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.”
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.