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Dec102018

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD: Making a Good Thing Better

By Ted Orme

If you want to make a Mazda fan (like me) happy just offer him a week test drive in the flagship 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD. In a review of the same model last year, I added my praise to a raft of awards and top marks from car mags and bloggers for its “terrific blend of driving fun, utility and comfort.” So what could make this top ride better?

Leaving well enough alone, Mazda has improved the CX-9’s standing as a premium three-row crossover SUV with more horsepower and even better handling, as well as more soundproofing and additional high-tech features in an even more refined package.

For 2019, Mazda has added both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration phone connectivity systems as standard  equipment on every trim level. Models equipped with SiriusXM Satellite Radio now get a complementary five-year subscription to SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link, and a 360°View Monitor and ventilated front seats have been added to higher trim models.

All Mazda CX-9 models – Sport, Touring, Grand Touring and Signature – are powered by the turbocharged direct injection 2.5-liter SKYACTIV engine that offers excellent response without turbo lag.  Thanks to higher compression, it now delivers up to 250 horsepower on 93-octane gas (227 horsepower with 87-octane gasoline) and a healthy 310 lb-ft of torque independent of fuel octane.

Further updates are a refined, retuned suspension that offers a smoother, quieter ride and greater sound suppression by way of a thicker headliner and thicker floor mats. It’s a fine environment to listen to music or just talk.

But what really sets the CX-9 apart is outstanding driving dynamics that beg to be enjoyed. Just call it fun to drive. That derives from a solid chassis, firm yet refined suspension and enhanced brake feel and performance. All that got better last year with the introduction of Mazda’s clever G-Vectoring Control, a system that reduces engine torque imperceptibly as the vehicle enters a corner to help improve steering and cornering stability.

Mazda also broke ranks last year and ditched its V-6 engine in favor of a strong 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an efficient six-speed automatic transmission that matches or beats the power and response of most of the V-6 competitors while besting them in fuel economy.

Fuel economy may not a top priority for buyers of a three-row midsize crossover SUV, but CX-9 owners will appreciate an EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, 23 mpg combined. Mazda has announced a suite of updates for the 2019 model year Mazda CX-9 SUV. I averaged 20 mpg in my week of around town driving in the Signature AWD.

The CX-9 also looks good, inside and out. The shark-nose front grille, long hood, steeply raked windshield, and fastback rear end with integrated rear spoiler differentiates the CX-9 from more bulbous and squared off competitors. The top-of-the-line Signature gets some extra chrome on the side and the 20-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard on lower trims) to give it a decidedly sporty look.

The cabin matches up with an elegant design that features high-quality materials, excellent fit-and-finish throughout, and an easy to read and operate popup touchscreen

The top-trim Signature also gets standard, nearly line-of-sight active driving display in the windshield, as well as such goodies as Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, power moonroof, killer Bose 12 speaker sound system, LED interior lighting, real aluminum trim, and genuine rosewood trim.

All that plus a complete suite of all the latest active safety systems for my tested Signature come with an MSRP of $45,365. Add to that front and rear bumper trim ($550), cargo mat ($100), illuminated doorsill trim plates ($575), machine gray paint ($300) and $995 delivery fee ran the total to $47.885.

But it should be noted that the base 2019 Sport has a starting MSRP of $32,280. For 2019, there is now an optional “Sport Package” that includes many of the standard features in high trim models – power driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated door mirrors, automatic headlights with high beam control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, full-speed Mazda radar cruise control, rain-sensing wipers and smart brake support automatic emergency braking.

So it all boils down to how rich you want to be treated and how rich you actually are. Regardless of the CX-9 trim level, you can be sure of, as the company puts it, “an indulgent experience of quality and comfort.”

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