Interior view of the 2015 Mazda CX-9

Third row seating, leather, entertainment system, premium sound, all wheel drive, the list can go on, for the luxuries available in this SUV, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt.

Exterior view of the 2015 Mazda CX-9

Exterior view of the 2015 Mazda CX-9

What do you consider a luxury item on the family car? Is it leather seats, a moon roof or a premium sound system? No? So, would your top vote go to an onboard entertainment system to stem boredom among the troops?

Not so much for me. My luxury item would be extra seatbelts for those times when the kids want to bring along friends, or for when relatives are in town. Give me a car that has a third row of seats, and I’m very happy.

And that’s exactly what you’ll find with the 2015 Mazda CX-9 – a third row of seats that can fold down flat when it’s just you and your core tribe, or pull up into position when you need those two extra seatbelts. Or, with this version, a multi-configuration seating situation that can also accommodate long items for transport from the home and garden store. Now we’re talking luxury!

Mazda classifies its CX-9 as a mid-sized SUV, which means it is just about right-sized. Not too large so that you feel as if you’re steering the QE2, or so tight on space for third row passengers that only the family chihuahua would be comfortable back there.

The CX-9 has been around for a while, and is available in three trims: the Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. It has a V-6 engine, and All-Wheel-Drive is available. So, for the 2015 models you will find just a few changes, including a new recreational accessories package and new exterior colors.

The 3.7-liter V6 engine delivers 273 horsepower at 6,250, which means there is enough power at hand when you need quick acceleration and passing performance. Front wheel drive is standard. If you opt for the All-Wheel-Drive version, the system has been designed to rapidly adjust to changing traction needs by monitoring wheel slippage, steering angle, yaw rate, and lateral acceleration, all of which may happen on slick and slippery roads.

Exterior view of the 2015 Mazda CX-9

Exterior view of the 2015 Mazda CX-9

Standard safety features include six air bags, an anti-lock braking system with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Dynamic Stability Control and a Traction Control System, as well as Roll Stability Control, and front and side crumple zones. On the more upscale Touring and Grand Touring models, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Traffic Cross Alert and rear backup sensors and a rear view camera are included.

Behind the wheel, you’ll find a dashboard that is white on black, to minimize visual fatigue and other sensory distractions, according to Mazda press materials. Clear readouts can be seen even in bright daylight and don’t have a bright glare at night. A center console has space that is deep enough to hold a purse, which is a luxury for women.

The interior is roomy, with plenty of room to stretch out legs for rear passengers, and hip and headroom all around.

The third row of seats can be easily folded down or pulled into the “up” position with straps. When in the up position, there is 17.2 cubic feet of space back there, plenty to hold all the trappings of family life.

Several additional packages are available: a Rear Seat Entertainment Package, a Towing Prep package and a Technology Package. If you opt for all three, now you’re really talking luxury.

Overall, we found the 2015 Mazda CX-9 to be large and roomy enough, and flexible enough in its seating configurations, to adapt to rapidly changing family needs. The V6 engine is quick and responsive and visibility for the driver is good. As far as family vehicles go, this one fits many needs.