Memories of Mazda’s flagship sports utility vehicle (SUV) has always lingered thanks to the “Jinba-Ittai” (horse and rider as one) design philosophy that’s been infused into the brand’s offerings.
With the advent of the latest “Ignite Edition”, this fully-imported front-wheel driven seven-seater SUV from Japan now commands a price of RM319,847 on-the-road without insurance but with 50% SST exemption.
An all-wheel drive variant is also available and is priced at RM336,215.
Coated in Mazda’s signature Soul Red Crystal, this emotive SUV sports a host of a few external changes starting with the front grille and side mirrors getting a gloss-black finish while its 20-inch wheels have been coated in metallic black.
The result is an undoubtedly sportier effect that makes its predecessor seem rather vanilla in comparison.
But what if it were dressed in Jet Black instead?
It would definitely bring about a sinister-yet-stealthy outlook for a healthy dose of driving thrills.
With this SUV’s newfound way of burning a larger hole in the pocket, the higher asking price isn’t just limited to its sheet metal and exterior claddings.
Those with a keen eye for detail would immediately notice that it’s the same cabin altogether, but meanwhile, they would have also noted that the perforated leather-wrapped and ventilated seats now comes in a new Burgundy colour.
There’s also red-matching stitches littering the cabin along with the accompaniment of black interior trim (dashboard, door panels and handle bezels) which act as a subtle accent to everything else.
If your head’s not already nodding to these new internal styling cues yet, then perhaps Wireless CarPlay for Apple’s iOS users, paddle-shifters (finally!) and a wireless Qi charger in the centre console will.
Although the Qi Charger is a useful and convenient addition to be had, it doesn’t do very well in keeping a smartphone in place – leaving this writer’s phone low on battery on a few occasions.
Nonetheless, experiencing the cabin once more was such a welcome that it automatically beckoned a short reminiscing session as to how it remains to be so well insulated against the world outside (regardless of whether the CX-9 is crawling or at speed).
Admittedly, the session was a little longer than expected due to the over-indulgence of the ventilated front seats that creates a light cool layer against the back and thighs as the airy cabin, laced with the latest tunes, emanate from the 12-speaker Bose surround sound system.
Behind the wheel, the CX-9 - with its 2.5-litre Skyactiv turbocharged direct-injected engine, is still an enjoyment that’s highly recommended if it hasn’t been done so already.
The steering feels direct and taut while at speed and its independent suspension simply soaks up anything and everything - yet able to remain communicative.
The CX-9 Ignite Edition also comes with G-Vectoring Control Plus - a sportier version of the electronic stability control that induces a touch of yaw through the use of individual wheel braking.
No wonder the rear wheels were a little more subservient to the front ones.
When faced with narrow winding roads, the ability to “paddle” through the six-speed transmission really helped to maximise the engine’s 228hp and 420Nm of torque and turn two-tonne (kerb weight - 1,927kg) SUV into a zippy people carrier.
Having the heads-up display really helped keep cornering speeds in check without taking the eyes off the road too much.
While everything may seem fine and dandy so far, this seven-seater was not without fault.
For instance, albeit a little nit-picky, the steering wheel seemed more suited to dainty hands due to its lack of girth.
But, on a more serious note, the overall brake-feel lacked an abusive bite to them when needed and required a deep push to really get them to properly reign in the velocity.
In some instances, this managed to vent a considerable amount of fun into the atmosphere, but confidence still felt well-bolstered with the i-Activsense safety system getting Smart Brake Support (from 15kph to 145kph) and Mazda Radar Cruise Control.
Lane Keep Assist also managed to find its way in and this will let drivers know that it’s deviating out of a lane by trying to steer it back in.
While this feature can be switched off, constant use of the signal stalk is required to prevent it from activating.
The front-wheel driven CX-9 Ignite Edition, while designated as a full-sized SUV, is still a capable and practical runner that’ll be able to win the hearts of many.
There are still plenty of style, opulence and spatial practicality to be enjoyed with this spacious SUV that brings about strong levels of driving joy and comfort levels. — JAY WONG
Mazda CX-9 2.5 Skyactiv Ignite Edition
Engine: 2,488cc, turbocharged, direct injection
Maximum power: 228hp at 5,000rpm
Maximum torque: 420Nm from 2,000rpm
Transmission: Skyactiv Drive six-speed automatic
Features: Six airbags, anti-lock braking system, dynamic stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, traction control, emergency stop signal, hill-launch assist, speed sensing auto lock, walk away lock, automatic adaptive LED headlights, rear LED combination lights, automatic wipers, keyless entry with push-start button, blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, lane keep assist intervention, smart brake support, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, driver attention alert, smart city brake support, front 10-way driver (with 2 position memory function) and six-way passenger heated and ventilated seats MZD Connect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, full-colour touch screen display, multifunction Commander Control, radio, AUX-jack, USB port, Bluetooth, Bose 12-speaker sound system, GPS navigation, reverse camera with 360-degree view, Mazda G-Vectoring Control Plus, sunroof, rear door manual sunshades, rear air-conditioning vents, multifunction steering wheel, auto-fold power mirrors, 20 x 8.5J alloy wheels with 255/50 series tyres and 17x5.5J spare wheel with 185/80 series tyres
Price: RM319,847 (on-the-road without insurance but with 50% SST exemption)