Most three-row crossovers look like two-brick behemoths “designed” for passenger space over beauty. And, for most large crossover owners, that’s a trade they’re willing to make. But, what about those of us who need comfortable space for at least six, but want an attractive car that’s just as enjoyable with only one or two aboard? Mazda has the answer in the 2020 CX-9 Signature series.
Mazda gained a reputation of being a “Japanese Alfa Romeo” and that is evident in its styling, luxury, and performance. Looking like it came from an Italian carrozzeria, exterior shapes look as much hand formed as stamped. Mazda’s trademark grille with precise edges stands tall, flowing back into the long hood, curvaceous fenders and low roofline. Bodysides are accentuated in all the right place. It’s distinguished further by 20-inch wheels, LED headlamps, and signature grille lighting. It’s especially alluring in Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint.
Art lovers and driving enthusiasts alike will enjoy the CX-9’s lush cabin. Stylists embraced minimization and rich materials, highlighted by Deep Chestnut Nappa leather upholstery, Santos Rosewood trim, and controls kept low in the console for a clean appearance. Rear passengers get twin captain’s chairs with a large console. Heated/ventilated front seats, heated second row chairs, and a heated steering wheel sooth seasoned souls. A power moonroof, crisp 12-apeaker Bose audio, and tri-zone automatic climate control add comfort.
Infotainment is handled via a console joywheel and new 9-inch full color screen, employing Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth to connect devices while rain sensing wipers and a head up display make driving easier. Safety is enhanced with an array of tech that includes radar adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with auto brake, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Between the stylish fenders is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine dishing out 227 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque on 87 octane fuel or 250 horsepower and 320 lb.-ft on premium 93 octane. It’s not an overwhelming amount of power, but is more than adequate to move the CX-9 with vigor whether cruising on the Interstate or kicking up to speed. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive put it to pavement. Fuel economy is rated 20/26-MPG city/highway – not bad for a three-row art fair.
Driving the CX-9 is quite nice. The firm yet compliant suspension encourages you to go for long drives on twisty roads. It’s only when you turn around that you realize how big the vehicle really is. You can hustle it and enjoy the hustling. I could do without the cumbersome joywheel control, and the drive mode selector doesn’t really do much, but the CX-9 is a beautiful place to spend time and sure looks good in the driveway.
All of the styling details make you feel very special. It’s also surprisingly affordable. A base price of $33,890 rose to $47,855 for our Signature luxury wagon with virtually every option box checked. Competitors include the Subaru Ascent, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Buick Enclave, and Ford Explorer. None look as suave.
2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature
- 7 passengers, AWD Crossover
- Powertrain: 2.5L T4, 6-spd trans
- Output: 227 hp/310 lb.-ft.
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Drive
- Fuel economy: 20/26-MPG city/hwy
- Assembly: Hiroshima, Japan
- Base price/As-tested: $33,890/47,855