2019 Mazda CX-9 vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The CX-9 has standard Smart Brake Support, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Explorer offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

The CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has a standard 360° View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Explorer only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the CX-9 and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive and lane departure warning systems.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Mazda CX-9 is safer than the Explorer:




Overall Evaluation






Head Neck Evaluation



Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

0 cm

13 cm

Chest Evaluation



Hip & Thigh Evaluation



Femur Force R/L

1.3/.2 kN

3.7/2.2 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L



Lower Leg Evaluation



Tibia index R/L



Tibia forces R/L

1.8/.6 kN

2.2/.6 kN

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Mazda CX-9 is safer than the Ford Explorer:





Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.4 inches

.9 inches

Abdominal Force

98 G’s

159 G’s

Hip Force

195 lbs.

214 lbs.


Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Hip Force

582 lbs.

713 lbs.


Into Pole


5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

15 inches

17 inches




Spine Acceleration

35 G’s

56 G’s

Hip Force

553 lbs.

909 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the CX-9 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 62 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Explorer was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.


A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the CX-9’s reliability 36 points higher than the Explorer.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Mazda vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mazda 14th in reliability. With 8 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Mazda vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Mazda third in reliability. Ford is ranked 18th.


As tested in Motor Trend the Mazda CX-9 is faster than the Ford Explorer turbo 4 cyl.:




Zero to 60 MPH

7.4 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.7 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86.1 MPH

84.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the CX-9 gets better fuel mileage than the Explorer:








2.5 turbo 4 cyl.

22 city/28 hwy



2.5 turbo 4 cyl.

20 city/26 hwy




2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

19 city/27 hwy



3.5 DOHC V6

17 city/24 hwy



2.3 turbo 4 cyl.

18 city/25 hwy



3.5 DOHC V6

16 city/24 hwy

The CX-9 AWD’s standard fuel tank has almost a gallon more fuel capacity than the Explorer (19.5 vs. 18.6 gallons).

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the CX-9 has larger tires than the Explorer (255/60R18 vs. 245/60R18).

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the CX-9’s wheelbase is 2.5 inches longer than on the Explorer (115.3 inches vs. 112.8 inches).

The CX-9 Signature AWD handles at .85 G’s, while the Explorer Sport 4WD pulls only .83 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The CX-9 Signature AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1 seconds quicker than the Explorer Limited 4WD (26.7 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.7 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the CX-9’s turning circle is .1 feet tighter than the Explorer Base/XLT/Limited’s (38.8 feet vs. 38.9 feet). The CX-9’s turning circle is 1.2 feet tighter than the Explorer Sport’s (38.8 feet vs. 40 feet).

For greater off-road capability the CX-9 has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (8.8 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the CX-9 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.


As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the CX-9 Signature AWD is quieter than the Explorer Sport 4WD:




At idle

37 dB

37 dB


71 dB

73 dB

70 MPH Cruising

66 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

The CX-9 has .6 inches more rear hip room and 2.3 inches more third row shoulder room than the Explorer.

Cargo Capacity

The CX-9’s cargo area is larger than the Explorer’s in almost every dimension:




Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)



Max Width



Min Width







The CX-9’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (3500 vs. 2000 pounds).


The CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Explorer doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The CX-9’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Explorer’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

The CX-9 has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The Explorer doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The CX-9’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Explorer’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Explorer doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The CX-9 has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Explorer and isn’t available on the Explorer Base.

The CX-9’s standard automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Explorer Base doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the CX-9 owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the CX-9 will cost $270 less than the Explorer over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the CX-9 is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because it costs $117 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the CX-9 than the Explorer, including $216 less for a muffler and $309 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Mazda CX-9 will be $1948 to $6382 less than for the Ford Explorer.


Consumer Reports® recommends the Mazda CX-9, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The CX-9 was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Five/10Best Trucks” for 4 of the last 12 years. The Explorer has never been a Car and Driver “Top Five/10Best Truck” pick.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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