Just what, you may be asking yourself, are we thinking by comparing the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace and the 2016 Mazda CX-9? The Mazda, after all, is a turbo-4 three-row crossover from a brand that emphasizes affordable performance, while the supercharged V-6-powered F-Pace wouldn’t be out of place creeping up a gravel driveway toward a luxury home in the Cotswolds.
Actually, they have a little more in common than you might expect, which is why we’re putting them up against one another. One caveat is that we haven’t been able to rate the CX-9 using our new scoring system, so for now this isn’t a totally fair comparison. The F-Pace, for its part, scores a solid 8.0. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2017 Jaguar F-Pace and 2016 Mazda CX-9
Here’s where these two crossovers begin to seem comparable. In terms of seating capacity, they’re effectively on par with one another. The CX-9 does come with a third row of seats, but space back there is decidedly compromised. If you want to haul around adults, or even teenagers, the CX-9 isn’t the crossover for you.
And then there’s the price tag: While you can certainly buy a CX-9 for around 37,000, that’s a front-wheel drive model. Step up to the Grand Touring and Signature trim levels, and your CX-9 is priced the same as a more modestly-equipped F-Pace. Sure, the Mazdas will have a few more features, but the price disparity isn’t nearly as great as you might expect. For those who are financing or leasing, that may work out to only a few bucks a month separating the two.
For its part, the Jaguar comes with a 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that also covers all scheduled maintenance.
Suddenly the divide isn’t as big as you thought, right?
Let’s first have a look at the CX-9. This latest model is the follow-up to Mazda’s original three-row crossover, which shared its platform and powertrain with the Ford Edge. Today’s CX-9, however, is all-new, and under its hood sits not a V-6 but a 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine. It’s rated at 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and it sends power to the front or all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic.
Though we know that Mazda builds some of the most pure sporting cars to ever hit the road, the CX-9 represents something of a conundrum to us. Its engine never feels as powerful as its rating implies, despite a relatively lithe curb weight, while the crossover’s ride quality is decidedly stiff. And there’s something missing in its steering; oddly, we liked the setup in its predecessor even more, dated as that vehicle had become.
The CX-9 Touring serves as the entry-level model, but unlike its more obvious rivals like the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander, the term “base model” doesn’t really apply here. The Touring includes leather upholstery, a proximity key, rear cross traffic alert, a blind spot monitor, and 18-inch alloy wheels. The Grand Touring adds about $4,000 worth of Bose audio, automatic emergency braking, navigation, and LED adaptive headlamps. Topping the line is the decadent, all-wheel drive-only Signature, which features Nappa leather and French stitching throughout the cabin, as well as open pore wood-looking trim.
The CX-9’s interior is a stunner, but it loses some points for practicality—and that’s yet another reason why we don’t automatically lump it in with its workaday family-oriented siblings. Between the front seats sits a tall console not designed with small item storage in mind, but instead to envelope the passengers as you might see in a sports car. Row two is a little more accommodating, but even it feels narrower than some competitors intended specifically for human-hauling. And the aforementioned third row feels like an afterthought; while there is room back there for children, we expect most CX-9 drivers will simply fold the seats flat. After all, there’s precious little space behind the third row with the seats upright, anyway.
Jaguar offers a choice of 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel or 3.0-liter supercharged gasoline V-6 engines. With 180 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque, the diesel isn’t a rocket ship but it delivers up to 33 mpg on the highway. Opt for the V-6 and performance is stellar. It’s rated at 340 hp on most F-Paces or 380 hp on the F-Pace S. It’s quick, and the exhaust sounds want you to know it, which can wear on passengers after a few hundred miles of driving. Ostensibly, the F-Pace goes up against the Porsche Macan in terms of its sporty positioning. It succeeds, delivering a driving experience that is genuinely thrilling. While the Mazda has some sporty cues to the behind-the-wheel experience, the Jaguar ultimately feels far more polished.
Its passengers aren’t exactly treated to a traditional Jaguar interior, however. While Jaguar was once known for is cozy cabins that felt like smoking rooms on wheels, today the F-Pace delivers a more stark environment. It does offer decent space for five and their luggage, but any additional passengers will need to ride in a second car. he F-Pace has very firm and flat seats, with just a bit of lumbar adjustment, and a high driving position for the commanding view of the road that draws drivers to SUVs in the first place.
The F-Pace comes in a wide array of trim configurations, but for the purpose of this comparison we’ll just look at the lower-spec models. You’ll net standard Meridian-branded audio, a decent touchscreen infotainment system, and a panoramic roof for less than $45,000. Though you’re sitting on synthetic leather upholstery, the base F-Pace otherwise feels fairly high-buck. It does take opting for the pricier Prestige trim level to sit on proper cow hide and to replace some of the basic black plastic interior trim with something a little classier, however.
So, what’s the verdict here—is the CX-9 a value-oriented F-Pace alternative, or is the F-Pace worth the few extra bucks over the CX-9?
Although we haven’t rated the Mazda for 2017 yet, we think the F-Pace wins this one. It’s simply more polished and more decidedly sporty, without relying on a firm ride and heavy steering to mask some of its chassis weaknesses like the Mazda does.
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