2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Review and Road Test

2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

Have your cake, and eat it too.

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I’ve got a family now. I need to haul them and their stuff around. Do I have to drive something that sucks?

The CX-9 you see here will answer that question with an emphatic “No.” While a minivan would fit the bill nicely, there are people out there who resolutely refuse to pilot one because they believe it tells the world they are ridiculously uncool. For them, the three-row crossover exists so they can feel less shame idling at the curb waiting to pick up the kids from school in a sea of boxes on wheels. No matter how large the footprint, an SUV will never be able to eclipse a minivan’s proficiency in terms of outright practicality no more than the most daringly styled minivan would draw more admiring glances than an SUV. Back for it’s second generation, Mazda’s CX-9 should be on the radar of those needing a bigger vehicle- it’s compellingly styled, immaculately finished inside and a joy to drive.

 

It sure is easy on the eyes, isn’t it?

We haven’t seen anything this beautiful roll out of a Mazda factory since the 929 Serenia from the 1990’s. The CX-9 builds on the design cues we’re familiar with from the CX-5 but ratchets up the level of opulence quite a bit. Starting with the large chrome grille with prominent Mazda branding, it has a sense of presence- even more so at night when it’s ablaze with LED lighting. Our tester was bathed in gorgeous Machine Grey paint that looks an awful lot like the stuff Mercedes Benz offers on their high-end models but doesn’t cost thousands of dollars- Mazda only asks for $300. 20” aluminum rolling stock fills out the wheel wells nicely and there’s understated bits of chrome placed here and there.

 

That interior though!

Mazda doesn’t have a luxury sub-brand, but if they did this is the kind of stuff they’d be churning out. We think the CX-9 not only competes with other high-end luxury three row SUV’s but surpasses them where interior design and quality is concerned. Usually the contrast of rich brown leather, aluminum trim and superbly finished open pore wood accents might look too busy but not here- Mazda has done an excellent job of making everything look harmonious. One thing you won’t be able to glean from the images below is the new standard of quiet the CX-9 sets for the brand. Mazda cars are known as dynamically polished conveyances but not for their insulation from road, wind and tire noise- even on the highway they are known to be noisy. Not so with the CX-9. Mazda has specified a judicious use of sound deadening material; a whole 24 kilograms is dedicated to keeping things as serene as possible for occupants. While this is a great deal more of the stuff they traditionally use, the CX-9 is no porker. It still comes in at 117 kilos lighter than its predecessor. Our Signature tester had a ton of features, including the ubiquitous bundle of driver assist technology (which we promptly turned off) and a heads-up display, all manipulated by the company’s’ excellent HMI infotainment system. Curiously, it didn’t have the same snappy responses we’ve become accustomed to, but still vastly better than what you get from a Land Rover for example.

 

What, no V6?

Most of the CX-9’s competitors feature V6 engines, or at least the choice to upgrade to one. Rather than follow suit, Mazda will only offer a 2.5 litre 4-cylinder engine, but to make sure it’s not left in the dust during the cut and thrust of suburban driving they’ve fitted it with a turbocharger. This isn’t your ordinary turbo, however. Mazda found that in most driving situations for most folk the tach needle doesn’t swing past 4,000 rpm. With that in mind they tuned the turbo to deliver its impressive thrust- a healthy 310 lbs/ft.- from just off idle to the 4,000 rpm range. This gives the CX-9 the verve to pull smartly away from stoplights and schlepp 7 passengers and assorted detritus to and fro with ease. This setup never once caused us to pine for two more cylinders although the engine’s pull does fall away quite a bit once the turbo isn’t huffing on full bore in the upper rev range. The engine is twinned to a 6-speed automatic that like its brethren in other Mazda products shifts gently when you want to relax but will snap gears home with pleasing authority when you want to play. Paddle shifters behind the steering wheel will placate the moms and dads who miss the sporty car they had to sell to make room for the CX-9 in the driveway.

 

What might go wrong?

That slick turbo technology can have a negative effect on fuel mileage. We saw 13.8L/100km over the course of our road test- not exactly bragworthy numbers and not that much better than its V6 powered competition. While the practicality of the third row of seats is welcome (especially among those who hold their noses at the thought of a minivan but grudgingly acknowledge they need the space) the only people that should be sitting back there are kids and friends you feel like punishing a bit. One more gripe: despite its usefulness, we don’t count ourselves among fans of heads-up driving displays, so to have to turn the system off every time you thumb the ignition switch got old real fast.

 

Should I buy a CX-9?

Those thinking of shelling out serious dough for a prestige brand three row SUV should take a long look at the CX-9. It has the looks and the luxurious environs that are as good or better and can be had for a pircetag of thousands less. The CX-9 will nicely cater to those in touch with their inner “Zoom Zoom” coupled with a strong aversion to the humble minivan. If that describes you, you need to take the CX-9 for a spin.

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD- Specifications

  • Price as tested: $52,295
  • Body Type: 4-door, 7 passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine:  2.5-litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 227 @ 5,000 rpm
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 310 @ 2,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,917 kg (4,226 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel consumption: 13.8/100km (17 mpg)