Four guys and the Mazda CX-9

Weekends: Four-guys road trip to the Rockies in 2016 Mazda CX-9

As an auto journalist, I’m always on the look-out for interesting, engaging stories. Sometimes those stories are found closer to home than expected. My 22-year old son Austin is “car guy” as well. During a long weekend late last year, he and three friends decided it was time for a road trip to restore their focus before year-end university finals. Mazda Canada was kind enough to supply the perfect ride for the trip: a 2016 Mazda CX-9 featuring all-wheel-drive and navigation. What else could four 22-year old lads need to criss-cross the province? Not much apparently. The story below is told by Austin but is the product of the four minds collectively. Enjoy!

On a cold November morning before sunrise, I tossed gear into the hatch of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 and began the first leg of the Fantastic Four road trip. With the approach of winter, the plan was to drive for two days, covering as much of Beautiful B.C. as possible. The destination? Glacier National Park on the cusp of the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Fuelled mostly by coffee, it was up to me – Austin – to pick up the boys: Nick, Jonah, and Patrick. Upon arrival at chateau Nick and chateau Jonah, both boys eagerly jumped into the CX-9 ready to tackle the many hours of driving ahead. Unfortunately, Patrick was still asleep when we arrived to pick him up, claiming that his alarm clock had magically turned itself off overnight.

Of course, we didn’t buy this excuse, especially coming from a man who is invariably late and never ready. After a quick discussion, we concluded the appropriate course of action would be to leave Patrick behind and begin the journey, minus one. However, we quickly realized that he was in charge of meals; if we wanted to eat, we needed Patrick.

Dazed and confused, Pat dropped into the car in a stupor after clearly staying up too late. With all the boys loaded, and with ample space to spare thanks to the CX-9’s commodious cargo bay, we zoom zoomed away from Vancouver feeling apprehensive over our unpreparedness.

Coddled in the blissful comfort of the CX-9, Nick soon belted out “we’re rolling to Rolly’s boys,” as we headed east on the TransCanada Highway. Rolly’s being a diner in Hope B.C. with some of the finest road grub this side of the Rockies.

Pulling into Rolly’s, we piled out to slam some chopped beef, latkes, and Yorkshire rarebits, thus filling our gullets with quality eats. The lads were a little grossed-out as my lightly poached eggs slid from my plate, splitting open on my lap.

Not discouraged by my egg-cident, and with our stomachs aching from food and laughter, we climbed back into the CX-9 embracing its road-trip awesomeness. Next stop: the Shuswap Pie Company in Salmon Arm for their fabled bumble berry pie.

Eight hours and hundreds of kilometres later we found ourselves devouring an entire pie while reflecting on some key attributes of the new Mazda CX-9. We opined on the peppiness of its turbocharged 2.5L inline-4 power plant, which gleefully produced 250 horsepower on premium fuel (227 on regular) and 310 lb-ft of torque.

2016 Mazda CX-9

The punch underfoot really enhanced our hill-climbing and highway passing abilities, and won our unanimous seal of approval. Despite its extra zoom zoom, the CX-9 threw back a little more gas than expected.

Though rated at 8.8L/100km on the highway, we averaged 11-ishL/100km. Of course, Mazda’s third-row equipped, AWD SUV was dutifully carrying four dudes on mountainous roads with heaps of camping equipment and supplies necessary for a cold night in the Rockies (what were we thinking??), so it was quite acceptable considering.

While there was no consensus on who ate the most pie, there was consensus on the styling of the CX-9’s luxurious leather-trimmed cabin. All in attendance thought it youthful, functional, and actually pretty cool for an SUV. There was also no argument about the CX-9’s exterior styling; definitely a stand-out in a field of mid-size SUV mediocrity.

After grabbing some mustard-soaked buddy burgers at A&W to wash down the pie, we zoom zoomed toward the glistening snow-capped peaks of B.C.’s Glacier National Park. Arriving at the park, we were met with diminishing daylight and foggy conditions, and as a result, relatively limited views.

