On the Road: 2023 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

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By Peter Perrotta

The three-row family SUV (sport utility vehicle) is a popular segment representing a crowded field that is tough to compete in.

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However, Japanese importer Mazda represents itself quite well with the CX-9 even if it is faced with stiff competition in this segment.

I recently road tested the CX-9 Signature AWD model for one week and I must say I think overall it can give popular segment choices like the Hyundai Palisades and the Kia Telluride a run for their money.

Now, the CX-9 doesn’t have as much sizzle as the wildly popular Palisades and Telluride, but it checks a lot of the important boxes to make it a serious contender.

The CX-9 is offered up in five different trim levels: the base model Touring, starting at $40,025; Touring Plus, starting $42,625; Carbon Edition, $46,105; Grand Touring, $46,965 and the top-of-the-line Signature, $46,735.

The loaded-up Signature AWD model I drove for one week carried a bottom-line sticker price with options and delivery charges of $50,330.

Overall, I’d rate this model an 8.5 out of a possible 10.

What I liked about it – it is has an attractive stance inside and out. It is built from quality materials. The ride is smooth and the controls are fairly easy to understand and use.

Moreover, like most of all Mazda vehicles it has an excellent reputation for quality and reliability.

Where this Mazda falls short – I think it is a bit underpowered, and I felt that the telematics need some serious updating. It could use a bigger center console command center screen and the voice recognition system needs to be upgraded.

There are far too many times when you give a voice command and the system just doesn’t understand what you are telling it to do. This seems to be a feature that needs upgrading in most of the Mazda models.

Also, the command center screens are too small for a vehicle of this size.

But, despite some minor shortcomings, the CX-9 is a serious contender in this segment.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) fuel consumption ratings at 23 miles per gallon (mpg) overall – 26 mpg in highway driving and 20 mpg in city driving.

The EPA estimates that on average you will spend about $1,500 a year in fuel costs on a CX-9 as it uses 4.3 gallons of gas for every 100 miles you drive.

On the government’s crash test ratings the CX-9 scored a perfect 5 out of 5 for its overall vehicle score.

The editors at Car and Driver give the CX-9 high marks for its “engaging road manners, nicely trimmed cabin and stylish and upscale looks.”

Moreover, Car and Driver thought the rear seat space was snug and that the vehicle could use more horsepower.

Powering the CX-9 is a turbo-charged four-cylinder engine that can go from 0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds.

While this power plant is not all that slow, for a vehicle of this size, Mazda may want to think about switching it up to a six-cylinder engine.

I found this turbo charged four-cylinder engine to be adequate in around town driving every day of the week.

I also think the engine performs well when just highway cruising as well.

However, if you are looking for the extra punch when you want to get off the line quickly or just make a passing maneuver on the interstate, it lacks that extra sizzle required.

But overall there is plenty to like about the CX-9, which did not go through any major changes for the 2023 model year.

Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears every other week. He can be contacted at pperrotta@comcast.net.

On The Road is sponsored by Capital Motor Cars of Springfield, N.J. one of the leading leasing agents in the tri-state area.

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