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2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature Windy City Review By Larry Nutson

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2020 Mazda CX-9
Elevate your game

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Many automaker of today got their start making something other than autos. Mazda is one. Mazda Motor Corporation recently celebrated its 100th anniversary at its headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan. Mazda originated as a company producing cork and then took the path to manufacturing automobiles. Now, their cars are found in over 130 countries and regions.

And now 100 years later Mazda has been upping its game. The introduction of a top-line Signature trim first on the CX-9 three-row midsize SUV and then on the Mazda6 sedan set the stage.

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The 2020 Mazda CX-9 went on sale in the Fall of 2019. New are optional second-row captain’s chairs the provide individual space for either the young or the even younger. The two individual seats are great for children to each have their own space. And for the grown ups, not being squeezed by someone in the middle-seat is indeed a pleasure.

My wife and I recently road-tripped a new 2020 CX-9 Signature AWD trim from our Chicago home to visit our daughter and her family in Southeast Michigan. It was just the two of us, so we didn’t put this two middle row captain’s chairs to their intended use. We were transporting some household items that we had been storing and could now be put to good use by my daughter’s family in their new home. The new hands-free power rear liftgate made for easier loading and unloading the 71 cu.ft. cargo area.

For 2020 the CX-9 has a new off-road traction assist and increased maximum torque from the turbocharged engine. The Skyactiv-G 2.5T engine now delivers 320 lb-ft of torque on 93 octane gasoline (310 lb-ft of torque on 87 octane gasoline); an increase of 10 lb-ft of torque over last year. The 2.5-L engine is rated to deliver up to 250 horsepower on 93 octane gasoline (227 horsepower on 87 octane gasoline) and is paired with a six-speed Skyactiv-Drive automatic transmission.

Fuel consumption is not affected by the different octane grades. EPA test cycle ratings are 23 combined mpg, with 20 city mpg and 26 highway mpg for AWD models. FWD models have the same city rating and a 2 mpg increase at 28 highway mpg.

On our highway trip east traveling the interstate along southern Michigan the CX-9 got 23 mpg. The interstate traffic was light and the roads dry, so my speed was consistently in the upper end of the tolerance band. Heading westbound back home, which is into the prevailing wind, the CX-9 got 21 mpg in spite of us having a lighter load.

Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) is standard on CX-9 Signature and available on all other trim levels. Paired with AWD, the 2020 CX-9 is the first Mazda vehicle with the all-new off-road traction assist feature. Replacing the traction control button, this feature can potentially help the driver when adventuring on uneven terrain. When the diagonal wheels lose traction, off-road traction assist will stop reducing the engine torque and increases the brake force on the wheels without traction. This transfers power to the wheels still on the ground to help allow the vehicle to regain traction and continue the drive. G-Vectoring Control Plus is also standard for 2020 and further improves the steering response to help provide smooth and confident handling.

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The Signature trim is the flagship of the CX-9 model range and is loaded with premium features. The new heated second-row captain’s chairs are standard. A center console similar to the front row has extra storage and convenient access to two USB charging ports and cupholders. Deep Chestnut or Parchment Nappa leather seating surfaces match the Santos Rosewood interior trim. A new, darker silver wheel finish is unique to the CX-9 Signature and went well with the Soul Red Crystal premium exterior paint of my loaner test car. Other premium features include a hand-stitched, leather-wrapped “chidori” steering wheel, rear exterior badging, LED grille accent lighting and supplemental interior lighting around the transmission shifter.

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The CX-9 is also available in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trims, each either in front-wheel or all-wheel drive. A Premium Package ($2,100) is optional on the Touring trim. New for 2020 is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a nine-inch, full-color touchscreen display are equipped on all trims except the Sport. A new 360° View Monitor is standard on Grand Touring and Signature trims.

Pricing for the 2020 CX-9 starts at $33,890 for the Sport FWD. The Signature AWD tops things out at $46,215. Destination charge is an additional $1,100.

Visit for more facts and information on the 2020 CX-9 and the entire Mazda model lineup. Mazda’s full suite of i-Activ sense safety features are now standard which include Radar Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Advanced Smart City Brake Support with pedestrian detection, Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning and Lane Departure Warning with Lane-Keep Assist to Blind Spot Monitoring System with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.

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Ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, and automatic power-folding outside mirrors are three of my favorite features, and the CX-9 has them.

The midsize crossover SUV segment offers lots of choices for buyers today. The 2020 Mazda CX-9 stands out from the crowd with its refined looks and premium interior. The turbo engine delivers plenty of performance especially for those who want a more dynamic driving experience or need the power in hilly country or when more fully loaded.

Front-Wheel Drive i-Activ All-Wheel Drive
CX-9 Sport $33,790 $35,690
CX-9 Touring $35,610 $37,510
·       Touring Premium Package $2,100 $2,100
CX-9 Grand Touring $41,450 $43,350
CX-9 Signature $46,115


Soul Red Crystal $595
Machine Gray Metallic $300
Snowflake White Pearl Mica $200


© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy