Certified Benz & Beemer Compares 2015 Ford Explorer VS 2015 Mazda CX-9 Near Scottsdale, AZ

Responsive image

2015 Ford Explorer

Responsive image

2015 Mazda CX-9

Safety Comparison

The middle row seatbelts optional on the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport inflate when a collision is detected, helping to spread crash forces over a much larger area of the body and limiting head and neck movement. This can help prevent spinal and internal injuries. The CX-9 doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.

The Explorer Limited/Sport offers an optional collision warning system, which detects an impending crash through forward mounted sensors and flashes a bright light and sounds a loud, distinctive tone to warn the driver to brake or maneuver immediately to avoid a collision. The system also pre-charges the brakes to begin deceleration more quickly. The CX-9 doesn't offer a collision warning system.

The Explorer Limited’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Explorer’s optional 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.

Compared to metal, the Explorer’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Mazda CX-9 has a metal gas tank.

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, front-wheel drive, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding and available all wheel drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Explorer is safer than the Mazda CX-9:




5 Stars

3 Stars



4 Stars

3 Stars

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

305 lbs.

357 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

452/475 lbs.

1333/496 lbs.



5 Stars

3 Stars

Chest Compression

.4 inches

.9 inches

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

159 lbs.

179 lbs.

Neck Compression

31 lbs.

116 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

440/468 lbs.

362/627 lbs.

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

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 Ford Explorer is safer than the Mazda CX-9:



Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars




Chest Movement

.8 inches

1 inches

Abdominal Force

135 G’s

166 G’s

Hip Force

295 lbs.

397 lbs.

Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars




Spine Acceleration

32 G’s

44 G’s

Hip Force

524 lbs.

739 lbs.

Into Pole


5 Stars

3 Stars

Spine Acceleration

53 G’s

55 G’s

Hip Force

676 lbs.

1096 lbs.

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

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS) performs roof strength tests. In that test the Explorer earned the top rating of “Good” because its roof supported over four times the Explorer’s weight before being crushed five inches. The CX-9 was rated two rankings lower at “Marginal.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the general design of front seat head restraints for their ability to protect front seat occupants from whiplash injuries. The IIHS also performs a dynamic test on those seats with “good” or “acceptable” geometry. In these ratings, the Explorer is safer then the CX-9:



Overall Evaluation



Head Restraint Design



Distance from Back of Head

28 mm

60 mm

Dynamic Test Rating



Seat Design



Torso Acceleration

9 g’s

12.9 g’s

Neck Force Rating



Max Neck Shearing Force



Max Neck Tension



(Lower numerical results are better in all tests.)

Warranty Comparison

There are almost 6 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 Comparison

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Explorer has a standard 175-amp alternator (200-amp - Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport). The CX-9’s 110-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2014 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 16th in initial quality. With 23 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mazda is ranked 28th.

Engine Comparison

The Explorer’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 17 more horsepower (290 vs. 273) than the CX-9’s 3.7 DOHC V6. The Explorer Sport’s standard 3.5 turbo V6 produces 92 more horsepower (365 vs. 273) and 80 lbs.-ft. more torque (350 vs. 270) than the CX-9’s 3.7 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer 4 cyl. FWD gets better fuel mileage than the CX-9 FWD (20 city/28 hwy vs. 17 city/24 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer 4WD with its standard engine gets better fuel mileage than the CX-9 AWD (17 city/23 hwy vs. 16 city/22 hwy).

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.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

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



Front Rotors

12.8 inches

12.6 inches

The Explorer stops much shorter than the CX-9:



70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

192 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

135 feet

150 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

145 feet

161 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the Explorer’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CX-9 (255/50R20 vs. 245/60R18).

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The Explorer has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The CX-9’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 1.9 inches wider in the front and 2.3 inches wider in the rear than on the CX-9.

The Explorer Limited 4WD handles at .81 G’s, while the CX-9 Grand Touring AWD pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Explorer Limited 4WD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1 seconds quicker than the CX-9 Grand Touring AWD (27.4 seconds @ .61 average G’s vs. 28.4 seconds @ .58 average G’s).

Chassis Comparison

The Explorer is 3.5 inches shorter than the CX-9, making the Explorer easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

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



At idle

35 dB

41 dB

70 MPH Cruising

68 dB

73 dB

Passenger Space Comparison

The Explorer has 12.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CX-9 (151.7 vs. 139.4).

The Explorer has 1.8 inches more front headroom, 2.2 inches more front legroom, .8 inches more front hip room, 1.9 inches more front shoulder room, 1.5 inches more rear headroom, .7 inches more rear hip room, 2.3 inches more rear shoulder room, 2.4 inches more third row headroom and .8 inches more third row legroom than the CX-9.

The Explorer offers an optional rear tailgate seat that can be flipped rearward and used for tailgate picnics. (Do not use seat reversed while vehicle in motion.) The CX-9 doesn’t offer a rear tailgate seat.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

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



Behind Third Seat

21 cubic feet

17.2 cubic feet

The Explorer has a standard third row seat which folds flat into the floor. This completely clears a very large cargo area quickly. The CX-9 doesn’t offer seats that fold into the floor.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Explorer Limited/Sport’s optional 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.

Ergonomics Comparison

The Explorer Limited’s standard easy entry system 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.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport’s exterior keypad. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an exterior keypad 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 Sport/Touring’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. When the ignition turns off, the headlights turn off after a delay timed to allow you to securely get to your front door. The CX-9 has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Grand Touring.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Explorer Limited detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The CX-9 doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

Both the Explorer and the CX-9 offer available heated front seats. The Explorer Limited also offers optional heated second row seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated second row seats aren’t available in the CX-9.

The Explorer Limited/Sport’s optional air conditioned front seats cool the driver and front passenger and help take the sting out of hot leather in Summer. The CX-9 doesn’t offer air conditioned front seats.

On extremely cold Winter days, the Explorer Limited’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the vehicle heater warms up. The CX-9 doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Explorer Limited/Sport offers an optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The Explorer Limited’s optional Active Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The CX-9 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages Comparison

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Explorer is less expensive to operate than the CX-9 because typical repairs cost much less on the Explorer than the CX-9, including $141 less for a water pump, $20 less for front brake pads, $54 less for fuel injection, $48 less for a fuel pump, $24 less for front struts, $183 less for a timing belt/chain and $351 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations Comparison

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the Explorer as the 2011 North American Truck of the Year. The CX-9 was Truck of the Year in 2008.

The Ford Explorer outsold the Mazda CX-9 by over eleven to one during the 2014 model year.

© 1991-2016 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. Who We Are
Click here to view the disclaimers, limitations and notices about EPA fuel mileage, crash tests, coprights, trademarks, and other issues.