We recently picked up a 2016 signature and this car is nearly perfect for our needs. We already own a 2014 Mazda3 and bought this to replace a 2009 RX350.
We cross shopped this car with the 2016 RX350. While the fit and finish on the new RX is undeniably excellent, the major problems with it are 1) the infotainment system requires extraordinary precision/attention and thus is extremely distracting/dangerous to use while driving and 2) the rear cargo area has a higher load floor and less cargo space than the 2nd or 3rd gen RXs. MSRP on the signature model I got is $45,215 and I paid $43,800 excluding taxes, fees, and registration. A comparably equipped RX350 would retail for $10K more easy.
I'll be the first to say that the CX-9 loses out if you're looking for the most utilitarian vehicle with maximum cargo capacity. It's smaller interior volume (mostly due to height) mean it doesn't have the biggest cargo capacity (some 30 cubes less than the Pilot). That said, the super long wheel base and overall length provide solid leg room in all three rows and the interior is more than comfortable for adults. It just won't be as airy as some when it comes to headroom.
But what it lacks in utilitarianism it makes up for in spades through superior driving dynamics, solid execution of tech, and premium design. I find this Signature trim far more luxurious than the top trims of any of its direct competitors and even more attractive than MDX or QX60. To me the ideal buyer of the Signature trim of this vehicle is someone that wants a 3 row near luxury SUV but doesn't want to pay luxury prices or, as was my case, simply found the alternatives unappealing.
We recently completed a 937 mile round trim from SF to LA and average 24.2 mpg with radar cruise set to 74 mph most of the way. Per Mazda, when pushed hard, the turbo 4 will underperform EPA ratings but when driven conservatively, it outperforms those same ratings. That note is consistent with our observed mpg.
Onto the pros and cons:
Front side air vents point too far out and don't direct airflow towards front passengers effectively.
Very narrow 2nd row middle seat (outboard seatbelt buckles are almost blocked by a rear facing Britax convertible car seat)
No ventilated front seats (would have been nice given hot CA summers)
No panoramic moon roof
No live traffic integration in the nav app. Live traffic is viewed in a separate view and is only shown on a macro map.
No Android Auto or Apple Car Play
Power out of the turbo 4 is very competent. Anyone who balks at the 227 hp rating on regular octane clearly hasn't test driven it or experienced the 310 lb ft of torque that comes on at 2000 rpm.
Nappa leather seats are super comfortable
Deep cargo loading area with 3rd row folded
Heads up display very crisp and bright with a ton of info (lane departure, lane keep, radar cruise, nav with lane guidance, tach, speed, gear, blind spot monitoring).
Radar cruise maintains distance and accounts for lane changes and merging traffic decently well. It can be heavy on the brakes when coming up on slowing traffic. That said, the system anticipates cars moving faster than you that merge close to you and won't brake in those situations.
Lane departure and keep assist only intervene when necessary and only correct enough to guide you back.
Smart City Braking not overly aggressive as some reviewers have indicated (braking earlier avoids unexpected intervention and also conserves brake life). I've never had it activate on me.
Blind spot actually beeps when a car is detected and you have your signal on (most competitors only have side mirror indicator lights)
Styling is the most attractive/luxurious in segment
Infotainment system and controls are very intuitive with low learning curve
Suspension absorbs road imperfections well yet offers minimal body roll in corners
Very quiet ride on par with RX350 and MDX
Fully independent rear HVAC zone works very well and even includes upper and lower air ducts/flow control and auto setting
Ambient lighting (flood up front, front door pulls, all door pockets, center console) adds a luxurious ambiance.
LED headlights are bright and have a very even distribution and clean cutoff. Auto high beams are also incredibly precise, turning off automatically even when there's only one car way off in the distance on either side of a split freeway.
Wrote this on kbb already so just adding my 2 cents here as well. Quick take: Pros(+) nice exterior/interior (albeit subjective) considerable low-end torque gives more than adequate acceleration with no discernable turbo lag great handling for the class (drives much smaller than its size) MUCH quieter than other Mazdas Heads Up Display (HUD) is pretty cool and safer since you don't have to look around as much at the dashboard or nav-display - even blindspot warnings appear in the HUD) safety package (for GT trim) includes blindspot monitoring, lane-departure warning/assist, adaptive headlights, auto-highbeam, automatic brake support, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control) Fuel-efficient for the class (21/27 - 23 combined EPA) CONS(-) Cargo area is probably amongst worst in class (71 cubic ft vs. Honda Pilot 100 cubic ft) AC does not seem as strong as before no ventilated seats, no heated rear seats, no panoramic roof, no handsfree auto liftgate Not a lot of extra power after 2-3k rpm (but honestly i haven't had to push the engine in those ranges) 6-way power drivers seat adjustment vs. 8-way (height) adjustment in competitors 3rd-row seats are probably only usable for small kids Towing rating is 3500# which is below competitors overall, the cons don't mean that much to me since i only have 2 kids, don't tow, and don't need a ton of cargo but for those who need those things, those might be deal-breakers. personally the steering/handling and interior quality and quiet but comfortable ride are what did me in. so overall i really like the car and think you get a lot of value for the money.
I've had an Infiniti FX35 for the last 5 years and loved it. It has been a great family vehicle, the quality was nice and the reliability was top notch. My only wish was sometimes that it had a little more trunk space. I was prepared to buy another one last week, now a QX70. However, before I pulled the trigger I had to do due diligence and cross shopped the Acura MDX (slightly bigger than the Infiniti with 3 rows) and yes, the Mazda CX9. The Acura drove pretty nice, but for the price I didn't like it as much as the Infiniti and it looks more like a mini van to me than an SUV, which is counter productive to buying an suv. Seeing the new bodystyle of the CX-9 made me immediately think of it as being similar to my FX-35 body style I'd come to love, only stretched out slightly for the 3rd row giving more room. I decided to check them out and I'm so glad I did. Mazda has always been nice, but not luxury vehicle nice. I tested out both the Grand Touring and Signature level trims, noting the main differences being subtle: the real wood and dark brown interior in the Signature model with led lighting in the grill vs the Grand Touring with either black or beige interior and black accents vs the wood, both have 20" wheels and nav so the Grand Touring is a great buy if you don't mind black or beige seats only. About a $3k difference. What sold me on the Signature was the dark brown interior I loved; looked a lot more luxurious and reminded me of my 2002 SE Miata I once had with a similar interior. Paired with the pearl white exterior my wife had to have, this was a great compromise; She the got color she wanted, I got the interior I wanted. Had I not read that it had a 2.5 turbo I would have believed it had at least a 3.5L V6 under the hood. Side note: Though the exhaust note is 4cly, the power band and torque definitely are not! It would be easy for mazda to transplant this powertrain to a 3 & the 6 to make mazdaspeed versions and I hope they do! Love the tech safety features that though they are becoming common on a lot of modern vehicles, the way they are implemented here makes them feel like luxury exclusive items. The interior though is what really sold me on this vehicle, its really nice. I do not feel like I stepped own from an Infiniti to a Mazda, but rather that I upgraded. From the NAPA leather, to the aluminum and real wood accents throughout, a plethora of tech and safety features, smooth and very quite ride! There's some youtube videos comparing the new CX-9 to the Audi Q7 and initially I thought that was apples to oranges, but but after testing it out and now owning it, they have very similar quality. Now that Mazda has separated themselves from FORD, they have the independent ability to re-brand themselves into an even classier company and they are doing it with the CX-9. If you haven't driven a MAZDA lately, you owe it to yourself to do so before buying anything else!
Now that I have been driving this car for a month here's what I have learned. First, I love the car and definitely made the right choice. The ride is so much smoother than the pilot or highlander which we test drove. The interior finishes rival that of lexus, acura, etc.. That being said there are some things you should be aware of. The rear lift gate, does not go all the way up. I'm 6'2 so the first time nearly gave myself a concussion. now i'm more aware of it. If you are short than this will not be an issue for you. The navigation & entertainment system are poorly designed. It's quite difficult to scroll through stations while driving. For navigation, you can't enter any address while driving, this means the passenger also. No android or apple play system. Finally, the front seats are quite narrow. I'm 6'2 212 pounds and I feel restricted in the seats. If you are a bigger person or just like more space you will probably not feel comfortable. The cargo space is ample. If you need a lot more cargo space than recommend the Honda pilot but the CX-9 works perfectly for our family.
Now that we have had the CX-9 for about a month I feel I am qualified to provide a detailed review. We have a 2016 in the Signature trim. We also have a 2015 BMW 328i X and we traded in a 2011 Honda Odyssey. Believe it or not, I was looking at the new Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 and chose the CX-9 over both of them (and not just because the Mazda is $20k less).
In short, we love the Mazda and I feel it is the best car we have ever owned (I have owned about 7 cars). We needed the utility of an SUV/Van that fits 7, but wanted better driving dynamics than the Odyssey. While we lost some of the utility of the van, the Mazda is almost as fun to drive as our BMW. For $45k, the overall level of refinement and luxury is amazing. The car is by far the quietest car I have ever had and almost everything has been well thought and executed. With every car I have owned I frequently thought to myself, why did they do it that way ? did they ever drive the car after they designed it? With the Mazda I thought yes, that makes perfect sense (with very few exceptions).
Both the interior and exterior styling are great and the car feels so much lighter and smaller than it actually is. The 4 cylinder engine provides more than enough power and I have never felt I needed more. So far we are averaging about 23MPG in mixed driving. All seats are comfortable and the access to the third row and space in the third row is fine for our needs ? occasional car pooling for short rides with pre-teen kids (we have two kids). The ride is a great combination of compliant and sporty. It is far more forgiving over broken pavement than either my BMW or the Odyssey, but it is still fairly fun to throw into a curve.
I think Mazda has a real winner here and they could compete directly with Audi and Volvo if they just added the option for a few more features: front parking sensors, heated steering wheel, birds eye overhead view, real time traffic on the nav, vented seats, Apple Car Play, and a 10 way driver?s seat. For the $20k difference in price, I was willing to go without these, but if they could make them an option for $5-$10k, that would the decision a no brainer. The Audi and Volvo have a few more available features, but they were not important to me.
Further, I just don?t like the styling of the Q7. While it is a great to drive and loaded with tech, who wants a homely car? To me it looks like a bloated station wagon. The Volvo looks nice, but does not ride well. It has that typical truck/SUV bouncy ride. The Audi and Mazda drive more like a car. Further, the Volvo appears to have big quality problems in this, its first model year. I read the owner?s forums whenever I am considering a new car and there are many, many owners complaining about problems they have with the Volvo. Both the Audi and Mazda don?t have nearly the number of complaints.
In summary, highly recommended.