Realizing that all legit camping spots were closed for the winter season (d’oh), we panicked and fled the park fearing that its adverse conditions may lead to our untimely deaths. Fortunately, with use of the CX-9’s state-of-the-art navigation system, accessed through an ergonomic controller and user-friendly 7-inch touchscreen, we quickly identified a suitable place along a riverbank to pitch our tent. An abandoned bridge to nowhere provided much-needed cover for cooking.

Hungry yet alive, our next challenge was that of food; this time self-produced. But alas, the stove was broken from a previous road trip, and we had not only forgotten to fix it, we had forgotten the problem entirely. The culinary four-course meal that Patrick had promised us was rapidly slipping from the grasp of our frozen fingers.

Luckily, the cunning of the boys prevailed, and using only chewed gum, medical tape, and elbow grease, we restored the stove to full functionality.

Patrick didn’t let us down:

1st course – roasted potatoes
2nd course – corn and bacon copied from one of the best-rated restaurants in the world
3rd course – pork banh mi sandwiches with homemade pickles
4th course – fried cinnamon sugar bananas

All that was left to do was eat and sleep.

After waking up questionably restored and refreshed from our slumber in the vastness of the great outdoors, we quickly dismantled camp, stopped for a grease soaked fast-food breakfast, and set our course on a 600 km detour towards the Columbia River and the renowned Nakusp Hot Springs.

After a quick ferry crossing of B.C.’s majestic Columbia River, we continued our trek to the mineral-rich waters of the hot springs, eager to wash off the grime from the night before. The drive to Nakusp was a real treat; twists, turns, elevation changes, and loose gravel; yes, we praised the sporty handling of the CX-9 while comforted by the effectiveness of its traction control system.

Nestled in the Kootenays, it would be an understatement to say that the Nakusp Hot Springs were relaxing; they were utter and complete Nirvana despite the bizarre clientele and exorbitant prices. Back on the road feeling clean and relaxed, we charted our course via the nav system to the second ferry crossing, and with that, another step closer to home.

Waiting for the ferry

After our second crossing of the Columbia, this time on a tiny cable-operated vessel, the CX-9 soaked up the kilometers with composure and grace as we snacked with far less of either on our cheese platter and spicy sausages, not wanting to lose daylight stopping for food.

Sticking with the road-less-travelled theme of our trip, we decided to test the off-road capability of the Mazda, opting for a 100km unmarked and unlit dirt road rather than the trans-Canada highway.

Though this detour was a bit spooky with unattended fires lining the road, we managed to avoid the late-night quad riders and families of deer, and emerged back on the highway unscathed. Sadly, with no more exciting detours or exotic attractions were left between our warm beds and us as we soldiered home through the darkness with the CX-9 keeping us comfortable and safe.

What we thought would be a relaxing ride home turned out to be a battle against Mother Nature herself. Torrential downpours relentlessly pounded the Mazda’s windshield, drastically reducing visibility.

Relying on the CX-9’s bright LED headlights and the vehicle’s full-suite of safety technologies and driver assists, we easily kept it between the lines, powering through to Vancouver with many laughs and great memories fueling our way.

The next day, after being too tired to unload the car the previous night, the true severity of the Mazda’s untidiness became apparent. As we cleaned the car, we recalled the many memorable moments from our brief but bohemian sweep through Southern British Columbia.

In recounting the tales, we concluded that the Mazda CX-9 was an outstanding partner in every respect. Considering the trials and tribulations it faced during our unorthodox pilgrimage from Vancouver to the tip of the Rocky Mountains, we now count ourselves as the Fantastic Five: Austin, Jonah, Patrick, Nick, and Mazda.

Until next time Mazda.

Your pals,

Austin, Jonah, Nick, Patrick.
Vancouver B.C.

2016 Mazda CX-9

Trim level: GS-L AWD
Price as tested: $41,500
Freight: $1,895
Engine: Turbocharged 2.5L I-4, 227-250 horsepower, 310 lb-ft torque
Fuel-economy FWD: 10.5L/100km city, 8.3L/100km highway
Fuel-economy AWD: 11.2L/100km city, 8.8L/100km highway
Seating capacity: 7
Competitors: GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorrento, Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander

Related links:

Mazda Canada

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