Last time we reviewed the all-new CX-9 it was one of the lower models trims. The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD isn’t just another Mazda, though, it’s sumptuous and refined to a degree rarely seen below $50,000.

Riding on 20-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, the CX-9 has style in spades. The lines of the CX-9 are curvy with aggressively sharp lines in all the right places. The front end looks less like a Mazda and more like something from Europe. The Machine Gray Metallic paint sparkles in the sun with LED headlights gleaming from a long, sleek hood line.

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The i-Activ all-wheel drive system allows for a similar spirited drive to the one I get in my 25-year-old MX-5, despite the added weight and size. Cornering through the hills of Granite Falls and Kayak Point was fun and, even though its all-wheel drive, it didn’t understeer.

Seriously, Mazda, what voodoo did you use in that? (Ok, we know how it works. The i-Activ system checks the driving conditions from 27 sensors more than 200 times per second. Then, it takes that information and determines what power to send to what wheels. It’s cool voodoo that lets you do what you do behind the steering wheel, oh so well… And that’s probably why it feels like magic when you drive it like you might a much smaller 2-seater.)

They haven’t skimped on the capability either. It comes with a 227 horsepower 2.5-liter turbocharged Skyactiv-G engine that feels peppy with each gas pedal press. Pop it into the much loved Sport mode and it becomes hungry for road. Eager for the next corner and excited on the exit. The dual exhausts give it a deeper and resonated tone under pressure. One can even tow 3,500-lbs of trailered stuff, and Trailer Stability Assist is standard; though we have nothing to tow, so we didn’t test this out.

The inside belies none of the capabilities. Let the light stream into the Rosewood-trimmed interior through the moonroof and enjoy the Nappa-leather seats softly hugging one around the curving roads. It has three rows of seating, but it’s the driver’s seat that really treats you right.

The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature series has heated and power adjustable front seats with lumbar support and two memory positions for the driver. The second-row seats can easily fit three adults, but the third row is a bit cramped for those with fully-grown legs. Doable, but cramped.

Most people will probably utilize the space while the third-row seats are down, though, in which case it offers 38.2 cu. ft. of space. When all seats are utilized that goes down to 14.4 cu. ft. and up to 71.2 cu. ft. of space with the second and third row seats folded down.

There’s three zone climate controls for the driver, front passenger, and second row occupants; third row, you’re on your own.

While the lower model levels may have the same AWD system as the Signature series, it’s the interior refinements and driver conveniences that seal the deal. It makes driving a sumptuous pleasure rather than just fun.

Zoom-Zooming around the base of Snohomish’s hills and singing poorly is great, but what’s better is letting the 12-speaker Bose system belt out the songs instead. The sound is crisp and clear even when one gets well into the mountains. Once the radio or cell-streamed music ends, the Mazda CX-9 still has Sirius XM radio.

The infotainment system is the same easy-to-use, dependable system Mazda has featured in all its vehicles. The CX-9 has an 8-inch touchscreen with a backup camera and navigation system, standard. A system one doesn’t have to read manuals to understand how to use, but that gives driver’s what they want; such as voice commands and Bluetooth streaming.

Safety systems include airbags, anti-lock brakes and the whole slew of industry standard features. Mazda has included radar cruise control, along with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alerts and rear backup sensors (on top of the camera).

On the drive home after romping around the hills of Granite Falls, Stanwood, and Snohomish, I utilized the radar cruise control – standard on the Signature – to effortlessly glide home. The fun day spent in the foothills was the kind of getaway from the city potential Mazda owners may be looking for.

Though it was equally as amazing in the stop and go traffic I hit on the way home from my mid-day, weekday drive. The radar cruise control worked in full traffic, ensuring the only things I needed to worry about were the other drivers.

For an MSRP of 44,915 (as tested), the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature is one capable SUV with the kind of grandeur distinguished drivers are looking for. To check one out for yourself, head over to www.mazdausa.com to find a dealership near you.

 

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