This week, I had a whole three days to spend with the new 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature.  Compared to the mere hours I usually have when I review a car, three days seems like an eternity.  At first glance, I was like it looks the same.  To me, it looked like there are no differences between 2021 vs 2020 which I’ve already reviewed a year ago. But then just to be sure, I pulled out my phone and did some research and I was quite surprised at the number of changes for this year.

The new infotainment system is the biggest change of all.  There are no longer 8″ or 9″ screens to worry about, now everything is displayed on the 10.3″ screen that is a whole lot brighter with much higher resolution.  The touch functionality gets taken away which is a bummer however the new Mazda Connect software was made perfectly to be used with the rotary dial / buttons controls.  Scrolling thru the vertical menus and selections was quite easy and I got a hang of it within a min of use.  This type of set up is similar to what BMW uses within their cars and so much easier than any touchpad setup that Acura and Lexus use.

Why am I talk about BMW, Acura, or Lexus when comparing to the CX-9?  Because the CX-9 signature feels like a luxury car in every sense possible.  The outside looks stunning with the new aluminum grill, elegant lines, wide stance, and use of chrome.  The full LED set up along with its newly designed wheels all works so well together.  If it wasn’t for the million CX-5s on the road which also shares similar styling, the CX-9 Signature without its Mazda badges could easily be mistaken as a luxury car.

It’s the same when you open the doors and look inside.  The new quilted stitching and piping on the already beautiful napper leather simply look stunning.  Unfortunately, they don’t feel as good as they look.  The cushions are a tad too firm both on the back and the butt and do take away from the driving experience.  This is the same for both the front and 2nd-row seats.  The third row is ok for adults for emergencies and fine for kids but unfortunately does not come with any vents.  USB ports will have to do to keep them occupied.

Access to the third row is also hindered due to the huge center console for the 2nd-row passengers.  It goes right in the middle of the captain’s chair set up.  This type of treatment is usually reserved for very expensive cars.  Six-figure cars but Mazda wanted to impress so they copied.  If you don’t have any real need to get into the third row I say the console is a good thing.  Resting your arm on there along with the well-placed cupholders and heated seat buttons are nice.  However I don’t think any family with small kids cares about those things, they just want easy access to the third row.

Panoramic sunroofs or dual sunroofs are big within luxury cars these days and unfortunately, the CX-9 Signature doesn’t offer either one.  Bummer.  The CX-9 Signature also doesn’t offer niceties such as power-folding rear seats, ventilated 2nd-row seats, or foot rubs.  I’m sure someone will come out with some sort of foot rub feature soon enough.  However, the CX-9 Signature does offer rear heated seats, wireless charging, heated front seats and steering wheel, and a whole lot of fun.

The fun is probably the best quality of the CX-9 and there is really no competition among Japanese manufactures.  The steering feel is great, the CX-9 has a really good weight especially around corners.  And the steering is matched with a fantastic suspension set up that not only soaks up the bumps but also keeps body roll under control.  The CX-9 feels nimble, light on its feet and so much easier to toss around than its peers.  No, it’s not as planted as a Mazda3 hatchback or as fun as a Civic Type R but as far as three-row midsize SUVs goes…you won’t find this kind of drive unless you go German and pay $20k more.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 builds upon the current generation that was introduced back in 2016 and is aging like fine wine.  Mazda started with a fantastic SUV and has been making it better each year.  With the changes for this year, the CX-9 Signature is arguably the best looking SUV for this segment and has arguably the best cabin design and quality as well.  I give the 2021 Mazda CX-9 a score of 101. To see where it ranks among its peers, click here.

VEHICLE TYPE

Front-engine, front- or all-wheel drive, 6-passenger, 4 door SUV

BASE PRICE

$47,560

ENGINE

24-valve SOHC i-VTEC 3.5-liter V6

250 hp @ 5000 rpm, 320 lb-f @ 2500 rpm

TRANSMISSION

6-speed automatic

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 115.3 in

L/W/H: 199.4/77.5/67.6 in

Curb Weight: 4364 lb

PERFORMANCE

60 mph: 7.0 sec

¼ Mile: 15.4 sec @ 90 mph

Top Speed: 132 mph (governor limited)

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

City/Highway/Combined: 23/20/26

 

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