2017 Mazda CX-9 AWD (Tour­ing) Wil­liam Walker

“A laggy AWD sys­tem, lack­lus­ter head­lights, and vents that never stop blow­ing are not enough to sully my over­all opin­ion of the Mazda CX-9.”

Motor Trend (USA) - - Update -

Ad­verbs are rel­a­tive things. If I say it’s very cold out­side, you prob­a­bly have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion of what that very means than I do. So when Mazda says that the i-ac­tiv AWD 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.”

But it isn’t do­ing that. In dry con­di­tions the sys­tem min­i­mizes the torque it sends to the rear wheels, so dur­ing full-throt­tle ac­cel­er­a­tion the CX-9 and its 310 lb-ft of torque will chirp the front tires 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 the 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 it­self has given 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 de­creases while Sport mode is en­gaged. I’m guess­ing that in ad­di­tion to hold­ing gears longer, Sport mode starts with more power sent to the rear or at least primes the sys­tem for sporty driv­ing, so it knows AWD should be used.

While I am in the mood to crit­i­cize, I might as well go onto my next prob­lem, the head­lights. The is­sue with the head­lights 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 might not be an is­sue on the brightly lit streets of Los Angeles, the mo­ment I ven­ture out of the city, I find my­self con­stantly switch­ing to my high-beams, and un­like the Grand Tour­ing and Sig­na­ture trim lev­els, our long-term Tour­ing model does not have auto-dim­ming head­lights.

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 any num­ber of com­bi­na­tions of tem­per­a­ture and vent set­tings to make my­self com­fort­able. Also, even if you turn the cli­mate con­trol off, it still lightly blows air through the vents, which would be fix­able if you could close them.

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

Who­ever de­cided to put pi­ano black on the out­side should have to write a let­ter of apology to the own­ers. Pi­ano swirl marks, more like it.

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