The CX-9 is big brother in Mazda’s house, and the flagship SUV takes its family role seriously. The CX-9 is the largest of all Mazda siblings, yet it can take the driver and six passengers 24 miles down the highway on a gallon of gas.

The role of the CX-9 in Mazda’s family is to transport your family down the road in comfort and safety. And unless you’re the Brady Bunch, your whole family should fit easily into the 7-passenger CX-9, where both the front and second rows each have more than 39 inches of headroom. Back in the 50/50 split third row, there’s 35.4 inches of headroom and nearly 57 inches of total shoulder room. Legroom is 40.9 inches in the front row, 39.8 inches in the 60/40 second row and 32.4 inches in the back two seats.

Available in three trims – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – the CX9 starts at $29,785. Check all the boxes, including AWD, and you’ll top $39,000.

The Sport and Touring models have piano black trim accents, while the Grand Touring has Bordeaux trim.

Optional leather-trimmed upholstery is either black or sand, which is new for 2013.

Also new for 2013 is a 5.8-inch multi-information display that is standard on all trims. HD radio is available, the Bluetooth system has been updated, and a new audio message receipt and delivery system is standard.

The optional navigation system is Tom Tom based, and has voice recognition and real-time traffic. Six speaker sound is standard and upgradable to 10 speaker Bose surround sound. Sirius Satellite Radio is optional in all trim models.

On the outside, the CX-9 gets a new exterior design for 2013, something called KODO, which Mazda says

“exudes aggression and grace, energy and poise, strength and elegance.” We’re not sure if it does all that, but it’s not a bad-looking vehicle, inside or out.

On the road, the CX-9 handles well, absorbing south Louisiana’s potholes without much fuss. Steering is linear, with good feedback from the road.

Fuel economy for FWD models is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. AWD models get 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the road. With a 20.1-gallon gas tank, the CX-9 has a highway range of more than 450 miles. As always, mileage and range figures depend heavily on driving habits.

When it comes to safety, the CX-9 has six standard airbags including side curtains, anti-lock brakes, and stability and traction control. New for 2013 is the availability of a blind spot monitoring system and rearview camera in Touring models. The CX-9 has not yet been evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Assembled in Hiroshima, Japan, the 2013 Mazda CX-9 is a competent and comfortable hauler, able to handle its family duties with ease.

2013 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring AWD

--Engine: 3.7-liter V6

--Horsepower: 273

--Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual mode

--Test model base price: $36,375

--As-tested price: $39,605

--EPA mileage estimates: 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway (AWD)