2017 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD Review


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I think it is human nature to perceive things differently. If it is very cold outside, you probably have a different opinion of what that very means than I do. So when Mazda says that its all-wheel-drive system in the CX-9 sends power from the front wheels rearward almost instantaneously, I feel like that almost isn’t quick enough.

In Mazda’s own words, “The AWD control module examines data from many sensor modules to analyze the driver’s intentions and the road conditions, calculates how much torque should be sent to the rear wheels in order to prevent slippage of the front tires, and almost instantaneously sends a command to the AWD coupling unit to send the appropriate drive force to the rear.”

The problem is that it doesn’t feel like it’s doing that. In dry conditions, the system is designed to minimize the amount of torque it sends to the rear wheels, which means during full-throttle acceleration, the CX-9 and its 310 lb-ft of torque will chirp the front tires and then proceed to torque-steer, leaving the driver to wrestle with the steering wheel. Considering the AWD control module is monitoring both the accelerator position and steering angle, I feel like the moment the accelerator pedal is depressed fully, power should be moved to the rear to mitigate the effects of all of that torque on the front wheels.

Luckily, Mazda gives you a workaround in the form of the sport button. In highly controlled and scientific testing (from the seat of my pants), it seems like the issue is decreased significantly when sport mode is engaged. I am guessing that in addition to holding gears longer, sport mode either starts with more power being sent to the rear or at least primes the system to the fact that sporty driving may occur, and that AWD should be used.

Another problem I’ve had with our CX-9 is with its headlights — the issue isn’t their brightness; it’s their direction. The point at which the low beams project onto the road ahead is quite short. Although it may not be an issue on the brightly lit streets of Los Angeles, the moment you venture out of the city, I find myself constantly switching to my high beams, and unlike the 2017 Grand Touring and Signature trim levels, our long-term Touring model does not have auto-dimming headlights (the feature was added to the Touring trim for the 2018 model year).

Need dust? You can get all the dust you could ever want from this rarely cleaned area behind the center-stack screen.

And another thing, why is there no dial to adjust the output of air conditioning or heat for the two main vents that reside on the center console. A quick glance will show that such vent dials are included on both side vents, to the left of the steering wheel and in front of the passenger, yet the only control you have for the center vent is directional. This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but the lowest setting on the fan is still quite strong and I find myself trying a number of combinations of temperature and vent settings trying to make myself comfortable. Also, even if you turn the climate control completely off, it still blows hot or cold air very lightly through the vents, which might also be fixable if you could close off the vent.

All three of these issues are relatively minor, and that goes to show you that the CX-9 is a good vehicle. When the air vent not being quite right is your main complaint on a day-to-day basis, you are doing pretty well.

Read more about our 2017 Mazda CX-9 Touring AWD: