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Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD - Which Is Your Choice?

We compare and contrast two of the best three-row crossovers, the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD and the Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD.


The three-row crossover has become one of the top vehicles for families in America. We recently had the chance to test the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD and also the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD, both top-trims for their respective models. We found some significant differences in the personalities of these two great vehicles. Which is your pick?

Seating & Cargo Area: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
One thing that both of these crossovers have in common is seven-passenger seating. Although there are some popular eight-seat models such as the sales leader, the Toyota Highlander, both Nissan and Mazda opted not to add a skinny third seat in the middle of the third row. Both have ample room, but the Pathfinder feels bigger everywhere. The total passenger volume is 149.7 cubic feet versus the CX-9's 135.1. The Pathfinder also beats the CX-9 in cargo area in every configuration. With all of the seats folded, the Pathfinder has a total of 78.9 cubic feet and the CX-9 71.2. Said plainly, the Pathfinder is bigger than the CX-9.

Interior Styling: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Both the CX-9 and the Pathfinder have their charms. To our eye, the CX-9 Signature seems more upscale and modern than the Pathfinder's Platinum trim. The wood accents in both are similar, but the CX-9's Rosewood seems more fancy. The look of the infotainment system and the displays in the CX-9 seem cleaner and more modern as well. This is a subjective opinion, form your own based on an in-person look at both.

Luxury Features: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Both the CX-9 Signature and the Pathfinder Platinum are well-appointed. Almost everything one would expect and want in a luxury crossover is here, and thankfully, many of the costly, and not very important luxury doo-dads are omitted. Both have a heated steering wheel, a feature we have come to love and always look for in upscale models. Both have heated premium leather seats, but the Pathfinder's seats are also cooled. We found the Pathfinder's seats to be more basic in their construction than the CX-9's. Both were comfortable, but the CX-9 seemed to offer more support. The footwell in the CX-9 is tighter. Our right driver's leg rested uncomfortably against the fat center console. We'd call the overall comfort similar, but if you are a tall person, be sure to test drive the CX-9 to see if your legs fit comfortably.

Infotainment: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Both Nissan and Mazda have good infotainments systems, but they differ in their look and operation. The Nissan has a built-in touchscreen with a helper knob on the front of the dash under the screen. Mazda opts for a dashtop mounted screen and a simple to use rotary knob on the center console where your right hand would rest. It is a matter of preference, and neither is dramatically "better" than the other. We found both to be moderately easy to learn, but would give the Nissan the edge in ease of use. Both come with excellent premium audio.

Safety: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Both the CX-9 and Pathfinder are IIHS Top Safety Pick vehicles. However, the CX-9's better headlights that bend in corners adds the "Plus" rating to that already high score. Both vehicles come standard with adaptive cruise control and Superior-rated forward collision prevention. Both also have all the expected safety features such as a backup camera, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. The Pathfinder's Around view monitor with moving object detection has an edge when backing up.

The Drive: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
The CX-9 is the better driver's vehicle hands down. The Pathfinder is great around town and comfortable, but anyone who tests the CX-9 is impressed with its fun to drive nature. Both have excellent engines, but they differ in design significantly. The CX-9 uses a new turbocharged engine with no bad habits and great torque and power. The Pathfinder uses a V6 with more power that is always there when you want it. The Pathfinder uses a CVT transmission with shift-feel logic that we loved. The CX-9 uses a geared transmission that also brings smiles. The Pathfinder Platinum earns a 21 MPG Combined EPA estimate and the CX-9 a 23 MPG estimate and both can run on regular fuel. This difference in fuel costs means that the CX-9 will save its owner $1,500 in fuel costs over ten years.

Pricing: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Our CX-9 Signature AWD had an MSRP of $45,755 which includes $600 for paint and floor mats. Our Pathfinder Platinum AWD had an MSRP of $ 44,685 and neither vehicle had any options packages because they are all included at these top trims. The Pathfinder is more vehicle for the money, but the CX-9 is "sharper in style" and better to drive. A hard choice as to which has more overall value, particularly when fuel costs are included.

Conclusion: Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD vs. Nissan Pathfinder Platinum AWD
Our conclusion here is simple; If you must have the better driver's vehicle and value the styling of the CX-9, then that is your easy choice. However, if you are a family shopper and plan to use all three rows, the Nissan simply has more space and that matters. Also, if you live in a very hot climate, the Pathfinder's cooled seats will matter. Having heard our comparison, which would be your choice?