2022 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD – Review by David Colman
Easy on the eyes, inside and out
Special Correspondent to THEAUTO CHANNEL
Mazda's top echelon CX-9 has been the company's flagship SUV from the year it was introduced (2006) to the advent of the current second-generation version in 2017. If you're in the market for a three-row SUV that looks and handles better than either the Kia Telluride or Jeep Grand Cherokee, the CX-9 is a good bet. For 2022, Mazda offers all-wheel drive on all versions of the CX-9, from the entry-level Sport ($36,855) to the new for 2022 Touring Plus model ($42,085). Other trim levels include the Touring, Carbon Edition, and Grand Touring versions. We tested the range-topping Signature edition ($47,210). With its only option a $395 "Snowflake White Pearl" paint job, our test SUV carried a total MSRP of $48,830. Adept Mazda stylists have graced the CX-9 with pleasing contours and graceful proportions, an understated mix that perpetually seems to elude the 3-row competition. Make no mistake, the CX-9 is easy on the eyes both inside and out.
Although seating for seven is available if you select the split bench second row layout, our test vehicle replaced that with a pair of captain's chairs which bracketed a central storage cubby/cup holder unit. When you pop for the Signature trim level, Mazda finishes all first and second row seating surfaces in Nappa leather. Both rows are heated, as is the steering wheel's grip area. Our test model's interior looked rich in Deep Chestnut hide, a shade that benefited from stylish argyle quilting and complimented the open pore wood trim on the dash and doors. If elegance is your game, then Signature has your name.
The third row seats, while easily accessible thanks to the easy sliding pair of row two chairs, are uncomfortable tight for adults, but tolerable for children. Perhaps the best part of the interior layout is the ease with which it can be reconfigured from six seat duty to the storage locker plan. A few quick lever strokes converts the space into 34 cubic feet of space, which enabled us to slide a bicycle in through the power operated hatch. The only drawback here is the snag openings left between those captain's chairs and the central rear armrest. You would be well advised to cover the whole area with a flat loading mat before inserting your cargo. That would protect the Nappa leather and prevent loads from snagging on the spaces between the stowed seat backs.
Exceptional handling has always distinguished Mazda products from the rest. The latest CX-9 upholds the proud tradition in this department, with a long list of suspension and handling refinements that separate this SUV from less sophisticated designs. Fully independent suspension front and rear utilizes fore and aft stabilizer bars, G-vectoring directional control, and fat footprint 20 x 8J alloy wheels mounting 255/50R20 Falken Ziex CT50 A/S mud and snow radials. Despite its 4,485lb. curb weight, the CX-9 comports itself with much more agility than its size would lead you to believe. Although short of the rapier agility characteristic of smaller Mazda products like the CX-5 and CX-50, the CX-9 will nonetheless surprise you with its high level of road adhesion, lack of body roll, and squeal-free Falken rubber grip.
Inside the cabin, you will discover some dead giveaways to the CX-9's age. Most obvious is the 5 year old design of the instrument panel. The gauge faces, particularly the speedometer readouts, are small and hard to see. The central 10.25 inch color display is undersized compared to competitors' newer models. The actuation switch on the center console for Drive Mode selection is small and difficult to use while driving. Mode choice is poorly illuminated on the instrument display panel. In addition, the CX-9 lacks the sparkling start-up graphics that have swept the dashboard design industry in the last few years. If, however, you like your information display sedate, the staid CX-9 will suffice.
Of course, Mazda is about to put a halt to that aging process in the next year or so by introducing its successor to the CX-9, the CX-90. Unlike the CX-9. which is built in Hiroshima, Japan, the CX-90 will be produced in Alabama, will utilize an all new platform, and a turbocharged inline-six instead of the CX-9's turbocharged 2.5 liter inline 4. It promises to be a worthy successor to the still agile, handsome and competent CX-9
2022 MAZDA CX-9 SIGNATURE AWD
ENGINE: 2,5 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 20MPG City/26MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $48,830
HYPES: Precise Handling, Refined Finish
GRIPES: Dated Dashboard
STAR RATING: 8.5 Stars out of 10