HUDs, leather and lights – Mazda CX-9 like you’ve never seen it before

Have you ever heard of a HUD? Neither had I. Not until I hopped in the driver’s seat of a new Mazda CX-9 SP Edition and started driving. With one weekend to give this snazzy SUV a whirl, I set the GPS for QT Sydney and off we go. Aside from the traffic (hello Sydney), there’s suddenly a little digital display on my windscreen! I’ve got my speed and handy little arrows pointing out directions directly in my line of sight. My hubby just about pushes me out of the drivers seat when he realises the car has a Heads Up Display (aka the HUD, you’re welcome!). This HUD actually has Active Driving Display, which means along with the speedometer reading, there’s the actual speed zone, handy displays like ‘BRAKE!’ when you get close to a red light and the directions that are helping me zoom straight into the CBD without getting stuck in traffic snarls.

The HUD is excellent after dark, which is great as we’re off on a Mazda After Dark adventure. First stop, navigating the city car park. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was nervous. I’m driving a three row SUV (there’s three rows of seats), capable of getting seven people roomily from a to b but how will it go in a multi-level car park? Turns out Mazda saw me coming. The combination of a reversing camera popping up on a 10.5 inch widescreen display, multiple parking sensors and large side mirrors means I tackle the parking spot like a champ, if I do say so myself.

The hard part done, it’s time for check in at QT Sydney. We grab our overnight bags from the boot – which opens and closes hands free via the key, a button inside the boot, or by swiping your foot underneath the tailgate – and head inside. Smack bang in the centre of Sydney’s CBD, QT Sydney is dark and moody, full of quirks like hands coming out of the wall holding each room number and avant garde art that makes all other hotel art look bland. Walking in off Market Street, we go from the bright bustle of the city to a cool, edgy quiet that reminds me of being backstage at a play. After a soak in a truly beautiful tub, and a power nap, it’s time to reward myself for the parking prowess with a drink. Or two.

Stop one is Door Knock, a bar that’s hidden so far inside a non-descript building on Pitt Street that I’m surprised we don’t pop up in St James Station. After a long walk down a candlelit corridor, three knocks of the brass pineapple doorknocker and, we’re in. Half tiki bar half hipster haunt, Door Knock is perfect on a nippy Sydney night. We dive straight into the wine list, where there’s an entire Orange wine section, Pét-Nat and even fortified wines to choose from. They love their wine but they’re not afraid to have fun at Door Knock, so there’s a solid cocktail list too.

Our next stop takes us further along Pitt Street to Abercrombie Lane, where stairs lead underneath the city to an original Sydney speakeasy, Palmer & Co. With the perfect mix of décor detailing and staff costuming, Palmer & Co. takes you straight back to the roaring 20s. I could sit all night sipping Charlie Chaplins, a smooth mix of Plymouth Sloe Gin, Apricot Brandy and Lime, watching the hostess move through the room in her pink ballgown.

Alas, it’s time for dinner, which takes us back up to Wynyard where Bopp & Tone’s bar awaits. We’re skipping the fine dining for high seats at the bar, where we order a carafe of red wine and steak frites so I can pretend I’m in New York for an hour or two. High ceilings, dark timber panelling and delicate chandeliers take me straight to Manhattan.

Back to Sydney, it’s Sunday morning and time for checkout and a cruisey drive. Traffic comes with the territory, especially on a Sunday, but with the sunroof open and a few tunes playing through Apple CarPlay (Android Auto if that’s how you roll) and we’re ready to head down south for a cruise.

It turns out the hubby is also very impressed by the sound system – 12-speaker Bose® audio, he informs me. It definitely does the trick, even the seats up the back won’t get left out as we turn up the volume and wind the windows down. If you’re a radio fan, there’s DAB+ Digital radio too.

It doesn’t really matter how long your road trip is, you want to be comfortable. I’m a full convert to burgundy leather interiors, which make you feel like you’re in a sports car, not an SUV. There’s a definite sporty vibe, paired with sleek, moody design notes that make me feel like it’s okay for me to be here without a racing license. We’re in the SP Edition, which was rolled out from Mazda6 through to CX-5, CX-8 and CX-9, with the same cool black edgings on the outside and snazzy red stitching inside.

Hubby also informs me there’s soft touch plastic everywhere, which gets the big tick of approval. The seats in the second row are set high, like theatre seating, so passengers can see more out the front windscreen. They’ve even got their own little console, with cup holders and USB chargers. Those lucky backseat bandits! The very last row of seats actually fold up from the boot. Fold them down if you’re after more boot space for longer road trips.

What else is a lifesaver on a road trip you ask? Cruise control. The CX-9 SP has Mazda Radar Cruise Control, with Stop & Go, which means you set it once at the speed you’re after and then it will slow down as cars come into your space, before speeding back up as traffic starts to flow again. It’s a little like being in a self-driving car if you ask me. The other big feature I made use of was Smart Brake Support, because, um, Sydney. Laser sensors detect when the vehicle in front is getting too close too fast and the car will start braking for you. So you could say the car made use of the feature for me rather than the other way around, but either way, this is techie stuff that’s keeping us safe and I like it.

While we’ve been playing with all the car features, like seat heaters, nifty storage pockets, and ‘the Commander Knob’, a big dial you use to control the screen, we’ve made it down to the Shire and back. Thank you turbocharged petrol engine!

Our final stop for the weekend is The Apollo in Potts Point. We zip down Darlinghurst Road, with the CX-9 SP looks pretty sharp and sleek alongside Potts Point’s wine bars and restaurants if you ask me. The Polymetal grey, metallic version, paint job also gets our tick of approval and hubby tells me grey is the hardest car colour to get right. I’m a grey colour wheel novice but it certainly catches my eye.

Over at The Apollo, just about everything on the menu catches my eye, but it would be sacrilegious to skip the saganaki, so that’s where we start. Split pea hummus, village salad and a hearty lamb shoulder to share follow. We walk but almost roll back to the car. Hubby won’t let me eat ice cream in the car, because, burgundy leather, but a Rockstar park outside Gelato Messina means dessert is back on the menu.

Sadly that brings us to the end our Mazda CX-9 adventure, it’s been a whirlwind drive into the heart of Sydney after dark and as I hop back into my HUD-less car, my hubby grumbling about all hard touch plastic and our inferior stereo, I know things will never be quite the same.

Lisa was the guest of Mazda Australia.

About the author

Lisa used to use Sydney as a base to drop off souvenirs before heading off on the next adventure but these days she’s got her feet almost on the ground, with a desire to try every high tea in Sydney, and a cute cavoodle puppy at home. Travel writer, photographer and Kitchen Aid freak, she loves to eat, bake and write.


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