Has Mazda really been around 100 years? The independent Japanese brand celebrated its centenary this year, and to commemorate the once-in-a-lifetime occasion it brought to market a particularly attractive…

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition Road Test

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
Easily one of the more attractive crossover SUVs in the compact segment, Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 looks even better in special 100th Anniversary Edition trim.

Has Mazda really been around 100 years? The independent Japanese brand celebrated its centenary this year, and to commemorate the once-in-a-lifetime occasion it brought to market a particularly attractive and exclusive Snowflake White Pearl exterior paint, which gets matched to white padded leatherette touch-points on the centre console edges and armrests plus door trim, along with deep, rich Garnet Red used for the Nappa leather seat upholstery and carpets. The look won’t be for everyone, but those who like it, will like it a lot.

I’m in the latter camp, having fallen head over heels for red upholstered classics in decades past, two of my own previous personal rides in fact utilizing the interior colour scheme (minus the white), most recently on the pigskin hides (which were originally natural) in a 4.7-litre V8-powered 1967 Maserati Mexico coupe that I plunged bucket loads of money into for longer than I had sense, and another being a 1964 Mercury Montcalm coupe that I owned way back in my 20s.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
Not only good looking from all angles, the CX-5 is also one of the most reliable in its class.

Mazda’s CX-5 would be a much smarter choice for a daily driver, thanks to earning the best score of any brand in Consumer Reports’ latest annual auto reliability rankings study, therefore beating Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, etcetera, not to mention Lexus, Porsche, and, er, well, Maserati wasn’t on the list, but it would’ve no doubt been somewhere near the bottom, even in 2021 form.

The CX-5 also tied with Nissan’s new Rogue as a runner-up in J.D. Power’s newest Automotive Performance, Execution And Layout (APEAL) study, both of which were outranked by Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E electric, albeit that model doesn’t really compete directly with these two compact crossover SUVs, other than by its mainstream volume branding, basic interior volume and liftback cargo access, because its pricing ranges from $51,495 to $89,085, which is well into premium territory.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
LED headlights and a classy set of 19-inch alloys make this compact crossover stand out.

This brings up an important point we’re seeing more and more these days, and not just amongst pricier electrified contenders. Plenty of volume brands are refining their interiors in hopes of wooing customers over to their offerings, and by doing so, sometimes stepping on their own premium branded toes, so to speak. As noted earlier, Mazda is independent, and therefore has no parental owner or premium sub-brand, like aforementioned Nissan has with Infiniti, or Toyota with Lexus. This is allowing them to move their brand upmarket to entry-level luxury levels, competing effectively with the likes of Buick and even Acura or Infiniti, depending on the model, which is why the CX-5 earned such high praise from its owners in the just-noted APEAL study.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The 100th Anniversary Edition gets these commemorative wheel caps, amongst other decorative upgrades.

Therefore, this isn’t the first and won’t be the last Mazda I’ve lauded accolades upon, because this special CX-5 is based on the already superb Signature trim line, an model that also comes gussied up with Nappa leather, actual Abachi hardwood trim, plentiful metallic accents, and much more. It really seems as if the brand is making a play for the premium sector, despite not raising its prices any higher than key competitors.

On that note, the 2021 CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition starts and ends at $43,800 (plus freight and fees), which is only $1,400 more than the CX-5 Signature. There are no options, not even paint choices. Toyota’s non-hybridized RAV4 rubs up against $42k with all options, incidentally, but doesn’t provide the same level of refinement or performance, while the priciest Honda CR-V, also less premium-like than the top-tier CX-5, will set you back nearly $44k.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
Just below these stylish LED taillights, and above the “TURBO” insignia on the rear liftgate, an exclusive “100TH ANNIVERSARY 1920-2020” badge is a reminder of this significant milestone (see a close-up of this badge in the gallery).

By my experience, Mazda’s CX-5 comes closer to luxury brand refinement than any SUV in this class when upgraded to either Signature or 100th Anniversary trim. If you load up a $42,400 CX-5 Signature with its only option, beautiful trademark Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint, which comes with lovely Cocoa brown Nappa leather inside, it’ll set you back another $450 anyway, so really, when moving up to the 100th Anniversary you’re only paying for the pricier white paint, white interior accents and red carpets, plus some commemorative red and black “100 YEARS 1920 – 2020” metal badges and circular red wheel caps for its classy multi-spoke 19-inch alloys.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition, with its Garnet red, white and grey Nappa leather-lined interior, provides a unique take on entry-level luxury.

For reasons like interior materials and build quality, the CX-5 has become the third-most popular compact crossover SUV in Canada, but it’s also due to aforementioned dependability, strong performance, competitive fuel economy, a roomy interior, and arguably attractive styling. The previously noted RAV4 is the segment’s best-seller, by the way, while the CR-V was runner up last year, a position it continues to hold this year. If you’d like to know more about how they all stack up, I covered these three SUVs and all of their compact crossover competitors in a recent comparo.

Another CX-5 attribute that will matter a lot in this family-focused segment is its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which gives Mazda’s compact crossover a serious edge over the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick status (without the Plus).

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
Soft-touch surfaces are everywhere, particularly above the waist, while the driving position is decidedly sporty.

As mentioned a moment ago, performance is a CX-5 strong suit too, especially in its top-tier GT, Signature and 100th Anniversary trims, which get a turbocharged 2.5-litre engine that puts out 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque, capable of propelling the luxuriously appointed SUV from standstill to 100 km/h in a spirited 6.9 seconds. That’s quick for this class, and feels it.

The CX-5’s paddle-shift actuated six-speed automatic transmission, complete with Sport mode, won’t win any marketing points now that most rivals are offering more efficient CVTs or fancier eight-speed automatic alternatives. Ford’s Escape, for instance, provides the latter and actually beats the top-line CX-5 to 100 km/h in top-line trim, albeit by a hardly noticeable 0.2 seconds, and we’re not exactly comparing Ferraris and Lamborghinis here, after all. Toyota and Honda don’t even come close to the RAV4’s sprint time, unless we’re talking RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid that manages the feat in just 6.7 seconds, but, like the less potent RAV and CR-V, fuel economy is what matters most.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition’s gauge cluster incorporates a 7.0-inch digital display.

At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, efficiency is probably not the CX-5’s most saleable asset, but Mazda does provide cylinder-deactivation that drops the naturally aspirated version’s city/highway rating to 9.0 L/100km. This top-line CX-5 is rated at 10.8 L/100km in the city, 8.7 on the highway and 9.8 combined, so there’s a small price for performance, while the equivalent Escape isn’t much better at 10.4 city, 7.5 highway and 9.1 combined. A RAV4 around the same price and features does a bit better at 9.2, 7.1 and 8.2 respectively, but as noted its performance won’t have you grinning from ear-to-ear at takeoff or when passing a slower moving vehicle on the highway, unless, once again, you step up to the electrified RAV4 Prime that’ll put a serious jolt into your morning commute (Mazda has a smaller CX-30-sized electric dubbed MX-30 coming out, so stay tuned for that).

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
A 10.25-inch centre display features this especially impressive overhead camera.

While the turbocharged CX-5 is certainly quick, and amongst the better handlers in the class, making it one of if not the sportiest SUV it competes against, with a true character that’s entirely its own, it’s also smooth, comfortable and quiet for this smaller SUV category. These critical qualities help it attain the entry-level luxury appeal I’ve been referring to throughout this review, and, I think, are more important to the majority of buyers.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The CX-5’s six-speed automatic transmission might be seen as a weakness by some, but it’s very reliable, quite sporty, and should be efficient enough for most.

Comfort can be attained right across the entire CX-5 trim range, by the way, the most affordable GX FWD model starting at just $28,600 (plus freight and fees). Important for you to know is that Mazda will soon be out with a 2021.5 version of this SUV, with updates including a new larger 10.25-inch centre display with the brand’s newest Mazda Connect infotainment interface as standard equipment (although the current one has a great overhead camera, accurate navigation, and the convenience of premium-level lower console controls), expanding by 2.25 inches from the previous 8.0-inch display, this being the same as found in upper trims of 2021 models, while Mazda Connected Services will be available to download this coming fall.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition’s Nappa leather-covered seats are inherently comfortable.

Additionally, all of Mazda’s i-Activsense safety and convenience technologies will be standard in the 2021.5 CX-5, including Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning that currently get added in GS trim. Base 2021 models currently come standard with Smart City Brake Support and Rear Cross Traffic Alert, plus all the usual traction and stability control functions, ABS, tire pressure monitoring, etcetera.

