by Bill P. and Daryl Payne
The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD is a marvel of an SUV – nearly a best $40k buy with its athletic powertrain and decked-out cabin with endless comfort settings.
The 7-passenger SUV’s beats out competitors from Toyota, Honda, and Nissan because the whip offers a ton of standard perks, a 24 mpg combined EPA, and an elegant cabin featuring an 8-inch touchscreen with a wealth of comfort settings. iActiv AWD provides excellent capabilities in rain, sleet, snow and even mud and sand. Plus iActivesense and active safety technology includes nearly two dozen standard safety features.
Fresh Design with Elegant Athleticism Inside/Out
The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature is an instant classic, refined and redesigned with a long nose and stout frame. Cool LED headlights and daytime running lights look like a beautiful set of eyes with long brows. The protruding LED combination tail light design makes the whip instantly recognizable from behind. The chiseled frame featuring ultra-rigid SkyActiv Body and SkyActiv Chassis gives the brawny big-body an athletically-lean stance. Adaptive Front Lighting is a cool feature that adjusts headlight brightness as vehicles approach.
Twenty-inch alloy wheels are standard as is the power moon roof and aluminum roof rails, power tailgate and dual chrome tip exhausts. The big chromed- out signature grille styles the Signature’s snout. The silhouette is sexy with the chrome strip at the windows and chrome beltline molding.
Daryl loved the CX-9 Signature’s driver-focused cabin design with comfy Nappa leather seats with contrast stitching and an innovative center 8 inch touchscreen. Exterior colors like Snowflake White Pearl Mica, Machine Gray Metallic and Jet Black Mica contrast elegantly with black and sand leather and Auburn Nappa leather that’s exclusively available in the AWD CX-9 Signature.
Rosewood trim is another exclusive Signature feature. Red contrast stitching and intricately placed wood and aluminum trim are fresh style cues. LED accents are abundant, lighting the front and rear door pocket, door handles, accent and ambient lights. Heated front seats are standard. It would’ve been great to have ventilated front seats and heated steering wheel standard on the Signature model.
While the front passengers enjoy max comfort with 41 inches of legroom and controls at their fingertips, the 60/40 split reclining 2nd row offers just 39 inches of legroom and the 3rd row 39 inches.
Storage is also scarce in the CX-9 with just a small center console, small cubby, and door pockets with cup holders. With the 50/50 split 3rd row folded the CX-9 has a small cargo area at just 14 cubic feet. If drivers have many small children it may be hard to keep things stored away.
The Mazda CX-9 Signature has an active driving display that shows the car’s speed along with speed limit, navigation and notifications for the Blind Spot Monitor, cruise control, lane keeping assist and Smart City Brake Support on the windshield. A leather wrapped shifter and steering wheel with silver accents and a very advanced 8-inch touchscreen are more cool features.
Daryl who is 6 feet-tall, felt very comfortable whipping the CX-9. The center stack area is designed for high functionality. The design is elegant and simplistic. What’s great is the curvature of the dash allows for max legroom and easy to reach controls.
The driver’s dash could be more digitized but it still displays important driving stats, safety info, a compass and maintenance indicators.
While a 7 inch touchscreen with a 6 speaker audio system is standard on the CX-9 Sport, an 8 inch full-color touchscreen is standard on the CX-9 Touring, Grand Touring and Signature models that features a Bose audio system with 12-speakers and a subwoofer. Bluetooth and Mazda Connect are standard, and Sirius XM Satellite Radio and Navigation is available on all models except the base Sport model.
Mazda Connect infotainment offers Aha internet radio, Pandora, Stitcher, and E911 Emergency notification on the Signature’s 8 inch touchscreen. The CX-9’s touchscreen houses the rearview camera view as well as controls for everything from lighting, locking, safety features, infotainment and comfort features. It would be great if the camera displayed the side or forward view for parking.
The CX-9 Signature is sleek and cool from the outside, and elegant and tech-savvy on the inside. It’s feisty performance and robust suspension makes the SUV truly exciting to drive.
Robust Resilient Performance
Daryl’s favorite feature on the CX-9 is the car’s powertrain and drivetrain. The SUV boasts an efficient Skyactiv-G 2.5 liter turbo engine with 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Mazda’s 2017 CX-9 stunted last year winning countless awards in-part for their innovative and ever-refined Skyactiv technology. The 4-cylinder is matched to a SkyActiv-Drive 6 speed automatic transmission.
Whipping the 2017 Mazda CX-9, accelerating is clean, peppy and well-balanced. It eats up the pavement while maintaining a sense of sophistication. I-Active all-wheel drive is exceptional in the CX-9. I floated over snow-covered and ice-packed roads. And drivers will feel full-confidence in sand, mud and on steep hills.
Active Adaptive Shift auto controls transaxle shift points. Sport mode opens up the throttle adding a bit more aggression, yet the whip maintains high efficiency. Manual mode is intuitive and exciting. Four-wheel disc brakes are weak from the driver and passenger’s perspective. I shouldn’t have to slam the brakes in this sturdy SUV to get it to a full stop. The CX-9 also features fluid electric power assisted steering.
Independent front and rear suspension is great for dipping, swerving weaving and excelling over bumps and craters. But even with great suspension, groceries and small bags fly around the cabin’s floor, especially turning. Turning and cornering is wide and bulky in the CX-9, which is surprising with such a defined front end.
Abundant Safety Technology with Customization
Another great attribute the 2017 CX-9 possesses is its suite of advanced safety technology. Features including Hill Start Assist, Brake Assist, ABS, EBD, traction control, trailer stability assist, roll stability control and Dynamic Stability Control are standard on all CX-9 models.
I-Activesense technology utilize forward sensing cameras and radar sensors for active safety and pre-crash safety systems.
Active Safety tech includes adaptive front lighting, high beam control, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assist system, lane departure warning system, and Distance Recognition Support System. The blind spot monitor is OCD sometimes beeping for cars two lanes away.
Pre-crash safety features include Smart City Brake Support and Smart Brake Support. Brake support needs fine-tuning because at one point the brakes activated for what was interpreted as a potential collision with no regard to cars behind. It nearly caused a rear-end collision.
The base 2017 CX-9 Sport with FWD starts at $31k and still has a ton of great standard features. The CX-9 Signature AWD we reviewed has a MSRP of $44k. And only about $1,000 worth of add-ons are offered which means the base price includes all the bells and whistles. The award-winning Mazda CX-9 Signature will continue to see great sales and stunt on the SUV segment. If additional cargo room was offered for future models the whip will be an unstoppable classic.
Check out more pics from our First Drive with the 2017 Mazda CX-9 on our Facebook Page!