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This pandemic has forced many of us to stay home, isolate and avoid face-to-face contact. But time – and life – moves forward and we will eventually find the need for venturing out to a new world, shaped by lessons learned from this life-changing health crisis. We have gotten used to the safety and security, not to mention the comfort of our own private space. Thus this begs the question: will we ever find the confidence to actually get out of our shells and back into the real world?
Thankfully, the Mazda CX-9 helps bridge the gap between our safe zone and the outside world. Packed with technology that helps keep us safe, a roomy interior that allows us, and our dear family and friends to stay in a safe bubble while moving about outside of our homes.
Starting with the Signature variant’s unique Auburn colored Nappa leather interior, you are immediately cocooned in luxury commonly found in cars costing two to three times more than the CX-9. The interior feels intimate; upon opening the doors, it doesn’t look spacious and airy, hinting at a more passionate and familiar environment you’d expect to find in Mazda’s sportier models. But make no mistake, there’s oodles of space to comfortably lounge inside on a long journey. The front driver’s seat has 8-way power adjustment, while the front passenger seat offers 6-way adjustment. The middle-row seats slide fore and aft to allow more space for the third-row seats, and for easy entry and exit at the back, thanks to the 60:40 split/folding 2nd row seats.


I love that Mazda was one the first manufacturers to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their cars that use the Mazda Connect Multimedia infotainment system: if your older car came with the same infotainment system but without Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from the factory, you can easily buy the module to retrofit it onto your car. In the Signature variant, you also get a 12-speaker BOSE surround sound system together tight the 8-inch infotainment system.  
There is also a healthy dose of safety equipment: six airbags are standard, with traction / stability control coupled with ABS-EBD brakes. There’s also a 360-degree view camera to help you navigate the CX-9 in tight spaces. Unfortunately, the cameras are not as clear or high-definition as Mazda’s later models: my wife’s CX-30 has a sharper and clearer reverse camera, arguably the best in its price range. But it’s clear enough to help you confidently maneuver through tight spaces. There’s also a lane departure warning with lane keeping assist functions, important on very long and boring roads which can make you sleepy after very long stints behind the wheel.
Power comes from Mazda’s 2.5-liter SkyActiv G turbo engine which delivers 231hp and 420 Newton Meters of torque using 91 RON Octane fuel. A quick perusal on foreign Mazda websites however says that using higher octane fuel actually delivers more power, to the tune of 250hp. This power is transferred to the wheels with Mazda’s impressive i-Active All-Wheel Drive System. Depending on tire slip, traction, torque and driving demands, the system seamlessly and quickly sends torque to the rear wheels to improve traction, stability, safety and control. In default mode, the CX-9 drives the front wheels to deliver impressive fuel efficiency considering its large size and modestly sized 2.5-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. On turn-in, Mazda’s impressive G-Vectoring Control Plus reduces throttle input by 5% to help weight transition smoothly to the front axles once steering angle is detected, loading up the front tires, improving traction and responsiveness and giving you a more satisfying and crisp steering feel from the electrically operated power assisted steering system, arguably also the best in its segment.    
The CX-9 is also endowed with a cavernous interior cargo space: you get 408 liters with the third row seats up, more than doubling to a shade under 1082 liters with the 3rd row seats down, and finally to a massive motor-home like 2016 liters with the second row seats folder flat. It would make for a good camping / overloading vehicle if you stick in a mattress at the back and you have a love shack for two comfortably. I actually used the CX-9 to pick up five pieces of super wide tires for my project car and initially we thought it wouldn’t fit, but the CX-9 swallowed three 315/30R18 and two 265/40R18 track tires with room to spare.  The power-operated tail-gate made loading and unloading cargo easier, despite my frozen shoulders making it difficult for me to reach high up and exerting effort.
Ground clearance is a generous 223.5 millimeters and a surprisingly tight turning radius of 5.92 meters for such a large car. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find data on the CX-9’s flood wading ability online or on Mazda’s websites locally and abroad.  
On the open road, the CX-9 hides its considerable heft well; ride is sporty firm but offers enough compliance from the massive 20-inch wheels and 225/50R20 all-season touring tires while delivering ample mechanical grip through the sweeping turns going up Tagaytay. The 70-kilometer drive is too short to sample the CX-9’s charms. A drive up to Ilocos, or down south to Bicol would be a fitting adventure to sample the CX-9’s true breadth of abilities. The Macpherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear setup deliver impressive control and responsiveness; on the highway, at speed, it handles with confidence and on the aforementioned winding roads, it corners with gusto and aplomb, begging for more. Since we were blessed with light traffic when I had the CX-9, the CX-9 returned a very good 12km/liter on the highway going up Tagaytay, and delivered a decent 8.2km/liter in city driving.  
The CX-9 Signature is many things: capable, composed and safe are some of the key strengths that spring to mind. Its beautiful KODO: soul of motion design language makes it a 4-wheel masterpiece. Surely, with all these latent assets, one would feel brave and confident to venture out into the new world forever changed by the pandemic. 

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