Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: August 3, 2019
Every automaker knows that the path to big money is with an SUV. For one reason or another, we North Americans love SUVs and they eat them up like free candy. So much so that even marquees like Lamborghini and Rolls Royce have hopped on the gravy train with the Urus and Cullinan. Way down the ladder however, sits the Mazda CX-9 Signature, and while it may not rival those aforementioned luxury brands, for the everyday family, it offers a tremendous amount of value and functionality.
As with every Mazda sculpted under the Kodo design language, handsome looks are embedded within the CX-9’s DNA. Dressed in Machine Grey Metallic, the CX-9 manages to appear elegant and relatively sporty from all angles. Three years since its debut, it still exudes style without breaking a sweat. Save for a pair of power folding door mirrors, changes to the exterior were left largely unchanged for 2019. Instead, Mazda chose to focus its efforts on further enhancing the refinement and polish of its top SUV. Paired in conjunction with the dual pane glass, Mazda claims to have retooled the interior headliner to further isolate NVH from occupants.
This refresh saw more incremental refinement inside the cabin. New for 2019 includes a 360 degree back-up camera, frameless rear-view mirror, ventilated front seats, Android Auto, and Apple Carplay. Minor creature comfort updates aside, the interior remains largely the same, clad in brown nappa leather and rosewood accents (exclusive to the Signature trim). Touch points all feel premium and there is plenty of legroom for every passenger, making it a perfect chariot for road trips. While the 360 degree camera is a nice addition, it sorely needs a higher-res screen to showcase the visuals. More confusing so was the touchscreen functionality that’s disabled when the car is in motion - a safety feature designed to help you keep your eyes on the road - which is fine until you try to navigate through Apple’s Carplay UI with only a single knob. Using it feels like being given a rotary phone to send a text. Frustrating at best, dangerous at worst.
Thankfully, eyes should remain focused on the road as the CX-9 provides an engaging driving experience, more so than the rivaling Volkswagen Atlas and cumbersome Honda Pilot. The steering is well weighted and communicative, loading up well in corners and continuously providing feedback on what’s happening at each corner. Revised dampers and springs keep the ride feeling neutral and body roll to a minimum, provisioning for a firm but not overbearingly stiff ride. Over rough roads, the CX-9 keeps up without disturbing occupants, yet still feels taut and not overdamped. Together, the changes accumulate into a sizable SUV that feels light on its feet - not an easy feat, no pun intended.
Power comes by way of the Mazda’s first generation of SkyActiv turbocharged motors. The 2.5L produces, at its peak, 250 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque that gets sent via a six-speed automatic (no silly CVTs here) to all four wheels. Shifts are unobtrusive, smooth, and to my surprise, doesn’t come at the expense of speed. Tip in on the throttle and the gearbox responds with swift downshifts. Overall, a solid and well sorted drivetrain.
Pricing starts at $36,700 for the base CX-9, with our range-topping GT Signature model tipping the scales at just over $51,800. To take advantage of 2019’s creature comfort updates like the ventilated seats and 360-degree surround view camera, you will need to opt for the regular GT ($48,500) trim. Stepping up to the GT Signature will add to the quality of materials and net you some exclusive ones like Nappa leather and an illuminated grill, and looking to the market, the Mazda stays competitive against the Volkswagen Atlas Execline and Honda Pilot Touring, both of which are priced in the $50,000s. But with its engaging driving experience and stout feature set, the CX-9 certainly gives credence to the notion that this might just be the enthusiast’s SUV and that’s not a bad leaf to have in the books.
Model: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Paint Type: Machine Grey Metallic
Base Price: $51,500
Price as Tested: $51,800
Length/Width/Height (mm): 5,065 / 2,027 / 1,753
Curb weight (kg): 1,987
Engine: 2.5L SkyActiv G Dynamic Pressure Turbo
Horsepower: 250 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 11.6 / 9.1
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 11.6