2016 Mazda CX-9 Review: 10+ Great Things My Family Loved

Review of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature Edition which is a fantastic SUV/Crossover for families with many safety and luxury features. Video review also.

For about a week, my family and I got to experience the fun that is the 2016 Mazda CX-9, the recently redesigned SUV from Mazda. We took it to the store and to drop offs and all around town, we went into San Francisco and back, and we drove it up to Lake Tahoe and used it there for a week. The goal was to put the Mazda CX-9 through a variety of tasks and routine tests. And after about ten days using the Mazda CX-9, I polled my family about the things that they liked the best about the CX-9.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - side view

First, before I dive into those ten (actually more) things that we liked about the 2016 Mazda CX-9, I have to clarify something for those who may have stumbled across this car review expected lots of geeky facts and stats about this car. You won’t find them here. While I do love driving and cars…a lot…my reviews don’t focus on what a Car & Driver or Autoweek cover…you know, acceleration speeds, compression ratios, skid pad results, the kinds of brakes or shocks or displacement or whatever. Want geeky stuff? Go to the pros. I evaluate cars by how they work with my family and what I like about them as a driver and a dad. And I ask my family to pitch in. Making a car purchase is often a family decision so when test driving, I feel that should be “family driven” as well (pun intended).

So, back to the 2016 Mazda CX-9. What follows is a list of 10+ things that my family and I really enjoyed about this vehicle. These are in no particular order. And if you don’t want to read through all of these, I have compiled a 14 minute video which walks through these items as well.

After several hundred miles and quite a few hours of highway, city and mountain driving, here is the list I came up with. And this was a loaner, if you have any questions, be sure to ask in the comments and hopefully I will remember enough to answer.

10+ Features of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 My Family Enjoyed

Again, these items are in no particular order, other than they match what is in the video above. These are things that particularly stood out as feature that were nice or different from other vehicles I have driven.

Multiple Charging Ports

It seems that nowadays, you cannot drive anywhere without having at least one gadget with you. Add passenger (like kids) and suddenly there are smartphones and tablets aplenty. Couple that with a road trip and the need to keep all of these gadget fully powered moves from a nice-to-have to a requirement.

When we first received the Mazda CX-9, one of the initial things my kids did was investigate where all of the USB charging ports in the car. We found two in the front center armrest console (and those actually hook into the car’s entertainment system).

But then my kids discovered that in the center armrest (also the middle seat) in the second row, there were two more USB chargers. They were so excited by the fact that they could keep their phones charged throughout the drive.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - charging ports

One thing that I found out, however, is that only in the middle row armrest was there a higher-powered USB port. Usually these are used for tablets but also some of the newer, larger form-factor smartphones, they simply charge faster and better with the higher powered ports (2.1A). So, I actually used a long USB cable to charge my iPhone 6S Plus in the front using that port.

Automatic Windows

In my current car that I own, only the front driver’s window is automatic. You can press the window button and it rolls down automatically. However, to roll it back up, you have to hold it. And none of the other window buttons are automatic for roll down or up.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - automatic windows

So, another thing that my children quickly discovered was that all four of the windows (driver’s, front passenger’s and rear windows) were all automatic for both down and up.

You might think that this really isn’t anything amazing, but for us, it was an added luxury!

“Stable” Vehicle

One of the things my wife (who also drove the Mazda CX-9) commented on was how “stable” she found it to be. This is considered a crossover or smaller SUV type car so it is normal for vehicles in this class to feel “heavy” or big in many ways.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - stylized side view

I agree with her that it actually feels like a smaller car. It handles well and doesn’t feel top-heavy when cornering. The model I was loaned was the All Wheel Drive (AWD) version (Signature trimline), which adds to that secure feeling, especially when travels went on dirt (we couldn’t test rain or snow – it wasn’t the right season).

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - front wheel

The 20-inch alloy wheels with the 255/50R20 All-season tires definitely contributed to this stability factor and feel. This Mazda CX-9 model also has ABS, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control and Roll Stability. So yeah, it’s stable!

