Five First Impressions: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Turbo Signature

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.

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.

Not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom #Mazda #MazdaCX9

A photo posted by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada) on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:47pm PDT

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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  • MultiKdizzle

    Looks thoroughly modern.

    • trentbg

      Absolutely amazing! Missing a few options I would like, but other than that is great.

  • Finkployd

    Simple and clean lines, could use less chrome though

  • Craiggger

    I just bought one. Its great. I have two large males in the rear seat and they said they were comfortable.

    The Handling is awesome. I was driving it one night on the twisty area of the highway and i thought to myself: this is a average man’s porsche cayenne….

  • RDS Alphard

    I like how it use 2.5L Turbo instead of a big V6 , however this doesn’t help much in North America market as they don’t have taxes that related to engine displacement … meanwhile , I just notice the grille is absolutely HUGE !

  • Matthijs

    Exterior is not groundbreaking but looks good but that interior is stunning!

    • pcurve

      very sporty looking cockpit

  • Charles B

    This is the first time I see anyone call the Mazda infotainment a mess. It is so well laid out and easy to use that it makes one question this entire review.

    • I’ve driven every Mazda with it. I’m sure you’d get used to it, but the logic has yet to resonate with me. It’s also under-processed and takes a looooooong time to warm up from start. On a $20,000 3 it’s OK, but not on this top Signature rig.

      • Andrew Umukoro

        true the start up time is bad….but besides that how can you classify it as a mess?

  • Blanka Li

    Towing ability with a turbo 4?

    • Mazda quotes a 3,500 lb. rating with it’s optional hitch.

  • Hector D.

    We were set on buying a grand touring model a while back but messed up and stopped at a Volvo dealership to check out their XC-90. Somehow, we justified spending an extra $10k to get an XC-90 Momentum but if I was looking under $50k, CX9 would get my money all day long!

    While I’ll rarely ever sit on the 3rd row of an SUV since I’m 6ft 1, it was very comforting to be able to do it with ease in the XC-90. Had Mazda been able to pull this off, I would have to reconsider our choice!

  • NGC

    I love my 2010 CX9. What a DUMB IDEA by Mazda sticking their Navigation systems straight up on the dash without the ability to lower them. Absolutely stupid design.

    • TheBelltower

      Give it up man! This is way better than your 2010.

    • Andrew Umukoro

      this one has navi projected onto the glass plus entertainment on the dash.

      • NGC

        Projection on glass is good but I live in a hot climate where Sunshades have to be used on the front window. That Nav sticking up would always be in the way. I repeat dumb idea Mazda.
        I will not be buying a new one even though I love everything else about the new CX9 including the turbo four.
        Sadly Mazda stuck the Nav in the same place on other new vehicles.

        • Andrew Umukoro

          what are u talking about? the navi is projected from the surface of the dash board onto the windshield. your sunshade wouldn’t be in the way unless you drive with it……

          • NGC

            I was talking about the Nav system that sits standing up on the dash. Sadly there is no way to fold it into the dash or lower it. The Nav sitting on the dash ruins the visual look of the dash.

          • Andrew Umukoro

            well if your issue is aesthetics then sure that’s all subjective…but lets not kid ourselves if you wanted to use a sunshade you well and truly cloud

          • NGC

            Have you ever put a sunshade in a car? I’ll bet I would be hitting the stand up Nav every time I install my solid sunshade. I love everything else about the CX9.

          • Andrew Umukoro

            I own a mazda 3 2015 I use a sunshade during the winter…does it touch the navi…maybe when I put it in place but then again it touches the chair, the steering wheel, and the dashboard as well…..=in the end if this is a deal breaker for you then so be it. I don’t earn a penny off your decision so idc either way.

  • BGM

    I saw one for the first time the other day. The one thing I took away from it was the brake lights. Yep. Mazda has followed the Lexus NX into the *barely visible, three tiny red LEDs for brake lights* realm. Don’t remember if it has also followed the Lexus into the *for some reason the position lights come on when you step on the brakes* territory. When you’re behind a car, do you want their brake lights to be shy and tentative? Do you want to ask yourself *is that guy braking? What are those tiny red lights?* Or do you want to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you need to step on your own brakes?

  • Raul

    Infotaiment a mess? Actually very intuitive, by far one of the best out there. Very easy to use

  • TheBelltower

    The design of this is sooo good. Effortlessly good, like they’ve been building class-leading SUV’s forever.

  • Grumpy

    Waiting for this engine to go into the 6 and/or next gen cx-5

  • Mazda designers are on fire!

  • Scara0ke

    Yeah I’m not sure what’s up with the reviewer. I wonder if by upper-class he meant “luxury”. The CX-9 isn’t a luxury SUV, but the interior is definitely above it’s class. The Honda Pilot interior looks like it’s on par for a $25,000 (US) car. And just like the exterior, the interior is extremely underwhelming on the Pilot. The materials are cheaper looking and not as sculpted as the more modern CX-9. Looked at a video and found that besides the auburn-colored nappa leather, the CX-9 also utilizes real Rosewood and a mixture of brushed and satin aluminum.

  • Luis

    This car just debuted two months ago not last year. Ive never had any problems w Mazda infosystem. This is a first year model release so im sure the car w be tweaked. I thnk Mazda has done a great job here. Maybe the 45k is just slightly high but im hearing you can they sign model from 43K before tax n fees. Which is about right for this car. Its near luxury not luxury remember that.