To learn more about every 2021 and 2021.5 trim, as well as available options, plus prices for all, check out CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page, where you’ll be able to access easy discounts thanks to dealer invoice pricing, that gives you an edge when negotiating your best deal. Currently Mazda is offering up to $1,750 in additional incentives on 2021 or 2021.5 models, while average CarCostCanada member savings were $2,360 last time I checked. Membership does have its privileges. On that note, be sure to find out all the ways CarCostCanada’s money-saving membership works, plus remember to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store now.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
The rear seating area is roomy, comfortable and well finished.

Membership in the Mazda family has its privileges too, many of which I’ve covered in this review. Interior comfort is very good (although four-way driver’s powered lumbar support would edge it even closer to premium status) and spaciousness about average, the latter including 875 litres (30.9 cubic feet) of dedicated cargo space and 1,687 litres (59.6 cu ft) with the rear seats folded flat, while its cargo flexibility is amongst the best in the class due to European-inspired 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, normally only found in upscale luxury brands. This lets you stow longer items like skis down the middle, while rear passengers enjoy the benefit of the more comfortable window seats, plus they can warm up via rear seat heaters in upper trims like this 100th Anniversary. Just one recommendation to Mazda: please relocate the otherwise snazzy three-way buttons from within the centre folding armrest onto the backside of the front console or the door panels, because there’s no way to activate them when that centre pass-through is in use. Sorry guys, but that wasn’t the most intelligent idea.

2021 Mazda CX-5 100th Anniversary Edition
Spacious cargo volume is made better by a handy centre pass-through.

Other than this oversight, and an infotainment system that could use an update (and gets one in the 2021.5 version) there’s not much I can complain about. In fact, the 2021 Mazda CX-5 is one of the best crossovers in its compact SUV class, for all of the reasons I’ve stated and more. I highly recommend a 100th Anniversary Edition if you can still get your hands on one, but if not, the Signature is just as good, albeit minus the captivating exterior and interior colour scheme and tasteful commemorative badging. While I like it a lot, I could certainly live without that, especially if a lack of 2021s forced me into a 2021.5 Signature, resulting in the new infotainment interface.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect…

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Did you know Mazda was offering a twin-turbo diesel-powered CX-5 last year? Some were still available at the time of writing.

Anticipation. Sometimes it’s better than the real thing. Just think back to someone you fell head over heels for in junior high, only to finally go out on a date and realize they weren’t the perfect match your idealistic imagination conjured them up to be. As we age, most of us become a little more cautious in our approach to everything, including our next best ride.

Enter the Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel or SkyActiv-D, a compact crossover SUV that most buyers in this class never realized was even on the radar, let alone available for the 2019 model year. Amongst the auto industry media, Mazda’s upcoming turbo-diesel was a highly anticipated new powertrain in a model that’s long earned high marks, but it took longer to arrive than expected and only lasted one single model year, a shocker that’s caused some disappointment within a small following of diesel engine fans, and as I just noted, not even a whimper from most Mazda buyers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
It’s just as attractive and beautifully finished inside as the regular CX-5 thanks to top-tier Signature trim, but Mazda’s SkyActiv-D engine is more fuel efficient.

Of course, the latter group matters much more in the grand scheme of things than a tiny handful of oil-burner zealots and enthusiastic auto journalists, and to be fair to Mazda that’s now looking as if it made a major product planning error, Volkswagen’s Diesel-gate fiasco wasn’t a thing when the 100-year-old independent Japanese brand first decided to bring its SkyActiv-D to market (yes, Mazda is 17 years older than VW). As it is, the very fact the new turbo-diesel engine met Canadian regulations for the 2019 model year shows that it was cleaner than anything offered by the Germans, all of which dropped their diesel powerplants soon after the Diesel-gate scandal.

I’m speaking in past-tense because this review is coming out after the fact, although being that 2020 is one of the most unusual years we’ve ever experienced in the car industry, or any other sector for that matter, I was still able to find some of these unique 2019 CX-5s available to purchase new when perusing online.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature Diesel’s stylish design with narrow LED headlamps, tiny fog lights and attractive 19-inch alloys, truly makes a visual statement.

In this review I’m going to cover the 2019 model shown, as well as the 2020, particularly the changes moving up to the latest model year, being that there are many more 2020s available to purchase than 2019s, with or without the SkyActiv-D powertrain with respect to the latter. If you can find a 2019 model that suits your needs, you’ll be able to benefit from up to $2,500 in additional incentives, while 2020 models are only being offered with incentives up to $1,000, as per CarCostCanada’s comprehensive 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page and 2020 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page. CarCostCanada’s very affordable membership provides plenty, by the way, including manufacturer rebate information, details about any available manufacturer financing and leasing deals, dealer invoice pricing info that could save you thousands, and more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s distinctive LED taillights are similar to its LED headlight design.

A quick look at the just-noted 2019 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page will immediately show the 2.2-litre twin-turbo-diesel only being available in top-line Signature trim at a price of $45,950 plus freight and fees. Signature trim is a new for 2019 premium brand-like level that’s never previously been offered to CX-5 clientele. Other CX-5 trims include the base GX that starts at $27,850 with front-wheel drive or $29,850 with all-wheel drive, the mid-grade GS at $30,750 with FWD or $32,750 with AWD, and the previous top-line GT that starts at $37,450 and tops out at $39,450 with its 2.5-litre turbocharged gasoline with engine upgrade. GT and Signature trims include Mazda’s i-Activ all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard equipment.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature is a step above all mainstream branded competitors when it comes to luxury, thanks to soft Nappa leather and real hardwood trim.

The CX-5 Signature, available with the just-noted 2.5-litre turbo gas engine for $40,950 and the aforementioned diesel, builds on the already impressive CX-5 GT with features like LED cabin lighting, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, a slick looking frameless rearview mirror, genuine Abachi hardwood inlays on the dash and door panels (yes, real wood, folks), plus dark chocolate brown Cocoa Nappa leather upholstery and trim, while items pulled up from the GT include front and rear signature lighting, adaptive headlamps, LED fog lights, power-folding side mirrors, proximity-sensing keyless entry, traffic sign recognition, dual-zone automatic climate control, navigation, a 10-speaker audio system including satellite radio, a garage door opener, leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a six-way powered front passenger’s seat, plus more.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Soft-touch surfaces abound, as do beautifully finished metal accents.

Details like fabric-wrapped A pillars and luxuriously padded interior surfaces including the dash top, upper and lower instrument panel, lower console side edges, door uppers front to back and armrests side to centre go further to make the CX-5 a near-luxury experience, while Mazda also adds a tasteful assortment of anodized aluminum accents throughout the compact SUV’s cabin, with some of the brushed metal switchgear receiving rich knurled metal edging for an extremely upscale appearance. It’s pretty fancy stuff from a mainstream volume-brand, leaving some in the industry to wonder (including yours truly) whether or not Mazda is making a long play for luxury brand status.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5’s centre dial is purely digital, despite looking as if it’s merely another analogue instrument.

The diesel option fits the premium sector well too, being this engine type has mostly been sold through luxury brands (Volkswagen aside) such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and the like, with Jaguar offering a bevy of diesel-powered models up until last year (so there are probably plenty of these around if you’re interested too) and Land Rover having only dropped the oil-burner in its Velar, yet not offering diesel-power in the one vehicle 4×4 enthusiasts would most likely want it in, the all-new 2021 Defender.

Back to Mazda’s diesel, it makes a rather meagre 168 horsepower yet a very healthy 290 lb-ft of torque; the low horsepower, high torque ratio normal for diesel powertrains. This said the same CX-5 Signature’s base gasoline-fed powerplant is good for 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque (take note, this engine has just been announced for the AWD Mazda3, and should be a real screamer in such a lightweight car), as long as you fill it with 93 octane premium fuel. If you don’t, and I can’t see most owners throwing that much cash into the ether, it puts out a commendable 250 horsepower and the same 310 lb-ft of torque, while the 2020 model gains an additional 10 lb-ft of torque to 320 lb-ft when fuelled with high-octane gas.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The centre display can be modulated via a dial and set of buttons on the lower centre console, just like with premium brands.

Drive both CX-5 powertrains back-to-back, as I’m sure many would-be CX-5 Diesel buyers would have done, and the benefits of the gasoline-powered version are immediately clear, at least from a performance perspective. Of course, opting for the diesel is more about fuel economy, and to that end it’s thriftier than its gasoline-powered counterpart, but probably not enough to cause a large volume of CX-5 buyers to choose it over the more conventional powertrain. The diesel’s claimed 8.9 L/100km city, 7.9 highway and 8.4 combined fuel economy is certainly better than the gasoline engine’s 10.8 city, 8.7 highway and 9.8 combined rating, but the extra $5,000 needed to upgrade makes any savings less reasonable.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
An attractive dual-zone automatic climate control system is easy to use.

