Sacramento, California – Mazda’s midsize, three-row CX-9 sport-utility vehicle received some serious upgrades for the 2016 model year, so I figured the 2017 test driver would do little to quicken my pulse.
I was wrong.
I was handed the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature edition with all-wheel drive, and it was a powerful, luxury loaded performer that provided a week of wall-to-wall enjoyment.
And it didn’t have your typical luxury appointments.
Upholstery was done in rich Nappa leather. Rosewood touches were supplied by Japanese guitar maker Fujigen. Classy LED lighting could be found on the grille and the shifter.
Mazda claims that these touches (and more) on its seven-seater are luring buyers from traditional premium and luxury brands, and I have to believe it.
On top of everything else, my ride cooked, courtesy of a 2.5-liter turbo-4 with 227 horsepower and an impressive 310 foot-pounds of torque.
Yes, it was possible to squeal the tires from a standing start with that power plant, and it easily dodged around rowds of cars on daily freeway commutes. The SUV drove lighter than it looked.
While I was breezing by pokes in the tested CX-9, I enjoyed the roomy interior, the nice 360-degree view from the cockpit and plentiful comfort/convenience features jammed into this ride.
I liked the auburn-colored interior too; just the right mix of elegance and warmth.
This being the high-riding Signature edition, the bottom line on the sticker read a hefty $45,655, but this is what I expected in an SUV so generously equipped.
Fuel mileage was so-so at 20 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Thankfully, Mazda resisted the temptation to style the CX-9 off the reservation. The look on the front and back and in profile is pretty classic SUV. It has just the right amount of air-cutting sweep over the top, and an imposing front end that matches that of other sport-ute producers.
I was made to feel secure by a long list of safety features, including roll-stability control and grippy four-wheel disc brakes.
If you’re willing to put down close to $50,000 for a family-hauling SUV that you’re likely to keep for years, this CX-9 is definitely worth a look.
Mazda continues to impress me with its product lineup, development of technologies and smart approach to functional, luxurious vehicle interiors.