2018 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD new car reviews

Last year we drove the new-for-2017 Mazda CX-9, and we recently spent time with the 2018 version. What’s new? Glad you asked and, here, we’ll go right to the press materials:

New Equipment for 2018:
- G-Vectoring Control
- Heated steering wheel3
- Driver’s seat tilt function1
- Power passenger seats adds power seat lifter and
power lumbar support1
- Heated outboard, second-row seats3
- Revised second-row sliding mechanism
- Traffic Sign Recognition3
- Front parking sensors2

Newly Standard for 2018:
- Smart City Brake Support is now standard on all CX-9 models - Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is now standard on all CX-9 models
- Automatic on/off headlights on Touring1
- Rain-sensing windshield wipers on Touring1
- Newly available Soul Red Crystal paint color option
- Full i-ACTIVSENSE suite is now standard on CX-9 Touring models: High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, Lane-Keep Assist, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with new Stop and Go function and Smart Brake Support1

Updated Packages:
- Sport Package now includes automatic on/off headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, High Beam Control, Lane- Keep Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Mazda Radar Cruise Control with new Stop and Go function and Smart Brake Support
- Touring Premium Package now includes front parking sensors

1 CX-9 Touring trim level and above
2 Touring Premium Package and above
3 CX-9 Grand Touring trim level and above

Our test vehicle was the CX-9 Signature All Wheel Drive—the top-of-the-line model—wearing Snowflake White Pearl Mica over an Auburn interior. While the CX-9 lineup starts at $32,130, our tester came in at $44,315 plus another $1995 for the rear seat entertainment and another $200 for the special paint. If shopping for a CX-9, it was as deluxe as you could get.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Dang, that’s a lot of upgrades of a one-year-old vehicle, but those bells and whistles are pretty much standard for this class and this price point. Remember when an auto-down feature for the driver’s window was considered to be pretty spiffy?

This CX-9 pretty much reminded me of the one that we drove last year. I’d call it the Mazda of SUVs. It felt a little sportier than a Honda Pilot and a bit more upmarket than a Kia Sorento. The details and feel aren’t at the Audi level, but the basic design is certainly there.

Power felt really good, and we need to line up one of these against an MX-5. Which is quicker to 60?

One thing that caught my eye about our CX-9: The wood accents, special to the Signature model, come from Fujigen, a Japanese guitar company. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Fujigen had the Fender contract from 1981 through 1997 and it looks like they built my ’57 Reissue Precision Bass. The interior, between the tasteful use of said wood plus the auburn color, looked really rich.

The ride, though, felt a little rough over some stutter bumpers. At some point we have to look at the basic vehicle here. If SUVs had smaller–and thus lighter–wheels and tires, I think they’d ride better. But then they wouldn’t be as cool.

Marjorie Suddard Marjorie Suddard
General Manager

The CX-9 maintains its crossover status with a tiny third row that it’s hard to imagine any adult would happily occupy, but the surprisingly powerful engine makes you forget that there’s even another row of seats back there. All crossovers are, by definition, compromises, but readers of this magazine will likely approve of Mazda’s choice to skew this vehicle further from an SUV and more toward a sporting sedan. The upscale options and interior trim reinforce the feeling of capable luxury.

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Comments

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The0retical
The0retical UltraDork
5/14/18 1:53 p.m.

So the real question: Can you fit a rear facing baby seat in the "middle" row of this thing without seriously rearranging the front seats? The CX-5 is great but it suffers from the same size limitation as the 3 meaning the passenger seat needs to come pretty far forward.

Even with the old CX-9 on the shared CD-3 platform the rear row was practically useless so that's not terribly concerning, but being able to fit a pair of baby seats in it would work heavily in it's favor.

spacecadet
spacecadet New Reader
5/14/18 2:17 p.m.

In reply to The0retical :

What SUV's can fit a rear facing baby seat in the 3nd row? 

also, as far as i'm aware, none of the SUV this size get the proper bottom LATCH anchors for baby seats in the 3rd rows. in my 4 years(13-17) at Mazda and Honda Neither the Pilot nor CX-9 had them, Only the Minivans.

 

Edit. that was supposed to say 2nd not 3rd row in the first line 

The0retical
The0retical UltraDork
5/14/18 2:19 p.m.

In reply to spacecadet :

I may have not phrased that correctly. I could care less about the 3rd row. I just want something that I can put two rear facing seats in the middle row and not need to move the front seats forward.

grover
grover Reader
5/14/18 2:42 p.m.

In reply to The0retical :

it's called a minivan for about 6 years.  Just embrace it, they make great enclosed trucks as well as people movers.  

codrus
codrus UltraDork
5/14/18 2:51 p.m.

The CX-9 (we have a 2016, so same chassis but not quite as many gadgets) has a decent-sized back seat, but it's definitely not a minivan.  I haven't actually tried to fit rear-facing seats (our youngest was 7 when we bought the CX-9) but my hunch is that while a baby bucket would fit fine, a full size rear-facing seat is going to involve some compromises for the front passenger seat legroom.

The third row in the CX-9 is not for adults, kinda like the back seat in a 2+2.

I'm a big fan of the car, though.  Drives well (duh, it's a Mazda), and the turbo-4 works well.  The turbo runs out of breath at the top end, but it's a 3-row crossover SUV, not a sports car, so that's just fine.  It's got lots of low end.  My only complaint is that I don't have a great place to rest my left leg when driving, it kind of winds up leaning uncomfortably against the door.

spacecadet
spacecadet New Reader
5/14/18 2:53 p.m.

In reply to The0retical :

i didn't type the correct thing, but i knew what you meant about 2nd row. I don't know of any of this size SUV that can fit rear facting seats in the 2nd row, only the minivans can do that too. 

