The Mazda CX-9 has been with us for quite a while now. First coming out in the Philippines for the 2018 model year, Mazda’s flagship SUV did not remain untouched throughout its lifetime. As a matter of fact, it was updated incrementally instead of opting for one big mid-cycle facelift. Fast forward to this year, and we’re taking a look at the Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature variant, and just like fine wine, this large SUV has definitely aged gracefully.
While the Mazda CX-9 has remained largely unchanged, its sheet metal is still as gorgeous as ever. The CX-9’s long hood and sloping roofline are definitely some of its best attributes. You’ll definitely want to move out of the CX-9’s path when you see it in your rearview mirror because of its imposing five-point grille and adaptive LED headlights. This being the Signature variant, this model rides on tasteful 20-inch wheels, which fill up the wheel wells nicely.
Step inside the CX-9, and you’ll love its legitimately premium interior. This Signature variant we have here is bathed in plush brown Nappa Leather along with generous lashings of real wood trims. There’s even a genuine aluminum accent trim running across the dashboard. No other SUV in this segment is as luxurious as the Mazda CX-9, not even the Ford Explorer or Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. It’s not just pleasing to the eyes and hands, though. All variants come with seat cooling (driver’s side only for the CX-9 2WD Sport), which means it’s also pleasing to your butt especially during hot weather.
At this point, you’re already more than familiar with this Mazda Connect infotainment system. Though I still generally enjoy using it since I prefer rotary knobs over touch screens, the interface is starting to feel a bit dated. Certain overseas CX-9 models already use Mazda’s second-generation infotainment system, and we hope it’s an update that will eventually be offered in our market. What’s still undeniably enjoyable is its 12-speaker Bose sound system, which sounds amazingly theatrical.
Being a large unibody SUV sure has its benefits. The lower floor height gives this SUV plenty of vertical room. Space for the first and second rows is excellent. As expected, those third-row seats are best left for kids, though a 179-cm adult like me can fit in there for short journeys, which is something I can never say in pickup-based SUVs. Overall though, the Hyundai Palisade with its palatial interior is the best large SUV for carrying occupants in the third row.
As for cargo capacity, there’s 230 liters of space behind the third row, which may not sound like much, but it’s actually almost twice the Land Cruiser Prado’s volume. Fold those third-row seats down, and cargo space expands to 810 liters, which is pretty much on par with the likes of the Ford Explorer. With the second-row seats also folded, and you now have 1,641 liters of space, which is about 200 liters less than the Land Cruiser Prado’s.
With all of the practicality and design aspects out of the way, how does the Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature drive? With its 2.5-liter inline-4 turbocharged gasoline engine that produces 231 hp and 420 Nm of torque, there’s definitely no shortage of power. But perhaps this engine’s best trait is how natural the engine feels. Turbo engines usually have this laggy feel when you try to move away from a stoplight or an intersection since the turbos need time to spool up. That’s not the case with the CX-9.
Put your foot down to the throttle, and the variable geometry turbo (called Dynamic Pressure Turbo in Mazda’s speak) puts down power to the ground in a linear fashion. If you apply 20 percent power to the throttle, you’re likewise met with the amount of power you want from the engine. This level of linearity and transparency is something we hope other manufacturers will be able to emulate in their turbocharged engines.
Despite being a relatively big turbocharged gasoline engine, fuel economy is pretty good. I’ve been averaging at around 7.7 to 8.2 km/l, which isn’t stellar, but it’s good enough considering this is a large SUV that gives me the confidence to overtake two vehicles lined up together when driving down a provincial road.
Perhaps the best trait of the Mazda CX-9 is its ability to transform into a sports sedan. An SUV this big has no right to be this sporty, but the CX-9 exists, and it’s a large SUV that will please driving enthusiasts. Sure, it’s no MX-5, since the steering still needs to balance between stability and agility, but for its size, it handles corners beautifully. With its excellent steering, well-controlled body movements, and diesel-like torquey gasoline engine, this is a large SUV that’s able to defy its size.
It’s not a heavy SUV actually, tipping the scales at just a little under 2 tonnes, and this contributes to its car-like handling. In addition, the suspension is able to counteract body roll excellently. As a result, the ride is on the firm side, but it’s never “matagtag” by any measure. It still a comfortable long-distance cruiser, thanks to the excellent sound insulation. Whereas most large premium SUVs in our country are chauffeur driven, the Mazda CX-9 is one of those vehicles I definitely prefer to drive rather than be driven in.
A couple of years after its first release, Mazda’s flagship SUV is still as excellent as ever. It’s an embodiment of what the Mazda brand is all about. Whether it’s the two-seater MX-5 or the seven-seater CX-9, every single model in its range offers varying degrees of sportiness or luxury. In the case of this Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature variant, it manages to imbue some of the MX-5’s sportiness but with the luxury and practicality expected in a large flagship SUV. If you’ve always wanted a large family SUV that satisfies both the car enthusiast and the family man in you, the CX-9 is basically your only choice in this segment.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.5 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.