2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature: Premium Luxury SUV

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: NAUMAN FAROOQ
The year 2020 brings changes to the Mazda CX-9 Signature.

The second generation model of the Mazda CX-9 showed up in 2016, and it was a ground breaker in many ways.

It introduced Mazda clients to the type of luxury they’d normally have to turn to at Lexus or Mercedes- Benz to experience, yet at a much more affordable price tag.

Good as it was, it still wasn’t perfect, and Mazda knew that. So, the clever boys and girls at Mazda have been doing their homework to improve their already very accomplished vehicle.

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The result is the 2020 Mazda CX-9. While it looks exactly the same as last year’s CX-9, the interior has been revised, and the engine has a bit more oomph.

Will these changes attract more buyers to the CX-9? Time to find out.

Styling: From a visual point of view, you won’t be able to tell the 2020 Mazda CX-9 apart from any other CX-9 made over the last four-years, but then, it didn’t need a facelift.

It still looks fresh — the past few years has done nothing to age its styling. In fact, while many SUVs and CUVs in the market place have become bloated, the skin of the CX-9 looks sharp and firm, with no unnecessary flab. As a result, it looks more athletic, and trust me, if you remove the Mazda badges, people will think the CX-9 is probably Italian, and commands a six-figure price tag.

So, if you’re looking for an attractive SUV/CUV that can carry up to seven people, the CX-9 is a very good pick.

Interior: Open the door and step inside, and things only get better. The fit and finish, the materials, the layout, and the technology in the CX-9 is all premium class.

The interior is also where the 2020 CX-9 varies the most over the models built between 2016 to 2019. While the basics remain the same, the 2020 CX-9 features some added goodies, such as a new, larger infotainment screen. A nine-inch unit replaces the old seven-inch unit, which is still offered on the base CX-9 GS trim. The larger screen is much more in keeping with the luxury atmosphere of this vehicle, while also not being too distracting.

But wait… there’s more! Also, for the first time on the CX-9, you can opt for “Captain’s Chairs” in the second row (available from the GS-L trim and up, and standard on the Signature trim). This also turns the CX-9 from a seven-passenger vehicle into a six-passenger vehicle, and you lose out on the onetouch switch for the power operated third-row ingress/egress. However, rarely anyone needs to carry seven people in the car, and those “Captain’s Chairs” in the second-row does add to the luxuriousness of this vehicle (my parents loved this feature).

Up front, in the CX-9 Signature trim, you get a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, and an eightway power adjustable passenger’s seat. These seats are now not only heated, but also cooled — a feature you won’t use much in January, but trust me, in the summer it is wonderful. The second row gets heated seats, but not ventilated. The seats in the CX-9 are wonderful; I just wish the driver’s seat had an adjustable thigh support, for added comfort. Also, an optional massaging seat would be a great addition, too.

Any other interior shortcomings? Well, it certainly would be nice to have the option for a panoramic sunroof. Just about everyone offers one now, except Mazda, and I think they should definitely look into bringing this feature to their SUVs and CUVs in the near future.

Finally, for 2020, you do get a power operated tailgate. It’s not available on the base GS trim, but is there on the GS-L trim and up, and the Signature trim gets the added “hands-free” feature to open the tailgate.

Couple all this with Nappa leather (Signature trim) and elegant chrome trim pieces, and you get a vehicle that is truly luxurious. Seriously, take the Mazda badges off and you’ll surprise people as to what they’re really in — it’s that good.

Powertrain: Ever since the second-generation model of the CX-9 was introduced, it has only been offered with just one engine, and that is a turbocharged 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder that features Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology. On 87 octane fuel, it produces 227 horsepower, but if you feed your CX-9 some premium 93 octane fuel, it’ll gallop with the might of 250 horsepower. Torque has improved for 2020 — but only if you’re using premium fuel — and you now get 320 pound-feet of twisting force.

Power is fed to all-wheels (i-Activ AWD is standard on all Canadian spec CX-9) via a familiar sixspeed automatic gearbox, which is silky smooth.

Performance & Driving Dynamics: You might think that a 1,990 kilogram SUV which is powered by a four-cylinder engine, would probably be dull and slow, but you’d be wrong.

Thanks to a healthy dose of torque available at 2,000 rpm, the CX-9 just picks up cleanly and goes. The engine never feels like it is struggling to cope with the size of the vehicle, it is just smooth all the way.

For those who like performance numbers, in my test (which was held on a cold day, with the vehicle wearing winter tires) the 2020 Mazda CX-9 achieved a 0 to 100 kilometres per hour run in 8.2 seconds — which coincidentally is the same time it takes a 1981 Ferrari Mondial to get to 100 km/h, and that used a 3.0-litres V8.

In day to day traffic, the CX-9 can not only keep up with traffic, thanks to its torque it makes overtaking an easy feat. Engage “Sport” mode and it’s even more eager, but normal driving mode is more than sufficient for everyday use.

An area large SUVs almost always fail at is handling; but not so the case with the CX-9. Through corners, its body composure is excellent, and its electronic power steering unit is light and precise, making it easy to place the vehicle on the road. In short, this is a family hauler that you’ll actually enjoy driving.

Fuel Economy: In my fuel economy test (where I drive a vehicle 170 kilometres on the highway + 130 kilometres in the city) the 2020 Mazda CX-9 averaged 10.9-litres per 100 kilometres. That is extremely good for a vehicle of this size, especially since this is not a hybrid. Mazda’s SKYACTIV tech actually works, and is not just a gimmick.

Pricing: The 2020 Mazda CX-9, in the base ‘GS’ trim, starts from $39,900. My fully loaded ‘Signature’ trim tester will set you back $51,500. Compared to what else is in the market, the CX-9 does represent good value.

Verdict: For the last few years, the Mazda CX-9 has been a wonderful choice for those looking for a practical, family SUV. With the improvements and added features now available for the 2020 model, the CX-9 is better than ever, and worth your consideration.

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PHOTOS BELOW COURTESY OF NAUMAN FAROOQ Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger version of each image.
2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature: Premium Luxury SUV photos
2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature: Premium Luxury SUV photos
2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature: Premium Luxury SUV photos