intuitive to use and visually striking. It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making smartphone integration a breeze. The 12-speaker Bose premium audio system delivers superb sound quality too, transforming your road trips into a personal concert.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-rear seats

For the driver there’s 7.0-inch TFT display nestled between two analog gauges. It’s a multifunctional screen that can display a plethora of information, from navigation instructions to the active safety system status. This provides a customisable and convenient experience for the driver.

Moving to the back, the second-row passengers are treated to their own luxuries, including heated/ventilated seats, and sunshades for added privacy and comfort. Legroom is expandable thanks to sliding chairs, but moving back can obviously impede on third-row space.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-rear console

Speaking of which, third row space is best left for kids but acceptable for average or below-average-height adults. Passengers back here still get their own climate vents ensuring everyone onboard remains thermally comfortable.

Right at the back, the boot volume is listed at 230L with all three rows up, or 810L with the third row folded. The CX-9 LE also offers a braked towing capacity of 2000kg, which doesn’t look good against some of its more rugged, body-on-frame large SUV rivals.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-boot

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: Powertrain & handling

Under the bonnet, all CX-9 variants are powered by a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing a sturdy 170kW at 5000rpm, and 420Nm at 2000rpm. It’s not the most powerful unit in this class but that torque is particularly strong for a petrol four-cylinder.

Mated to the engine is an ageing six-speed automatic transmission that delivers smooth and consistent gear changes. It might not be the most advanced transmission out there but it gets the job done. Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus is also on board to enhance handling and stability by subtly adjusting engine torque in response to steering inputs.

On the road, the CX-9 Azami LE exhibits a composed and refined ride, with hints of body roll when pushed hard. The suspension tuning seems to be on the softer side but the sporty and engaging steering balances it out somewhat. The cabin remains remarkably quiet even at highway speeds, making it a relaxing cruiser on the highway – perfect for family road trips.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-length

While it mightn’t offer sports car agility, it does deliver a level of driving engagement that’s unusual in the large SUV segment. Simply put, it feels nice and encouraging to drive, and on pretty much any road. The power from the turbo engine is delivered smoothly, providing brisk acceleration, with 0-100km/h coming up in a Vbox-timed 7.89 seconds. Put it all together and it leaves a great taste in your mouth, which is a testament to the overall packaging that Mazda compiled together.

Fuel economy is respectable for a vehicle of this size, but it does lack mild-hybrid assistance like some of its rivals and even siblings (the CX-90). Expect to achieve around 10-11L/100km in mixed conditions, depending on your driving habits.

It’s not class-leading but quite decent for a three-row SUV with this level of luxury and power, and petrol engine. The official average is 9.0L/100km, translating to a theoretical average range of 822km with its 74L tank. It’s worth noting this engine does accept 91 RON fuel.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-headlights

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: Key attractions/reasons to buy

The Azami LE can redefine what you might expect from a large SUV in terms of interior quality and craftsmanship. It’s loaded with premium materials, from Nappa leather to genuine wood accents, creating a sense of opulence that rivals more expensive European brands.

We also like the 10.25-inch infotainment system and Mazda Connect interface, both of which are very user-friendly. Having a hand controller system on the console also helps to reduce distraction while driving, in our opinion.

Lastly, the size and overall comfort are near the front of the class in our opinion. Adding to the really smooth ride and easy-to-drive nature, the CX-9 LE is huge inside and very relaxing. It is perfect for busy families, and perhaps more so to those with older kids so everyone can enjoy the exclusive LE treatment.

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE-wheels

2023 Mazda CX-9 Azami LE: Key considerations before you buy

While the Azami LE can technically seat six, the third row is a bit cramped for adults. It’s best suited to children or for occasional use. If you frequently need to transport adults in the third row, this isn’t the ideal choice in this class.

The other main consideration is its age. Mazda is busy working on all-new platforms with all-new levels of safety and technology. And in the process, the CX-9 can feel left behind; fuel economy isn’t particularly favourable against the current standards and the digital screen sizes are small in comparison, if that’s important to you.

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X-factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The CX-9 has had an exceptional run as one of the more refined and nicer-designed options in the 7-seat SUV segment. Some areas are starting to show signs of age, though, including powertrain efficiency and in-car tech. It’s now up to the CX-90 and CX-80 to take the batton.

Brett Davis

Brett started out as a motor mechanic, but eventually became frustrated working on cars that weren't his. He then earned a degree in journalism and scored a job at Top Gear Australia back in 2008, and then worked at Zoom/Extreme Performance magazines, CarAdvice, and started PerformanceDrive/PDriveTV in 2011 with Josh Bennis, and ran it for 12 years. He's now the owner and managing editor here at Driving Enthusiast.

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