Something else to consider is the nicely equipped CX-5 GT mentioned earlier, which for $37,450 offers a lot of luxury along with an even thriftier 2.0-litre SkyActiv-G four-cylinder good for 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, plus a claimed fuel economy rating of 9.8 L/100km in the city, 7.9 on the highway and 9.0 combined, while the same engine with front wheel drive gets 9.3, 7.6 and 8.5 respectively.

Last year I reviewed a GT with its base engine and was very pleased with its fuel economy, performance and level of luxury after my usual weeklong test, but this said I more recently spent three months with a 2020 CX-5 Signature 2.5-litre SkyActiv-G turbo and was even more enamoured, particularly with its performance and premium fittings. I’ll be sure to review it in full detail soon, although for the sake of this review I’ll only say that Mazda made the right choice in keeping its top-line gasoline engine over its even more exclusive diesel.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Knurled metal edging makes many of the CX-5 Signature’s controls look and feel very upscale.

Don’t get me wrong as the two models’ fuel economy disparity was even more pronounced during real life duty than on National Resources Canada’s downloadable Fuel Consumption Ratings spreadsheet. This was made even more obvious thanks to diesel fuel pump prices that are normally much lower than regular gasoline (let alone premium), but the biggest reason for the two models’ fuel economy disparity came down to the sportier 2.5-litre turbo-gasoline engine making the paddle-shift actuated 2020 CX-5 Signature way too much fun to merely coast along in comfortable bliss. With the knurled-metal, console-mounted rocker switch pulled rearward for Sport mode, the most potent CX-5 is a rarified dynamo amongst mostly dawdling compact crossover competitors, while the turbo-diesel version is much more sedate after its initial launch from standstill.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The CX-5 Signature’s Nappa leather covered driver’s seat is very comfortable and supportive.

Yes, the diesel-powered CX-5 provides a lot of twist from lower speeds, and I certainly never had any problem passing slower moving traffic on the highway. It just doesn’t provide the level of sporty performance as the conventionally-fuelled turbo-four, and due to the subtle yet still evident rat-a-tat-tat sound emanating from ahead of the engine firewall, it makes the CX-5 sound a bit more truck-like than the gasoline version. This will either be good or not so good depending on your preferences. I happen to like the sound of a diesel engine, so it was kind of comforting, while its standard 19-inch Gunmetal grey Signature wheels and equally large tires provided plenty of pavement adhesion when hustling it through corners.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
The rear seats are comfortable and the surrounding area spacious.

Unlike the gasoline-powered Signature, the diesel doesn’t provide steering wheel paddles, so its six-speed automatic transmission isn’t quite as engaging as the gearbox I more recently tested. Yes, you heard me right, like Hyundai’s Tucson and Kia’s Sportage, the CX-5 uses a conventional six-speed automatic instead of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has become more commonplace in this small SUV market segment, while more complex eight-speed autoboxes are now incorporated into VW’s Tiguan and Ford’s latest Escape, and even fancier nine-speed automatics can be found in the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Jeep Cherokee. More gears can add problems, however, with most of the eight- and nine-speed automatics just noted commonly cited for reliability issues, making Mazda’s well-proven six-speed SkyActiv-Drive transmission a good choice for those wanting something they can rely on.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Loads of cargo space make the CX-5 a winner in its compact SUV class, but its 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks, featuring a full pass-through down the middle, are amongst the segment’s most useful.

Along with commendable handling, all second-generation CX-5 models I’ve driven so far have provided a comfortable ride, albeit firmer in the more performance-oriented Germanic sense than most competitors. This said, the SUV’s fully independent suspension was never harsh in any way, but instead felt wholly confidence-inspiring when pushed hard through circuitous two-lane roadways, and wonderfully controllable at higher speeds on the freeway. This is a crossover SUV I was able to spend many hours in at a time without discomfort, while its roominess from front to rear is very generous and therefore competitive with compact SUV challengers.

2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature Diesel
Say hello and goodbye to Mazda’s SkyActiv-D twin-turbo diesel engine, which provided good fuel economy in real world conditions.

Feel free to check out my 2019 Mazda CX-5 GT AWD Road Test for even more detail, particularly about its best-in-class 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatbacks with convenient cargo sidewall-mounted release levers, cargo measurements and more, and remember to download the free CarCostCanada app to your smartphone from the Apple Store or Google Play Store so you can get the best deal possible on this impressive compact SUV.

