2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Mazda CX-9

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the Explorer and CX-9 have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The CX-9’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Explorer has standard Post Collision Braking, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard Reverse Brake Assist that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The CX-9 doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

When descending a steep, off-road slope, the Explorer 4WD’s standard Hill Descent Control allows you to creep down safely. The CX-9 doesn’t offer Hill Descent Control.

The Explorer’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Explorer and the CX-9 have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, blind spot warning systems, rearview cameras, rear cross-path warning, available all wheel drive and around view monitors.

Warranty

There are over 5 times as many Ford dealers as there are Mazda dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 11 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 12th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Ford vehicles are more reliable than Mazda vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford 16th in reliability. With 13 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 21st.

Engine

The Explorer’s standard 2.3 turbo 4 cyl. produces 50 more horsepower (300 vs. 250) than the CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer’s optional 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 68 more horsepower (318 vs. 250) and 12 lbs.-ft. more torque (322 vs. 310) than the CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer Platinum’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 115 more horsepower (365 vs. 250) and 70 lbs.-ft. more torque (380 vs. 310) than the CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. The Explorer ST’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 150 more horsepower (400 vs. 250) and 105 lbs.-ft. more torque (415 vs. 310) than the CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer 4WD 2.3 turbo gets better fuel mileage than the CX-9 AWD (20 city/27 hwy vs. 20 city/26 hwy).

Regenerative brakes improve the Explorer Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Explorer’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The CX-9 doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the CX-9.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s front brake rotors are larger than those on the CX-9:

Explorer

Explorer ST

Explorer ST opt.

CX-9

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

12.8 inches

13.8 inches

12.8 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the CX-9 are solid, not vented.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-9 (275/45R21 vs. 255/60R18).

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The CX-9’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The CX-9 doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The CX-9 doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 3.8 inches longer than on the CX-9 (119.1 inches vs. 115.3 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 1.6 inches wider in the front and 1.7 inches wider in the rear than on the CX-9.

Chassis

The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The CX-9 doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Explorer Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The CX-9 doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has 17.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CX-9 (152.7 vs. 135.1).

The Explorer has 1.4 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front legroom, 2.5 inches more front hip room, 3.9 inches more front shoulder room, 2 inches more rear headroom, 1.7 inches more rear hip room, 3.8 inches more rear shoulder room, 3.5 inches more third row headroom, 2.5 inches more third row legroom, .8 inches more third row hip room and 1.5 inches more third row shoulder room than the CX-9.

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the CX-9.

Explorer

CX-9

Behind Third Seat

18.2 cubic feet

14.4 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

47.9 cubic feet

38.2 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

87.8 cubic feet

71.2 cubic feet

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

Explorer

CX-9

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

20.8”/49.8”/83.9”

21.4”/49.7”/84.5”

Max Width

59”

57.2”

Min Width

48.1”

40”

Height

33.7”

30.3”

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Explorer’s second and third row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The CX-9 doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

A standard locking glovebox keeps your small valuables safer in the Explorer. The CX-9 doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

Maximum trailer towing in the Mazda CX-9 is limited to 3500 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the CX-9. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Explorer and the CX-9 have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Explorer is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The CX-9 prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

On a hot day the Explorer’s driver can lower all the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the CX-9 can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

The Explorer’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The CX-9’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Explorer has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The CX-9 only offers an automatic headlight on/off feature as an extra cost option.

The Explorer’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Mazda charges extra for heated mirrors on the CX-9.

The Explorer ST/Platinum has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The CX-9 offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum has a 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Mazda CX-9 by over 9 to one during 2018.

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

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