Five First Impressions: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Turbo Signature

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Three-row crossovers are big business these days and that explains the 2016 Mazda CX-9.

A car that may not exactly align with the "Driving Matters" mantra has been morphed into something that's reasonably different than the large boxes in the parking lot of your local Target store.

Is that enough to make the CX-9 more than a protest buy for those who resent these big SUVs? I've been driving the second-gen model and here are some initial thoughts.

Kodo-h it's huge
The largest vehicle to use Mazda's widespread Kodo design philosophy is certainly imposing. And that philosophy extends to more than just its appearance. It’s a touch unwieldy in traffic. Huge blind spots towards the rear made for lane change surprises before the blind-spot warning system kicked in. Size pays dividends inside, though. Every seat has a useful amount of space for 5-foot-10 me.

6-like
Slide into the driver’s seat and it’s pretty familiar for anyone who’s been in a recent Mazda car. The dash is delightfully low and at least going forward, the CX-9 smacks of car-like reflexes and feel.

Baby steps
This new top-rung Signature model has a few nice touches but it’s ultimately pretty standard Mazda fare, which is kind of disappointing. The infotainment system is still a mess and while the gauges are classier than a 6’s, it’s nothing special for this caliber of car.

Oh, and the fancy wood trim Mazda was hawking at this car’s debut last year? It’s not so special-feeling. Mazda is learning how to do refinement, but it hasn't graduated to upper-class yet.

A photo posted by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada) on

What V6?
This new 2.5-liter turbo four is a good engine, and it suits the CX-9 well most of the time. Floor it, though, and its displacement becomes known. I’d have to drive it back to back with a Volvo XC90 with its 2.0-liter turbo powering an equally large vehicle, but I’d say it’s at least on par with that.

Signature sauce
For $45,000 or so, this is a lot of car. But a Honda Pilot Touring feels like more car for not that much more money. The Mazda CX-9, therefore, is a driver’s crossover first and a people hauler second. Still, I’ve enjoyed driving it so far.

What questions do you have for the Mazda CX-9? Sound off in the comments.

Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops

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