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2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD Three-Row Crossover - On Second Thought...

We recently had a second chance to drive the all-new Mazda CX-9. For us, the second time's a charm.

We recently had a second chance to drive the all-new Mazda CX-9. For us, the second time's a charm. We drove the CX-9 Signature AWD last year as a 2016 model year vehicle and nothing has changed except our opinion of it. We liked it the first time, now we love it. Here's what has changed.

Mazda CX-9: It's Not You, It's Me
When we first drove the CX-9 its three outstanding features were obvious to us. The engine, infotainment, and steering make the CX-9 a crossover that anyone who loves to drive will instantly appreciate. What changed isn't the CX-9, but our recent experiences. You see we just drove the $58,975 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Advance and the $ 66,945 2017 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury Td6 this same month. What we found is that we liked the $45,755 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD better. Here's why.

Mazda CX-9: Best Engine In Its Class
The 2.3-liter turbocharged engine in the Mazda CX-9 is like a puppy looking at a boy holding a ball. It wants to play! The CX-9 has the same great low-end torque that the Land Rover's diesel engine produces, but also the great power and high-end of the Acura's 3-liter V6 hybrid. The CX-9's engine is there for you in every circumstance. The engine can spin the tires (even with its AWD system) on drive pavement pointed straight ahead with no problem. Mazda built this crossover to go and it never disappoints.

Mazda CX-9: Infotainment
The Acura we tested pretty much drove us nuts. Its two-tiered screens and multiple inputs are not at all intuitive. Mazda makes all the right choices. It does opt for a remote interface. It is a simple rotary knob on the console with a separate volume knob. However, it is dead simple to master. Land Rover keeps things simple in the Discovery, but the Mazda produces equally good sound and nav without the high price point.

Mazda CX-9: Driving Enjoyment
To be fair, the Land Rover Discovery and Acura MDX Hybrid are both great crossovers (yes, the Discovery is now actually a unit-body design). They have their moments. The torque of the Disco never gets old. The MDX handles great in all circumstances. However, the Mazda CX-9 is always fun. Fun matters.

Mazda CX-9: What's Missing?
The CX-9 for 2017 check all the right boxes for a three-row, 7-passenger crossover. It has earned the Top Safety Pick Plus rating from IIHS that all families should demand of any family vehicle, it gets comparatively good mileage, and the price is outstanding. We can only suggest two improvements for Mazda. First, thin out that center console and front door. The CX-9 is too narrow. The driver's legs feel boxed in. Second, Mazda should stop rating the CX-9 using premium fuel. This vehicle has plenty of torque and power with 87 octane and mentioning premium does the vehicle and the brand no favors.

Mazda CX-9: Conclusion
The reason that reviewers spend a week with a vehicle before passing judgment is that it takes a few days for a vehicle's personality to show through. Seats get comfier, or less comfy on long rides. Going shopping with a vehicle reveals how well it fits in a parking space and how easily cargo is loaded. We already knew the CX-9 when it arrived unchanged for this new model year, but having had it now for a second test week we feel like its merits have become even more in focus. The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature is a vehicle that one likes more with each passing day.