2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring Review

The best all-around vehicle on the planet today

Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief

Positives: Steers, handles and brakes beautifully, excellent interior comfort and ergonomics, truly attractive exterior styling, easy infotainment system, solid fit and finish.
Negatives: Could use a few more ponies under the hood, some occasional infotainment hiccups, no ventilated seat option.
Bottom Line: One of the best three-row SUVs out there, bar none. It looks, drives and feels absolutely wonderful. Mazda nailed the new CX-9 like few automakers do their first version of a new generation. Near perfect.
 View Our 2017 Mazda CX-9 Overview
We wondered if our second time in the CX-9 would reveal more of its shortcomings than the first, loving time around. We came away last year absolutely adoring the CX-9 in top level Signature trim, one notch up from our tester here, the Grand Touring. Since then we haven't come across and SUV or large crossover that did as well of a job combining looks, driving dynamics, space, comfort and ergonomics as the CX-9. It's a tall order to beat this thing as an all-arounder. Mazda did that good of a job, folks. Though it doesn't sell in big numbers like the Honda Pilot (nor is it as big), we chalk it up as marketing, which Mazda doesn't spend a ton of money on in the first place.

We took out the pearly white CX-9 Grand Touring for a full week to see if it had lost any of its luster from our first time behind the wheel. Read our full review below to find out.

Driving Experience



If you could get in the CX-9 without ever seeing the outside, without ever knowing it was a 7-passenger crossover, you would think it was a sporty sedan. The CX-9 handles and drives remarkably well, not just for a family-hauler but for a car, period. Mazda took the time to make its flagship vehicle fantastic on the road, and the engineers got to have their way with it. There isn't a crossover that drives this well for its size.

Ride Quality: The ride is comfortable without compromising the driving experience. It's smooth but rests on the firm side. We love not being totally insulated from the pavement on which we drive.

Acceleration: Though the 2.5-liter turbo four is designed to give lower end grunt, we didn't experience any lacking acceleration at higher speeds, either. The throttle is quick, as is the automatic transmission's shifting. The fact that it's light for its size also contributes to solid launches and rapier-like maneuvers. The only thing we don't like is the overly aggressive Sport mode that holds the transmission in gear too long in mild driving situations.

Braking: The CX-9's brakes are strong and progressive with great pedal feel. We didn't experience any fade during repeated hard braking.

Steering: The electrically-assisted steering is the best in class based on our experience. It has good feel, solid feedback and quick turn-in. It's the kind of steering that betrays the segment in the best of ways.

Handling: The CX-9 corners very flat and keeps its body in check very well. We even tracked another model last year, and it's remarkably good in the twisties.




Mazda seems to know just how much tech should go into a vehicle's cabin. They don't overdo it, which many manufacturers can be accused of. They also don't under do it. The CX-9 does a just about perfect job of combining usability and aesthetics. Rather than distracting from the driving experience, it makes things that much easier.

Infotainment System:The 8-inch touchscreen on the CX-9 has great legibility with large icons and only a handful of colors so as not to make things distrcting. But you can only use the touch feature when the car isn't in motion.

Controls: We love the infotainment controls on the center console. The main knob actuates very well, and you never overshoot your desired selection. The adjacent buttons are well-placed and responsive, too. Everything else in the cabin in terms of controls are strategically located and easy to use. They really do show off how Mazda thinks about functionality and ease of use while in motion.

Bluetooth Pairing: Quick and easy. Pretty much tied with Toyota and Hyundai in terms of pairing and recognition upon re-entry.

Voice Call Quality: Mazda’s call quality is clear. Zero issues here.




We were smitten with the charcoal grey CX-9 we had last year, but the Snowflake White Pearl Mica paint on this tester really shined. It gave the CX-9 a more upscale look. Whatever the color you choose, the CX-9 is a truly attractive large crossover that looks good from every angle. If you're impressed by the exterior styling, just take a look at the excellent interior. It's one of the best we've experienced this year.

Front: Big and handsome without too much pomp and circumstance. The big grille protrudes a bit too much, making it a target for “park-by-feel” drivers. Few styling elements make for a truly attractive mug.

Rear: Mimics the Mazda6 in its use of slender taillights with a single round element and two spartan chrome strips to break up the visual height. Twin round exhaust pipes are just perfect.

Profile: This is how you do beautiful. No floating roof, no massive chrome elements, no dramatic creases. Just a handsome shape with thin pillars and small front and rear overhangs, all accentuated by a gorgeous metallic gray paint job. This one will age very well, indeed.

