2021 Mazda CX-9 SUV Adds New Improvements

by Tom Crosby
Black 2021 Mazda CX-9 parked in front of a park

Sales of Mazda’s flagship CX-9 mid-size SUV didn’t falter during the pandemic, matching sales in 2020 with those in 2019 without any financial discounts (the cost actually increased $390) or major upgrades since it was last overhauled in 2016.

2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Review

We test drove the 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD, with infotainment improvements using an enlarged 10.25-inch touchscreen with now-standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps plus a new LED-backlit grille design.

The sleek-looking three-row crossover boasts excellent gas mileage, even in all-wheel-drive, provides superb handling with g-vectoring, sporty acceleration on 20-inch wheels, providing a comfortable ride sedan-like rather than ponderous, like other two-ton plus SUVs.

A mostly cosmetic Carbon Edition trim was added this year to create five trims: Sport, Touring, Carbon Edition, Grand Touring and our Signature AWD test-drive with a Machine Gray Metallic paint job, an option costing $495 for the monochromatic exterior.

The luxury-laden 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature’s price is cheaper than most three-row competitors, as it includes standard features others include only as options.

All CX-9’s use the same peppy SKYACTIV-G 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo engine with a six-speed transmission that gets 23 more horses and 10 more pound-feet of torque with premium fuel. Towing muscle rates low at 3,500 pounds.

Safety features are strong with i-Activsense engaging cutting-edge driver safety aids augmented by surround parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, driver attention monitor and reverse emergency braking, needed with the vehicle’s high beltline hindering rear visibility.

Imitating upscale SUV’s, the cabin’s ivory color-themed cabin included Nappa quilted leather seats with piping, real Santos rosewood trim, USB ports in all rows and seating for six with a pair of second-row captain’s chairs instead of a bench.
Cabin space is smaller than competitors with third-row seating tight, constraining the cargo area until seats fold flat. The enlarged cargo area has a shallow storage tray above a spare tire.

Graphics are crisp on the touchscreen armed with Mazda’s rich Connect infotainment system, manipulated also by a center spine dial, voice recognition’s excellent, knobs and buttons are easily reached, visors extend fully, the cabin squelches noise and a legible heads up display is rich with info.

There is no complimentary maintenance. J. D. Power rates reliability 3 out of 5 with no recalls; depreciation is estimated at 56% over five years.

The 2021 CX-9 has earned top crash safety ratings.

At a Glance

LIKES: Looks, handling, ride, versatility, mileage, luxurious cabin, legible heads-up display, quiet
DISLIKES: Tight third row, low towing muscle, rear visibility hindrance
BOTTOM LINE: A formidable competitor in hotly contested niche

Fact File: 2021 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD

Base price w/destination fee
Curb weight
EPA Rating
$47,705 ($48,200 as tested)
4,409 lbs.
115.3 inches
199.4 inches
77.2 inches
2.5-liter, DOHC, turbo, SKYACTIV-G w/VVT
227-hp at 5,000 rpm
310 ft-lbs at 2,500 rpm
6-speed automatic w/manual shift, uses Sport/Drive modes
20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway
19.5-gallon tank, regular unleaded
0-60 in just over 7.1 seconds

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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.

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