When you first open the doors of the 2017 Mazda CX-9, you feel as though the vehicle is well out of your price range. Depending on the package on which you decide, you might enjoy an informative heads-up digital display, a two-tone, soft leather interior, third-row seating, and a stunning Bose sound system. We were surprised, however, that the CX9’s starting cost was just above $31,000. A little expensive for its class, but definitely competitive as far as 3rd-row SUVs fall, which can sometimes be hard to find.
We were lucky enough to be granted a week-long drive in the top-level Signature model and immediately we were impressed. We loved the leather seats, though we expected in a higher level package we’d see cooled and not just heated seats. The grille of the CX9, especially in the Machine Gray Metallic, reminded us of a shark. In fact, we liked the look of the exterior and was surprised that it could hold a 3rd row considering how small it looked from the outside.
The Mazda CX-9 comfortably fits seven people in its three rows of seats. The driver and passenger have the most room, there’s a good amount of head- and leg-room in the second row, though the 3rd row is a little lacking in space, as is the cargo area. The third row is difficult to access, even with the second row slid forward.
The 2017 CX-9 features a below-average 71.2 cubic feet of overall cargo capacity with both the second and third rows folded compared to other three-row SUVs. With all three rows in use, the cargo space is only 14.4 cubic feet. Don’t get me wrong; we loved all the comfort and amenities, but if you’re looking for a long-haul vehicle with a full crew, your crew and their belongings might be a little cramped.
We loved the heads-up display and the Mazda Connect infotainment, which comes standard. Although it has no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the lack of these features does make it simpler to use for an older or less-than-tech-savvy crowd. We definitely favored the physical buttons and knobs over the traditional touch-screen only option (all those fingerprints!) and the controls were very driver-centric.
One feature that took us by surprise was the lane departure warning system. An annoying beep warning in other cars, the Mazda CX9 had a gentle vibration in the steering wheel, then a gentle guiding feeling nudging you back to your spot on the highway. The cabin is quiet, the drive is comfortable, and the kids hated giving it back. It definitely doesn’t handle like a three-row SUV – more like a nimble sports car – but the problem lies mostly with the accessibility of the third-row seats, making us wonder why they were there at all.