Road Test: 2019 Mazda CX-9

With each successive model year, the second-generation Mazda CX-9 midsize crossover SUV has benefited from refinements, technology updates and performance improvements. The 2019 Mazda CX-9 is no different, with a host of improvements led by the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Mazda’s engineers could have left well enough alone for the CX-9 but instead continue to make meaningful improvements to benefit drivers and passengers in all three rows. Among the updates are a refined, retuned suspension that offers a smoother, quieter and more natural ride and greater sound suppression by way of a thicker headliner and thicker floor mats, which aid in ease of conversation and enjoyment.

The inside of our Signature CX-9 is absolutely stunning. It’s in every way, a stylish sanctuary. The Santos rosewood trim feels and looks like it belongs in something much, much more expensive, and it really adds a lot of warmth to the cabin. Illumination underneath and throughout the cabin is a modern touch.

Throughout the cabin, real aluminum trim looks fantastic and adds a feeling of quality that truly exists. The incredibly comfortable front Nappa leather seats are heated and cooled, while the rear seats are heated. The hand-stitched, leather-wrapped “chidori” steering wheel is heated too and gets quite warm.

Every control feels finely tuned, with the seat adjustment controls being our favorite. The buttons are metal, damped, and simply feel like they are the best seat controls ever made.

We’re glad to see Apple CarPlay projecting beautifully on the 8-inch Mazda Connect screen. The updated Commander control knob works well but we still believe getting to and scrolling through the SiriusXM channel list could be improved.

Mazda engineers installed two second-row USB ports (each 2.1 amps). The BOSE 12-speaker system sounds fantastic, and a second-row retractable sunshades are useful for those with kids in the back.

The Active Driving Display with Traffic Sign Recognition is a smart upgrade, it really makes driving safer b projecting speed, cruise info, and if a vehicle is in your blind-spot.

The LED adaptive headlights with automatic high beams are incredibly bright and reach far, probably better than any other midsize crossover in the segment. LED grille accent lighting adds an artistic touch.

On the assisted driver technology front, Lane-Keep Assist, Lane-Departure Warning, and full-speed Radar Cruise Control work well. The lane keeping system is more reactive than proactive, but we appreciate the option to use steering wheel vibrations over audible alerts. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and front/rear parking sensors are standard. 

Under the hood, Mazda’s innovative SKYACTIV-G 2.5T turbocharged engine delivers up to 250 horsepower on 93-octane gas (227 horsepower with 87-octane gasoline) and a robust 310 lb-ft of torque independent of fuel octane. Power is routed through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive is standard and uses 27 sensors throughout the vehicle to paint a picture of road conditions in order to route power from the front to rear wheels and vice versa so the driver and passengers do not feel wheelslip. Mazda says it can adjust torque more than 200 times per second.

Driving in snowy weather, we felt the sure-footedness, but snow tires are still needed when the temperatures drops to single digits as the rubber stiffens on all-season tires.

Summary Scorecard (1-10)
Ride and Handling 10
Braking 10
Powertrain and Fuel Economy 9
Noise 9
Headlights 10
Interior Fit and Finish 10
Seating 9
Visibility 8
Gauges and Controls 9
Infotainment 8
Crash-Avoidance 9
Total Score 92

Make: Mazda
Model: CX-9
Trim Level: Signature AWD
Engine: 2.5L Turbo
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Options: Cargo Mat, Rear Seat Entertainment, Illuminated Doorsills, White Pearl Paint

Base Price: $45,365
As-Tested Price: $49,230

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