The CX-9 three-row utility is Mazda’s largest offering and one of the most popular family haulers across North America. The second generation model arrived for 2016, and for 2019 it soldiers on with additional standard equipment and a longer list of options.
What makes Mazda’s full-size SUV stand out?
What sets the CX-9 apart from many of its counterparts is its styling. The CX-9 looks sleek and aerodynamically efficient, which it is, and offers a lot of curb appeal for the entry price. Its shape is reminisecnt of a water droplet, with a pointed end gracefully morphing into a curvaceous body. The end result is a vehicle that looks more compact than it actually is, and is inherently sporty.
The exterior looks smooth, and classy as its free of excess spoilers, flares and rails. There are subtle chrome highlights throughout, but not to the extent that it looks extravagant or bordering on tacky. The same can be said of the interior which represents a study in minimalist, clean designs. Everything you may need is close at hand, gentle to the touch, and pleasing to the eye.
Signature model: what’s different?
Our test unit was a top-of-the-line Signature model which featured fine Nappa leather upholstery and real Rosewood trim. Other niceties included cross-stitching detail on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, LED ambient lighting, a frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror and illumination of the front grille emblem. A 12-speaker BOSE engineered audio system and adaptive LED headlights and LED taillights add to the menu features that are not usually available in this segment.
Interior: seating, cargo, technology
From the outside it is difficult to imagine that the CX-9 can accommodate seven passengers, but there are three rows of seats on board and that third row is more than just window dressing. Sure, the latter is best reserved for adolescent children, but smaller stature adults can clamber back there in a pinch for short trips. Second row outboard positions are heated, and there are controls for the rear climate system as well as twin USB plugs available for occupant use.
What makes the interior volume so impressive is that the second generation CX-9 is actually shorter than its forebear. This feat of engineering magic was achieved by stretching the wheelbase which made ingress and egress to the rear seating areas less of a chore.
The second row bench is a 60/40 split affair which slides forward to provide access to the two positions in the third row. All of the rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate the transport of large or bulkier items, with a full 2,041 litres of volume available behind the front seats. A power operated upswing lift gate provides optimal access for loading and unloading while protecting users from the weather.
In the driver’s seat
Seated in the driver’s position proved cozy for my XXL frame, but far from confining. The well-bolstered bucket seat proved more than capable of holding me in place during more aggressive driving manouvres, and is equipped with both cooling and heating elements.
Visibility is good, although the pronounced hood makes delicate work more challenging, although front and rear parking sensors as well as the new 360-degree view camera system effectively remedy this issue when parking. A smallish glass sunroof is fitted above the front passenger compartment.
Other features: HUD, safety & monitoring, and infotainment
The instrument clustre incorporates a new digital gauge display, but the Signature model also benefits from the addition of a heads-up display which projected vital operational details such as speed and important safety alerts onto the windshield. Speaking of safety, the CX-9 Signature is loaded with all the latest technology.
Visibility is good, although the pronounced hood makes delicate work more challenging… front and rear parking sensors as well as the new 360-degree view camera system effectively remedy this issue when parking.
You get intelligent braking, blind spot monitoring with transversal traffic alert, lane keep assist, radar cruise control, adaptive automatic headlights, lane departure warning, as well as the aforementioned , a heads-up display and surround-view camera.
Two other unexpected treats are illuminated warning lights to inform the driver when passengers in the rear seats have not fastened their seatbelts, and the automatic fold feature for the side mirrors when you lock the doors.
The infotainment system is operated via a touch-screen and a console mounted scroll wheel. This system provides navigation as well as access to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Sirius XM and traditional radio channels.
Under the hood & driving impressions
2.5L turbo engine standard
Under the long hood you will find a turbocharged 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine paired to a six-speed automatic. While I found the operation of this gearbox smooth and well matched to the vehicle’s power output (227-hp and 310 lb.ft) it may be the one real strike I have against the CX-9, as more efficient eight- and nine-speed transmissions start to take over. Interestingly, if you elect to splurge on premium fuel on occasion, the extra octane will effectively bump horsepower up to a stout 250.
On the road
Mazda has always been a company that respects the fact that driving can be a pleasurable experience, so all of the company’s products feature communicative steering and a well-sorted chassis.
After spending a week behind the wheel of a CX-9, I can attest that the vehicle has been designed to enhance your enjoyment behind the wheel as steering is precise, the suspension is lively and the chassis is dynamic. Mazda has incorporated a clever G-Vectoring Control system to the CX-9 in an effort to maximize tire performance and enhance stability.
SKYACTIV turbo engine
Acceleration from the SKYACTIV turbo engine is energetic and power is distributed without excess drama. The Dynamic Pressure Turbo spools up quickly and the transmission responds in quick order and in a positive and reactive fashion, especially when you elect to shift the box manually, unlike the CVT designs of many of this vehicle’s peers. Sprints to 100 km/h take a mere 8.3 seconds to execute.
Mazda’s i-Activ All-Wheel-Drive is standard on all but the base model, and will adjust power distribution to account for wheel slip as well as route power to limit under-steer during spirited driving. However, this system is not engineered to be a serious off-road platform, although fire access roads and trips to the cottage will be handled with ease. Besides, you wouldn’t want to blemish the 20-inch alloy wheels.
Should you buy the 2019 CX-9 Signature?
The CX-9 was a big winner last year as it was named as the best large utility vehicle in Canada by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). This is not faint praise from this organization as their standards of evaluation and testing are unmatched. With four models and a host of new equipment, the CX-9 is worthy of a long look if you are in the market for a family-sized SUV that won’t break the bank.
Shopping for a new 2019 SUV? Check out Best 2019-2020 SUV & Crossovers | New Models & Redesigns Only
Also check out some past CX-9 reviews here.
2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature Specs:
- Type: All-wheel-drive 7 passenger mid-sized SUV
- Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
- Transmission: 6-Speed automatic
- Horsepower: 227 / 87 Octane; 250 / 93 Octane @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lb.ft): 310 @ 7,000 rpm
- Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated discs
- Trunk capacity (L): 407 (Behind third row); 2,017 (Seats folded)
- Towing capacity: 1,588 kg. (3,500 lbs.)