2018 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD – Luxury and Comfort in a 7 Passenger SUV

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Review Featured Image
Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Review Featured Image - Photo: Drew Bennett

The Mazda Cx-9’s head-turning style and practical amenities make time this 7 passenger SUV easy.

Attention to detail can make or break your time in the car. Not every car is worthy of long drives or long commutes, but the 2018 Mazda CX-9 Limited AWD certainly was for us on a recent trip. It has a sleek look with many excellent features for both driver and passenger alike, plus it is a 7 passenger SUV with seven-passenger comfort.

Our family of four took the 2018 Mazda CX-9 on a road trip from Massachusetts to New York City. The luxury of the Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery and wood accents in the signature series simply added to our comfort on this long trip.

We drove around 450 miles round trip. The car has a third row but we only made use of the front and back seats. We folded down the third row to fit our luggage.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Nyc Road Trip Family Breakfast Stop

Our breakfast stop on our NYC road trip.  Photo: Drew Bennett

Who This Car Is For

  • Those looking for affordable luxury
  • Large families
  • Empty nesters who love road trips
  • Outdoor adventurers who need to haul kayaks and camping gear

Getting there safely with these safety features

  • ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution, which distributes the energy in hard brake situation so our passengers are not thrashed around
  • Traction control sensors, which senses which wheels need the most traction and sends or restricts power to those wheels
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert, which watches for people, bicyclists and cars approaching behind you
  • Smart city brake support, which detects the risk of a collision in low-speed situations
  • Lane departure warning
Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Power Lift Gate

The power lift gate became a favorite feature. Photo: Drew Bennett

Further reading: 9 of the Best Seven Passenger SUVs–From Luxury to Affordable

What It Costs:

  • Sport edition base price: $32,120
  • Touring edition, which includes leather seating, lane departure warning and lane keep assist: $34,960
  • Grand touring edition, which adds head up display, heated steering wheel and heated second row seats: $40,470
  • Signature edition, which adds Nappa leather, Rosewood trim and iActive all wheel drive: $44,315
  • Price of the model we tested, which includes a cargo mat and snowflake white pearl paint: $45,555

It’s All About The Storage Space

I love a power lift gate. With a push of a button on the CX-9 the gate it opened to a generous trunk space where we were able to load in a very large suitcase and the several items we obtained during our trip. We were only on an overnight trip but there was definitely enough room to carry a suitcase for each member of the family along with all the extras that we would need for a week’s vacation.

Read This: Need a car all to yourself? Why we love our Miata(s)

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Trunk Space Third Row Up

Trunk space with the third up. Photo: Drew Bennett

3rd Row Truth 

I did have to test out the third row of seats to see how much room was left in the trunk. I put my backpack in for reference in the image above and now realize that I could have pushed it right back to the back of the seats to give you a better idea of the overall space. With the third row in use, the trunk space is cut significantly. Think shorter trips to the store, soccer practice and around town.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Third Row Seating

Third row seating. Photo: Drew Bennett

While there is seating for seven, the third row is going to be most comfortable for your youngest and smallest passengers. There is very little legroom and the opening to get to the rear seats is rather small. Lifting the seats to move them was easy to do. While the third row was a bit cramped on space the second row had plenty of legroom and was very comfortable for our two children.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Nyc Road Trip Kids In The Backseat

Happy kids in the back seat. Photo: Allison Bennett

The Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Keeps Our Tech Charged

The second row is generously wide and has a tray that pulls down between the two seats that has two cupholders, space for smaller items and two USB ports. The two USB ports are key for long road trips and our connected lives.

Whenever we take a long road trip we prepare the night before by charging up everyone’s media devices and double checking that everyone has headphones. With the USB ports in the second row, we would easily have been okay if we’d forgotten to charge an iPad. That is, as long as we brought a cable to attach to the port.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Rear Seat Usb Ports

Rear seat USB ports are in the center arm rest. Photo: Drew Bennett

The tray that pulls down in the back seat is a good place to store extra USB cables so that your passengers can always have power for their devices.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Power Jack

Power  outlet on the center console. Photo: Drew Bennett

The second row wasn’t the only place where we discovered sources of power. On the side of the center console on the passenger side, there is a 12V 120W plug that could be used to power a cell phone or radar detector. There is also another 12V 120W plug in the rear of the car.

However, with the several USB ports found in the car, we wouldn’t really need these plugs unless we were using a portable air compressor or similar accessory.

Climate Comfort Mazda Style

There are three climate zones in the car. One for the driver and another for the passenger and then one for the second-row passengers. Also, the second-row passengers are treated to heated seats like their front-seat companions.

Test driving the Mazda CX-9 in summer meant no use for the heated seats, but it’s a nice option for winter driving. It certainly can cut down on the complaints from the back seat passengers on those cold winter morning drives to school.

