The Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD is a big crossover SUV feels upscale inside and out, as well as over the road.
What is it?
Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Toyota Highlander, and many others – the Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD has no shortage of competitors among seven-seat, three-row crossover SUVs. This market has flavors for lots of tastes.
Pricing and trims
Like most of its competitors, the CX-9’s base price range starts around $32,000 and tops off in the mid-$40Ks.
Sport, Touring and Grand Touring can be either front- or all-wheel drive, while the top Signature is AWD-only.
The tester had the $575 Illuminated Doorsill Trim Plates…
…and the $300 Machine Grey Paint, which easily picked up the colors around it.
Another $100 picks up the cargo mat, which extends up the third-row seatbacks.
Total for this CX-9 Signature AWD, including the $1,045 destination charge: $47,385.
Nailed it: the 2019 CX-9 earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including a rare “Good” in the passenger-side offset impact.
That’s a test with which some other manufacturers are still grappling – Honda and Toyota for instance, where the Pilot and Highlander both get a lower “Acceptable” rating.
Mazda’s active safety features are standard on the CX-9 Signature AWD trim, along with the Touring and Grand Touring.
CX-9 Sport buyers must specify the $1,290 “Power Seat and I-Activesense Package”, a silly approach that bundles important safety features with luxury items.
The CX-9 Signature AWD shares its turbocharged, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with the other CX-9 trims, and it’s a bold move to put four up against the six cylinders found in the Pilot, Telluride, and Highlander, and others.
But the CX-9 Signature AWD is right in the mix, thanks to its 310 lb-ft of torque, which peaks at a low 2,000 rpm. Others with V6s have torque ratings about 40 lb-ft lower, while they have 60-70 more horses.
This means waiting until 2,000 rpm to feel alive. While the CX-9 Signature AWD is sharp off the line, it takes a beat for it to surge forth, while the V6s have more immediate responses.
The six-speed transmission is there to help, as it works with the engine to the keep the revs in the power curve’s sweet spot.
Ride and handling
The CX-9 Signature AWD handled with the poise and flexibility you’d find in a premium SUV.
Steering and brakes have pleasing firmness, and the suspension feels athletic, with little dip or dive. It’s a big SUV that drives smaller than it is.
The CX-9 Signature AWD’s front seats are tall, broad and offer ample thigh support. The Signature adds rich-feeling Nappa leather to the seating surfaces.
The adjustable lumbar support came in much too low for this six-foot-one driver, to the point where the seatback had to be steeply reclined to fend off backaches – a common issue for the taller among us that was especially noticeable here.
The outboard rear seats also have Nappa facings in the Signature, and it is roomy and comfortable back there.
There are 0.2 inches more rear shoulder room than in front, and legroom is an expansive 39.5 inches.
Chop about 10 inches out the second-row’s legroom, along with three inches of headroom, and you’ll have the dimensions of the CX-9 Signature AWD’s petite third row.
The CX-9 Signature AWD’s all-seats-up cargo capacity of 14.4 cubic feet is on the small side, with the third row needing folding on even light Costco runs.
The Highlander has a bit less, with 13.6 cubic feet, but the Telluride whomps it with 21.0 cubic feet of space.
Maximum capacity is 71.2 cubic feet – 10.9 cubic feet less than the Pilot, and a significant 15.8 cubic feet less than the Telluride.
Infotainment and controls
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the CX-9 Signature AWD, and the eight-inch touchscreen can also be navigated with helpful remote control knobs and buttons on the console.
The screen’s interface has warm colors and classy icons, and it operates logically and smoothly.
The CX-9 Signature AWD is gratifying to look at, to touch, and to drive.
These are the positives usually reserved for upscale brands, where extra attention has been placed on the overall experience. And so it’s easy to feel like you’ve spent upscale bucks in this competitively-priced Mazda.
Two areas deserve scrutiny: the CX-9 Signature AWD’s comparatively low cargo capacity, and front-seat lumbar support positioning for taller drivers.
But if it fits, the CX-9 Signature AWD will reward you.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
Base price: $45,365
Price as tested, including $1,045 destination charge: $47,385
Illuminated Doorsill Trim Plates: $575
Machine Grey Paint: $300
Cargo Mat: $100
- Upscale styling and materials, inside and out
- Firm yet compliant ride and handling
- Top safety ratings
- Too-low lumbar support for taller drivers
- Comparatively lands in the lower end of cargo capacity