Comfortable Seats

All of us found the Nappa-leather trimmed seats to be quite comfortable. They were a dark red (“Auburn”) and have a luxurious look. The 2016 Mazda CX-9 model we drove has three rows of seats, with a total seating capacity of 7 people, 2 in front, 3 in middle and 2 in back.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - middle row seats

The rear row seating can be folded flush into the back, allowing for additional cargo space which we used for our trip. The rear seats could be raised individually as well so that you can have different seating/cargo combinations.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - rear view one seat folded

The driver’s seat has 8-way power controls and include adjustable lumbar support. For my 3 hour drive, I found it quite comfortable on my back. The driver’s side also has 2 programmable seat memory buttons. The front passenger seat has 4-way power front seats. No complaints from my wife on her seat.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - driver's seat control

Big Car Inside Feel

There is an automatic lift-gate which reveals plenty of room for luggage as I mentioned. (There is even an actual spare tire – not full-sized but not just a pump either – under the rear cargo area.)

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - spare tire

As I loaded and unloaded luggage and other trip items, I did come to appreciate how much I actually could store in the back. The fact that you can pop up additional seating that also hides away makes the Mazda CX-9 quite a utilitarian vehicle.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - cargo loaded

Folding the rear row up and down is quite easy to you. You can actually do it with one hand (as you can see in my video above – I was holding the camera with one hand).

Heads-Up Display

This 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature edition came equipped with a driver’s Heads-Up Display (HUD). This is probably one of my favorite features of this car. Not only is it a great safety feature to have, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road much more, it also adds great value to the driving experience.

It was a bit difficult to film it in the video (sorry) and hard to take pictures of all of the items that display (because you have to be driving and that wouldn’t be safe to take photos as you drive) but I can talk through some of the things that are shown on the HUD.

For starters, it is really only viewable from the driver’s perspective. And the brightness, items displayed and position on the windshield can be adjusted.

Here are the items that I used on the HUD:

  • Speed – well duh, better than having to look down at the speedometer, the speed was displayed right there
  • Navigation – if you have programmed in a destination on the GPS, the next turn instruction (including distance) are displayed
  • Speed Limit – I found this to be quite helpful in areas I didn’t know – if the GPS had the speed limit information, it would display it on the HUD – could save you from a parking ticket!
  • Lane Departure – if you have the Lane Departure notification active (more about that later), the HUD will show you which lane you are drifting into, eliminating the need to look down at the speedometer console display
  • Blind Spot – similarly, since this Mazda is equipped with blind spot indicators, the HUD displays an alert if someone is in either your left or right blind spot
  • Cruise Control – with the adaptive radar control (and more about that later as well), the HUD shows what speed you have the cruise control set on and if it is on in general

I think having a HUD is a core and important safety feature, enabling you to keep your eyes facing forward and on the road.

Bose Sound System

The Mazda CX-9 Signature edition came with a stellar Bose sound system. With twelve (12) speakers around the cabin, the sound was immersive, crisp and strong. The system had AM/FM/HD/Satellite sources as well as Bluetooth, auxiliary and USB inputs. That meant you could play from just about any device.

Oh, and one other thing my kids loved was the booming bass! While my wife tended to dial the bass way down (it still thumped pretty well even all the way down), my kids liked having it much higher and thunderous. It’s a bit hard to talk about something you really have to hear. But the Bose sound was strong and amazing!

Adaptive Cruise Control

This is another one of the features I really liked about the 2016 Mazda CX-9. Pretty much all cars now come with standard cruise control. That is, you reach a cruising speed, set that speed and then cruise along until the traffic in front of you slows down and you apply the brakes and effectively turn off the cruise control.

This is not the case with this Mazda CX-9. It has a radar-controlled, adaptive cruise control. What does that mean? Well you pretty much do the same thing – reach the desired cruising speed and set it – but you also configure the distance or padding you want between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - forward facing sensors

When active, this adaptive cruise control will accelerate and brake as appropriate based on your settings. If a car pulls in front of you will the cruise control is on, the CX-9 will automatically slow the car down safely and get you to the desired padded distance. Then as traffic begins to move, it will automatically accelerate until you get back to your set speed.

Essentially, it brakes and accelerates for you while engaged. You can disable at any point by stepping on the brakes.