Cabin: Step inside, and you’d swear you in a car costing twenty-thousand more. It’s well-appointed with premium leather, expensive-looking and feeling materials, and some of the best ergonomics we’ve seen in a car. We do prefer the Signature model's Auburn leather and open pore matte rosewood over our model's piano black trim.




The new CX-9 feels about two generations ahead of its predecessor, and that applies to comfort, too. Aside from the somewhat cramped quarters in the third row and the second row bench that make third-row ingress and egress a bit harder than captain’s chairs (but not difficult, thanks to a second row that folds forward), the CX-9 is superb. It's also very quiet thanks to ample sound deadening.

Front Seats: The seats are excellent for commutes and long-haul drives with the right amount of bolstering and cushioning. These seats are a notch below the Lexus RX and two below the Volvo XC90’s, but they are pretty much better than every other SUV’s front seats.

Rear Seats: Very comfy second row seats that move rearward (cramping the already somewhat cramped third-row occupants). The third row is really for kids and lacks leg and headroom.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Very quiet, indeed. Freeway driving is fatigue-free thanks to the use of more quieting materials. No rattles or shakes to speak of. The car feels premium.

Visibility: Excellent forward and rearward visibility thanks to big glass and thin pillars.

Climate: Big climate control knobs make modulating easy while driving, and the system works very well. We just wish the CX-9 offered ventilated front seats. Maybe next year, Mazda?




Though the CX-9 doesn’t have IIHS crash test ratings yet, it does offer plenty of safety features like blind-spot monitoring, radar-based cruise control, and lane-departure warning and correction. Stability control, rollover control, ABS and traction control are all standard on the CX-9, providing a solid base for the safety-minded.

Our only chagrin about the safety is the very intrusive and often abrupt collision warning system made available on top trim models that have the intelligent cruise control. It tends to jam the brakes so hard, you think you’ve hit something when you’re only travelling at very low speeds in traffic when you’re very close to another car in front of you. A bit annoying, even though you can control the sensitivity.

IIHS Rating: The CX-9 in its current form has not yet been tested by the IIHS.

Standard Tech: Our Signature top-tier model came with tire pressure monitoring system, dynamic stability control, Mazda radar cruise control, rear camera, trailer stability assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and lane keep assist

Optional Tech: The CX-9 Signature comes with all safety features standard. No optional equipment is available.




Suffice it to say that the CX-9 isn’t the biggest three-row SUV out there. But unless you have a big family, you’ll probably be more than happy with it. Storage cubbies are good but not huge, but most everything is well thought-out. We would’ve liked a more accessible area for our phones and keys, but these are small issues that don’t detract much from a pretty incredible interior as a whole.

Storage Space: The storage spaces within are ample, including a great split-top center armrest that’s deep and good door pockets. The cupholders are well-place just aft of the center console controls. We like the space of the cubby beneath the center stack, but it was a bit hard to reach into and hard to see with its dark plastic and lack of lighting.

Cargo Room: 14-cubic-feet of cargo behind the third row is smaller than most of the third-row competition, but the manually folding third row goes flat to make for 38 cubic feet. Fold both rear rows and you get an abundant 71 cubic feet, more than enough for a long road trip for two.

Fuel Economy



The lack of a V6 and the lighter weight of the CX-9 help give it great gas mileage for a vehicle this large. Though it could use more power at higher speeds, the move toward a turbocharged four (Dynamic Pressure Turbo gives it great low and midrange punch) is smart, given that Mazda studied SUV driver habits and found that most of them didn’t call upon power at the upper ranges as much as they did in traffic. All this thinking gives the CX-9 the best fuel economy numbers in its class.

Observed: 24.3 mpg combined.

Driving Factors: The 21/27 mpg EPA figures aren't far off from what we got, even though we drove Sport mode a good portion of the time. We wish the mode wasn't so aggressive sometimes, though.




The CX-9 Signature’s 12-speaker BOSE audio system is one of the best we’ve seen. And it comes as no surprise since BOSE engineered this one specifically for the CX-9. It boasts a mid/high range speaker right in the middle of the dash with two more in the front corners, along with tweeters. Not only is the system plenty loud, the clarity is spectacular. Coupled with a very quiet interior, it’s a pleasure to listen to.

Mazda has created one of the best three-row SUVs out there. Not only does it drive well and look fantastic, it's also very comfortable. Frankly, it's the one vehicle we covet for our own families. The CX-9, unlike so many other 7-passenger vehicles, doesn't feel like a compromise of what we care about: driving dynamics, comfort, space, good styling and fuel economy. It's really hard to go wrong with one of the best executed, best priced vehicles on sale today.
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