2021 Mazda CX-9 Review

2021 Mazda CX-9 - The 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD combines upscale sportiness and utility


Price: $46,605

Pros - Sporty looks. Roomy. Fast. Nimble. Fun to drive. Well- equipped. All-wheel drive
Cons - Tight third-row seat. Modest cargo area with third-row seats up. So-so fuel economy.

Bottom Line-Mazda's mid-size sport-utility is its flagship for good reasons.

One need not sacrifice driving fun with a sport-utility when Mazda's upscale CX-9 Signature is available.

Mazda emphasizes driving fun with the CX-9 because it provides strong acceleration, good handling and plenty of room, along with sporty styling.

There are no major changes for the 2021 CX-9 because its design was good to begin with and the latest generation model isn't that old. There are various CX-9 models, starting with the $33,960 front-drive Sport and end with the $46,605 Signature AWD model (Prices exclude a $1,100 delivery charge).

I tested the top-line CX-9 Signature AWD, which comes with standard all-wheel-drive and is absolutely packed with features.

The 2021 Signature's special items include a titanium gray metallic finish front grille, new 20-inch silver finish aluminum alloy wheels and larger chromed dual exhaust outlets. The interior has been upgraded with new quilting and piping, and there's patterned aluminum on the dashboard, door panels and handle bezels.

A new 10.25-inch center infotainment display is the largest to be put in a  CX-9. It may take some time to figure out how to work the display, which is partly controlled by a prominent console knob, but it generally gets good marks. There are many small dashboard controls for such things as the three-way climate control system. My test CX-9 was Android Auto capable and had Apple CarPlay. The Bose AM/FM sound system with 12 speakers sounds good, and there also is a wireless phone charger, auxiliary jack and 6 USB inputs.

Then there's a push-button start, hands-free power rear hatch, power sunroof, heated and ventilated Nappa leather-trimmed power front seats and a tilt/telescopic wheel with audio and cruise controls.

The CX-9 seems to have every safety item in the book. They include a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning system, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, advanced smart city brake support, radar cruise control with stop-and-go and a 360 degree view monitor. Front side-impact air bags and side air curtains help protect occupants.

The automatic-fold door mirrors always are appreciated in tight parking spots. Ever price the replacement cost for front side mirrors damaged by careless parking lot drivers?

A large console consumes a lot of front-seat space, but there was room in my test CS-9 for four tall adults because the second-row seat had two captain's chairs, preventing three-across seating, and the tight third row area is available for kids. It's fairly easy to reach because of a sliding second-row seat.

Cargo room beneath the smooth-acting power hatch is just adequate, but there's plenty of cargo space when the rear seats are folded forward. There's also a small, shallow storage area beneath the cargo compartment rug.

Power comes from a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It generates 227 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on 87-octane gasoline and 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque on 87-octane gas. I had no idea what brand of gas was in my test CX-9 Signature, but found it did quick 65-80 m.p.h. passing on highways. A driver can put the CX-9 in regular or "Sport" driving modes, but i did most testing in regular mode.
"Sport" allows a little quicker acceleration because it increases engine revs and tightens the steering a bit, but it really isn't necessary unless you're doing aggressive driving. It can't help fuel economy, which is an estimated so-so 29 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on highways.

The engine works with a responsive six-speed automatic transmission, which can be crisply shifted manually via steering wheel paddles.

Driving  fun? The CX-9 handles much like a tied-down large car. The quick steering is precise in normal driving mode and works with an all-independent suspension, front/rear stabilizer bars, dynamic and stability traction control systems and, of course, the all-wheel drive system with G-Vectoring control.

Handling is nimble, but there's slight body sway when sweeping through high-speed expressway on-and-off ramps in either normal or "Sport" mode, but  the somewhat firm ride is compliant in either mode. In short, "Sport" won't rattle your teeth. The brake pedal has a smooth, progressive action.

My test CX-9 Signature AWD had only one option- $550 Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, which is a fitting color for such a sporty SUV.


Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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