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
5/14/18 5:01 p.m.
The0retical said:

So the real question: Can you fit a rear facing baby seat in the "middle" row of this thing without seriously rearranging the front seats? The CX-5 is great but it suffers from the same size limitation as the 3 meaning the passenger seat needs to come pretty far forward.

Even with the old CX-9 on the shared CD-3 platform the rear row was practically useless so that's not terribly concerning, but being able to fit a pair of baby seats in it would work heavily in it's favor.

That's interesting you say that. We have a 2013 CX-9 and I've found that the third row easily fits me (6'0, 175) if the middle row is at it's middle setting on the sliders (assuming I can get past all the "stuff" my kids deposit all over the vehicle). Not that I'd want to ride back there since the seats aren't terribly comfortable (like riding in United economy class!), but we've had no issues fitting baby seats in either of the back row of ours when our kids were younger, and no problems fitting their full-enclousure booster seats now. 

The0retical
The0retical UltraDork
5/14/18 5:20 p.m.

In reply to irish44j :

To be honest I've only traveled in the 3rd row of the first gen version of the CX-9 once. Unfortunately it was in the UAE after traveling most of two solid days, due to delays, and I was with 3 other mechanics, our guide, and a bunch of gear. Probably not the best frame of mind to fairly evaluate anything.

It wasn't uncomfortable per say but I sort of remember the floor being higher, and things being narrow (probably because the middle was back all the way) so I didn't want to be back there there any longer than I needed to be. Plus evening traffic in Dubai didn't make it easier.

I only asked about the middle because getting the kids in and out seems like it would be a bit of a chore if I had to get into the 3rd row to verify or strap in as they're 4 yrs and 16 months at the moment. It would be my wife's car anyway so my input is limited to "This is or isn't a mechanical nightmare" since we keep vehicles a long time.

I can image the 3rd row would be super useful when they're 6 or 7 but I also think rear facing benches in station wagons, or a Model S if you're fancy, are the height of seating prowess.

codrus
codrus UltraDork
5/14/18 6:32 p.m.
The0retical said:

I can image the 3rd row would be super useful when they're 6 or 7 but I also think rear facing benches in station wagons, or a Model S if you're fancy, are the height of seating prowess.

 

Rear facing 3rd row benches are awesome when you're 12 and get to play "tail gunner", but as a parent the rear-end crash stats for kids occupying them are somewhat sobering...

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
5/14/18 7:13 p.m.
The0retical said:

In reply to irish44j :

To be honest I've only traveled in the 3rd row of the first gen version of the CX-9 once. Unfortunately it was in the UAE after traveling most of two solid days, due to delays, and I was with 3 other mechanics, our guide, and a bunch of gear. Probably not the best frame of mind to fairly evaluate anything.

It wasn't uncomfortable per say but I sort of remember the floor being higher, and things being narrow (probably because the middle was back all the way) so I didn't want to be back there there any longer than I needed to be. Plus evening traffic in Dubai didn't make it easier.

I only asked about the middle because getting the kids in and out seems like it would be a bit of a chore if I had to get into the 3rd row to verify or strap in as they're 4 yrs and 16 months at the moment. It would be my wife's car anyway so my input is limited to "This is or isn't a mechanical nightmare" since we keep vehicles a long time.

I can image the 3rd row would be super useful when they're 6 or 7 but I also think rear facing benches in station wagons, or a Model S if you're fancy, are the height of seating prowess.

point taken. When they were in rear-facing seats we had the Sequoia (well, still do), but they both went in the 2nd row. And yeah, the CX-9 3rd row floor is kind of high since they are fold-down hidden seats...so adults do get the "knees up" seating position.

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
5/14/18 7:14 p.m.
codrus said:
The0retical said:

I can image the 3rd row would be super useful when they're 6 or 7 but I also think rear facing benches in station wagons, or a Model S if you're fancy, are the height of seating prowess.

 

Rear facing 3rd row benches are awesome when you're 12 and get to play "tail gunner", but as a parent the rear-end crash stats for kids occupying them are somewhat sobering...

we grew up in Volvo 240 wagons. I think they actually HAD the third-row seats, but they were never actually "up." Always folded flat and my brother and i would just get in "the way back" with a bunch of pillows and blankets on road trips and lounge around. Probably get thrown in jail for letting your kids do that these days (and that was in the 80s!)

Trackmouse
Trackmouse UltraDork
5/14/18 9:51 p.m.

I’m still wanting to see a CUV shootout. And since they are all really slow, make it a winter/off-road shootout with an asphalt drag. Or heck, how about a dirt drag? That’ll really show the AWD capability!

mazdas awd seems super restrictive. My crosstrek seemed overly restrictive at first, but now I feel it’s the least out of the bunch. 

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
5/15/18 9:25 a.m.
grover said:

In reply to The0retical :

it's called a minivan for about 6 years.  Just embrace it, they make great enclosed trucks as well as people movers.  

This.  Went to buy a CX9, left the dealership and got a Sienna.

It's been a wonderful appliance.

TGMF
TGMF Reader
5/15/18 2:42 p.m.

In reply to The0retical :

I assume you, or your significant other is tall and need the front seats to stay slid back, like me.  SUV's you need to look full size to make reverse facing seats fit.  Toyota Sequioa, Nissan Armada ,GM  Tahoe/Burban, and the big Fords.   Otherwise, its minivan or full size truck with the full size rear doors. Tundras specifically have a HUGE back seat.  

Or minivan.  Pretty much your only options. 

 

I bought a Armada for this very reason.  Downsides are few......no fun to drive, and the fuel economy makes my manhood shrivel. 

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