Sports Mode

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD is a 2.5T Turbo with a 6-speed SkyActiv drivetrain. With 227 horsepower and 310 pounds of torque, it was actually quite powerful. Punching the pedal produced enough force to feel a rush. But there was a little toggle on this trim that I really enjoyed – Sports mode.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - engine

While I didn’t really feel the need to enable this mode on a regular basis, I did engage it to have some fun from time to time. When engaged, Sport mode lets the engine rev up a bit higher and also automatically shifts gears a bit closer. It also tightens up the steering which was particularly fun on windy roads.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - average MPG

Even with the turbo, the gas mileage was respectable. With a mixture of mountain, highway, traffic, city and around the neighborhood, we averaged around 21-22 MPG. The CX-9 has a rating of 21 City, 27 Highway and 23 Combined, so we were pretty close to achieving that.

Multifunction Command Control

Having controls within easy reach to handle the audio, climate, navigation, favorites and other items is another safety feature people should look at when evaluating vehicles. The 2016 Mazda CX-9 had a big check mark by that feature requirement. Not only are there many controls on the steering wheel to adjust volume, answer calls, set the cruise control and more…

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - steering wheel controls

…in the center armrest console area, there are other controls which can be used by the driver and front passenger alike. The primary controller in the center is a jog-wheel which allows you to scroll through selections easily without looking down. Also you can press left/right to move between tabs on menu items. Volume control is easy as well and pressing down on the volume mutes the sound.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - multifunction command control

There are buttons for essential features like GPS/Navigation, Music, Favorites and Home to quickly access those functions.

I found the control to be the perfect placement for my right arm resting on the center armrest so I didn’t have to reach around to access something.

BONUS ITEMS: Some other Great Things about the Mazda CX-9

Ok so the list above were ten items my family and I liked about the 2016 Mazda CX-9 but there were many other things that should be called out briefly as well.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - front headlight

Things like:

  • Auto Headlights – the headlights will turn on and off based on the ambient lighting automatically.
  • Auto Windshield Wipers – if the windshield detect rain, the windshield wipers will automatically turn on.
  • Heated Side Mirror – if your side view mirrors are fogged up, they have heating elements within to defog them.
  • Blind Spot Indicator – apart from showing on the HUD, if there is a vehicle in your blind spot, you will get a visual warning on the side mirror. If you put on your blinker and there is a vehicle in your blind spot, you will get an audible warning.
  • Electronic Parking Brake – no need to set a parking manually with your hand or foot, there is an automatic parking brake switch – pull on to activate, push off to deactivate.
  • Keyless Entry – there is a keyfob which if it is on your person and close to the Mazda, will allow you to unlock the door by pressing on a button on either of the front handles. The CX-9 can be locked in the same way.
  • 3-Zone Climate Control – there are controls, dual for the front, to manage the temperature. There is a rear seat climate control as well, all independently adjustable.
  • Lane Departure – when traveling past a certain speed, this CX-9 can detect the lane lines and give you visual/audio/vibration feedback if you begin to drive out of your lane. If you do drift, the steering wheel will gently nudge you back into place.
  • Rear Camera – while this will be a standard piece of safety equipment in the coming years, this Mazda came with it to help you with parking and backing up.
HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - Rear view camera

The end of the video above goes through a few other things including design and other features like the ones mentioned above.

HighTechDad 2016 Mazda CX-9 Review - side rear view

The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature Edition with AWD retails for $44,015. As tested, which included optional paint was $45,215 (included in the price was the navigation system and satellite radio). I found this to be a reasonable price for the amount of style, features and luxury this vehicle comes with.

I have also posted some additional photos on my Flickr page here in case you need more visuals on the 2016 Mazda CX-9.

Disclosure: Apart from the 10-day loan of the 2016 Mazda CX-9 which included a tank of gas, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. All opinions within this article are my own and are not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found in my About page.

HTD says: The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature edition with AWD is a well-rounded SUV/Crossover with many luxury, safety and comfort features that make it an ideal primary family vehicle.

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Disclosure: This is a global disclosure for product review articles on HighTechDad. It does not apply to Automobile reviews and there are other exceptions. Therefore, it may or may not be applicable to this particular article. I may have a material connection because I may have received a sample of a product for consideration in preparing to review the product and write this or other content. I was/am not expected to return the item after my review period. All opinions within this and other articles are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.

About HighTechDad

Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”) is an avid technologist, writer, journalist, content marketer, blogger, tech influencer, social media pundit, loving husband and father of 3 beautiful girls living in the San Francisco Bay Area. This site covers technology, consumer electronics, Parent Tech, SmartHomes, cloud computing, gadgets, software, hardware, parenting “hacks,” and other tips & tricks.

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