I won’t try to claim that I know which engine will best suit your needs, because those who already like diesels will love the short-lived SkyActiv-D, and performance fans will no doubt want the much quicker SkyActiv-G turbo, while some will prefer to save as much as possible by purchasing a more affordable trim and therefore be happy with the naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G powerplant, as I was. Either way Mazda has you covered, at least for a little while longer, unless you’re looking for a hybrid. If that’s the case, you may want to wait for Mazda’s sporty looking electric crossover just unveiled at the Tokyo auto show.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo editing: Karen Tuggay

I can guarantee you something. If you take the time to visit your neighbourhood Mazda dealer, or the Mazda stand at your local auto show, and sit inside any of its models’ Signature trim line, you’ll…

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature Road Test

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Mazda’s CX-9 is arguably one of the best looking crossover SUVs in its class, especially in top-line Signature trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I can guarantee you something. If you take the time to visit your neighbourhood Mazda dealer, or the Mazda stand at your local auto show, and sit inside any of its models’ Signature trim line, you’ll be questioning why you purchased your current ride or whether or not you should continue considering the other vehicles on your shopping list.

What’s more, if you currently drive a premium brand, it’s highly possible you’ll be left wondering why you paid so much more, or alternatively if you’re driving another mainstream volume brand, you’ll likely be curious as to why the Mazda is finished so much nicer inside than your vehicle.

Mazda offers the top-tier Signature trim line in its 6 mid-size sedan, CX-5 compact crossover SUV, and this CX-9 mid-size three-row crossover SUV, and along with plenty of high-end features such as 19- to 20-inch alloy wheels, a powered steering column, a surround parking camera, front parking sensors to go along with the rear parking sensors already included, ventilated front seats, heatable rear seats, etcetera (depending on the model), Mazda adds soft, high-quality Nappa leather upholstery and genuine hardwood inlays, the CX-9 Signature being reviewed here including gorgeous Santos Rosewood trimming the centre console panel as well as each door switch panel, front to rear.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s elegant lines don’t only benefit the SUV’s frontal design, but it’s mighty attractive from behind too. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Mazda doesn’t stop there, but the fabric-wrapped roof pillars get pulled up from lesser trim lines, while there’s also more soft-touch, padded surfaces throughout Mazda’s cars and SUVs than most mainstream competitors, even in their models not offered with Signature trim, so get ready to be impressed when it comes to refinement levels.

This CX-9 Signature interior, for instance, is as close to premium as mainstream volume manufacturers get. The multi-layered dash is entirely made from a padded leather-like material that extends around to the door uppers front to back. Additionally, the pliable upper portion of the dash and harder lower composite panels are separated by a metallic inlay that truly feels real, his visually extending over to the corner vent bezels and side door panels.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
This big, bold satin-chrome grille really helps the CX-9 to stand out in a crowd. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Due to its optional Snowflake White Pearl paint, my tester came standard with a deep reddish-coloured Chroma Brown Nappa leather upholstery that also visually extended to the instrument panel, lower console and door inserts, and felt extremely plush on the latter due to what felt like thick memory foam below, while the same colour brown is used for contrast stitching on the steering wheel and armrests.

Mazda applies piano black lacquer around the shifter and power window switchgear panels, the powered mirror toggle nicely finished in knurled metal just like the rotating infotainment system controller on the lower centre console. Fortunately Mazda goes easy on the shiny black plastic, a difficult substance to keep from scratching or collecting dust, but it’s very generous when it comes to brushed aluminum accents, the brand even making the power seat controls from this premium-like metallic material. Like I said earlier, Mazda’s Signature series provide a rich experience.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Full LED headlights, LED fog lamps and 20-inch alloys make quite the upscale statement. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As far as digital advancements go the current CX-9 is ahead of some of its peers and behind others. Its primary gauge package appears like a traditional three-dial design, but with GT models and above the centre-mounted speedometer, plus the surrounding real-time fuel economy and range gauges are actually part of a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster added this year, which is flanked by an analogue tachometer to the left, plus temp and fuel gauges on the right. This is a major change from outgoing 2016-2018 CX-9’s gauge package that included analogue gauges at the centre and left side, and a big full-colour multi-information display within the right-side bezel. Now the multi-information display sits within the analogue-style digital speedometer, and offers a full assortment of useful functions.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The LED taillights are exquisitely detailed. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The upgraded gauge cluster is augmented by a true head-up display system that projects vital information onto the windshield. It even included a speed limit reminder, which I found quite handy.