Read more: 4 Steps to a Beach Ready Car

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Power Drivers Seat

The power driver’s seat means I can always get my seat position just right. Photo: Drew Bennett

All The Right Things In All The Right Places

I did all the driving and so spent all my time in the driver’s seat and found that the Mazda CX-9 had everything I needed in exactly the right places.

Both the front driver’s and passengers seats were power seats which made getting the perfect adjustment for the most comfortable seating experience quite easy. The driver’s seat also had adjustable lumbar support.

If you share the car with a family member then being able to get your seat back to exactly the position it was in when you last left it can be a chore. That is not the case with the CX-9. The driver’s seat has two memory position settings.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Power Windows Mirrors And Locks

The door panel features power windows, mirrors and locks. Photo: Drew Bennett

I liked the look of the door on the inside. There was a spot for an extra drink, the power locks, windows and side mirrors. The was a large handle that was easy to grasp to pull the door closed. It also had a recessed armrest that kept me from bumping my elbow when pulling the door shut. The mixed look of the leather, wood, and metal was also appealing to my eye.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Multi-Function Commander Control

The multi-function commander control. Photo: Drew Bennett

A Center Console To Brag About

My favorite part about driving Mazda vehicles is the multi-function commander control in the center console. Here I found the controls for the entertainment system, navigation, volume control and the electric emergency brake. You could also take advantage of the Skyactiv-Drive 6-Speed Sport mode with a flick of a lever. Further forward were the climate controls which drivers can set to their individual liking or you could let the car automatically control the climate for you.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Drivers Seat

The driver’s seat. Photo: Drew Bennett

Hands On The Wheel and Controls In Thumbs Reach

I hardly ever had to take my hands off the wheel because many of the controls were right there for me. I could control the music, answer telephone calls and adjust the cruise control with controls on the steering wheel. The gauges were also easy to view, and the head up display, which projects most of this key information on a small screen right in the driver’s field of view, helped me to keep my eyes on the road.

On the far right of the gauge cluster is a dynamic display that I could change to know where I was with fuel efficiency at all times.

During our drive we averaged about 24.6 miles per gallon. The car is rated for 23 miles per gallon with 20 in the city and 26 on the highway.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd 8 Inch Color Display

The 8 inch color display. Photo: Drew Bennett

Calls, Music, and Podcasts, Oh My

One of the first things I do whenever I am testing out a car is connect my cell phone. This way I can make and receive calls on the road or even listen to the music or podcasts that I have downloaded. The CX- 9 has Sirius XM radio, so we bounced around a few of the stations like The Blend and Hair Nation. When I was on my own I listened to Ozzy’s Boneyard.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Bose Speaker System

The Bose 12 speaker sound system. Photo: Drew Bennett

The music sounded great through the Bose sound system’s 12 speakers. You have to have great tunes as you drive. It makes the ride go much smoother.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Split Armrest

The split armrest, storage compartment and USB ports. Photo: Drew Bennett

Center Console Storage That Makes Everyone Happy

One of my pet peeves in the car is my wife flipping up the armrest to get something from the center storage area. The nice thing about the center storage area on the CX9 is that it is split and so we each get an armrest and if either of us needs something, we need only open one side to get it.

There are also a couple of cup holders in a good spot in front of the arm rest and there are two USB ports inside. There are also small channels where you can run a USB cord out of the storage compartment but there is no spot to put your cell phone unless you count the cup holder.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Sleeping In The Front Seat

Doing the full recline: Sleeping in the front seat of the Mazda CX-9. Photo: Drew Bennett

Does The Mazda CX-9 Have Front Seat Sleep-Ability? 

I like to check the front seat sleep-ability in each car I review. What is that you might ask? Well, I work weekend overnights and I get a break during my 12-hour shift. I take that time to go out to my car and catch a nap.

I usually have a foam pillow that attaches to the headrest and a blanket, but I left those in my personal car. Despite not having those items with me I was able to get a decent nap each night. The front seat reclines all the way back with a push of a button. If I owned this car I would probably use one of the seating memory spots for my perfect sleeping position.

What We Loved

  • Three climate control zones
  • Plenty of room for driver and front passenger
  • Surprise USB ports in the back seat
  • Power rear liftgate
  • 8″ color display with rear camera
  • Active driving head up display

What We Listened To in the Mazda CX-9

Our playlist is important in the car, on both short trips and long. This playlist, perfect for family outings, gives everyone a chance to sing out.

Mazda Cx-9 Signature Awd Monroney

Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Monroney. Photo: Drew Bennett

Disclosure: The Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD was provided for our review: opinions are all my own.

Drew loves a challenge, so he decided to take a photo every day for a year. He ended up... More about Andrew Bennett