The centre infotainment touchscreen measures a reasonably large 8.0 inches in diameter and provides a good, high-resolution display. Its fixed tablet-style design, which has it protruding upright out of the dash, is just starting to catch on as a sort of infotainment standard layout amongst mainstream competitors, making Mazda an electronics forerunner. My tester included a fabulous new dual-screen backup camera with an impressive overhead view on the right side, making parking ultra-easy when combined with its front and rear sensors, and take note that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration were added for 2019 as well.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
If you like the CX-9’s exterior design, you’re going to love its interior. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Also new is SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, while the infotainment system also includes navigation with detailed mapping, a superb 12-speaker Bose audio system with Centerpoint surround sound and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, satellite and HD radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message reading and response capability, etcetera.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature’s cabin is filled with soft-touch surfaces including Nappa leather, while the hardwood trim is real. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Unique to Mazda, at least amongst volume brands, is its premium-like lower console-mounted control interface, comprised of a large metal-edged rotating dial, a similarly designed albeit smaller volume knob, and surrounding quick-access buttons. This is a more comfortable way to modulate the infotainment system, although you can always use the touchscreen for tablet/smartphone-like tap, swipe and pinch gestures, the latter function ideal for changing the scale on the navigation map, for instance.

As you probably just noticed, the CX-9’s current second-generation has been around since 2016, which makes its luxury brand levels of refinement all the more impressive. Truly, you’ll need to pull up in one of the just-introduced 2020 Hyundai Palisade or Kia Telluride three-row SUVs in order to show off something that measures up to the CX-9’s pampering interior (although I have yet to test the 2020 Toyota Highlander, which was already pretty good). Of note, this generation of CX-9 is a purely Mazda-made affair that rides on the brand’s advanced SkyActiv platform, unlike the first-gen CX-9 that was based on Ford’s older Edge.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
New for 2019, a centrally-mounted 7.0-inch display houses the speedometer and multi-info display. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The new chassis, which sports McPherson struts with coil springs and a stabilizer bar up front and a multi-link setup with coil springs and a stabilizer bar in back, was further enhanced for 2019 to provide an even more comfortable ride, making it the perfect companion for overcoming bumpy inner-city streets, bridge expansion joints and uneven pavement anywhere else, while it’s also flawless on the open freeway where its upgraded steering system provides better linear behaviour at high speeds, resulting in an SUV that tracks brilliantly at all times, and therefore capable of eating up hundreds of miles at a time without breaking a sweat.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The infotainment system includes a new dual-screen parking camera with a 360-degree bird’s-eye view. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The CX-9’s dynamic pressure turbo-enhanced SkyActiv-G 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine provides plenty of passing power on the highway thanks to 250 horsepower, but also a surprising amount of get-up-and-go when taking off from standstill due to an extremely robust 320 lb-ft of torque. This is a big seven-passenger SUV after all, yet the efficient four-cylinder is all that’s needed for sporty performance around town or when the road starts to wind, and while no paddle shifters were included, unfortunately common in this class, manual mode can be selected by flicking the gear lever to the left and pulling back for upshifting or pushing forward for downshifting.

Mazda is very clear in its specifications that the engine makes full horsepower with 93 octane gasoline or higher, but I’m going to correctly guess that most journalists refill it will much cheaper 87 octane, so the engine is probably only producing the 227 horsepower claimed with the lower grade gas. This said its strong torque rating only drops by 10 lb-ft when using budget fuel, and only needs 2,000 rpm to release full twist, so I wouldn’t worry too much about thrust.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The automatic transmission only has six forward gears and no paddles for manual mode. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Selecting Sport mode, via a metal rocker switch next to the shifter, adds snappier acceleration thanks to the six-speed transmission’s ability to hold its gears up to redline, plus it doesn’t automatically shift when it hits the solid red line at the 6,300 mark on the tachometer, but instead holds its given gear for better control through the curves. This is very rare in this class or any, and gives the CX-9 a much sportier feel than its contemporaries despite only having six forward gears, which when combined with its particularly agile suspension system, as well as its nicely weighted engine-speed-sensing variable power-assist rack-and-pinion steering, is wholly impressive.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
A beautifully detailed rotating dial can be used to control the centre touchscreen, while quick-access buttons pull up popular functions. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control technology carries over from the previous model, seamlessly shifting more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward upon exit. I wasn’t able to notice it working away in the background, but appreciated the added stability, especially during a particularly nasty rainstorm, at which point Mazda’s i-Activ AWD made sure each of my Signature model’s 255/50R20 all-season tires were put to full use.

Important in this class, the AWD CX-9’s fuel economy is rated at 11.6 L/100km in the city, 9.1 on the highway and 10.5 combined, which despite making a lot more power than the Kia Sorento (which will only be a five-passenger model for 2020), isn’t much more consumption than the South Korean SUV’s 11.2 city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined rating, while the V6-powered Highlander is good for a respective Transport Canada rating of 12.1, 9.0 and 10.6. The FWD CX-9 won’t be available for 2020, by the way, so Mazda will no longer be able to claim its very thrifty fuel economy rating of 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.4 on the highway and 9.6 combined.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The attractive 10-way powered, Nappa leather-covered driver’s seat is wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The CX-9’s engine gets started by a pushbutton ignition system, by the way, while interior access is provided by proximity sensing keyless entry featuring not-so-subtle black buttons on the front door handles. Mazda doesn’t go so far as to add these buttons to the rear door handles as well, as some others do, but the overall ergonomics of the driver’s position is better than many in this class. The seat provides the usual fore and aft, up and down, plus tilt and backrest functions, not to mention two-way lumbar support that just happened to fit the small of my back ideally, so no complaints here (but you may want to check this feature out for size). It proved fabulously comfortable all week long, with much credit going to the powered tilt and telescopic steering column’s generous reach.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
With nice attention to detail, Mazda even aluminized the power seat controls. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The second row seating area is roomy and extremely comfortable, while the window seats provide good lower back support. Mazda includes a nice wide folding centre armrest complete with the usual dual cupholders, plus a large interface for the automatic climate control system’s third zone on the backside of the front console, complete with switchgear for the aforementioned three-way heatable rear seats, while the outboard positions affected by the warmth easily slide out of the way for access to the third row.

Those rearmost seats include comfortable backrests, yet not a lot of space for an average sized adult’s knees and feet unless you slide the 60/40-split second row so far forward it starts getting a bit cramped. In other words, the third row is probably suitable enough for smaller adults, but ideally it’s best left to children.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The second row is spacious and comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

When the third row is upright there scarcely seems to be any room for cargo in back, although Mazda claims it can manage loads of up to 407 litres (14.4 cubic feet). Not having a need for the final row I simply folded them flat, leaving a sizeable 1,082 litres (38.2 cu ft) of cargo capacity at my beck and call. When required the second-row folds down in the usual 60/40 configuration, which while making one of the seat warmers useless when carrying four aboard and needing to stow longer items like skis longitudinally (a centre pass-through or 40/20/40-split second row would be better), does provide 2,017 litres (71.2 cu ft) of available load space. It’s a nicely finished cargo compartment too, with carpeting covering three-quarters of the way up each sidewall, plus a heavy-duty removable load floor covering a shallow carpeted hidden stowage area.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The tri-zone automatic climate control system gets a rear panel for adjusting the temperature and rear seat warmers. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Additional storage includes a sunglasses holder in the overhead console, a large open bin ahead of the shift lever, a sizeable bin under the centre armrest, and of course the glove box, which is quite big and velvet lined no less. Yes, just more of that pampering noted earlier.

Complementing all the refinements mentioned, areas unseen are stuffed full of sound-deadening insulation, the windshield and front windows are made from noise-isolating glass, the body shell is extremely rigid and improvements have been made to the steering and suspension systems, making everything from the way its doors close to the CX-9’s overall driving dynamics feel as if it were a luxury-branded SUV, while providing an extremely quiet interior.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The third row is nicely finished, but probably best for smaller folk. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The driver and passengers alike will be comforted in other ways too, for instance in the knowledge that the CX-9 Signature is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road when it comes to advanced driver assistance and safety systems, with all the usual active and passive safety features now joined by adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, plus more.

Other features that provide CX-9 Signature owners with a premium-branded experience include an electromechanical parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding side mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a reworked overhead console with LED overhead and ambient lighting, plus a better designed LED room lamp control switch, while its heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with premium cross-stitched detailing is a real bonus during cold winter months.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
There’s 407 litres of available space back here, which isn’t too bad for a three-row crossover. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the aforementioned driver’s seat is 10-way powered with memory, the CX-9 Signature also gets an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat with powered lumbar, plus rear side window sunshades and more for just $51,500 plus freight and fees, which is excellent value when comparing luxury branded crossover SUVs with similar equipment, and on par with mainstream rivals with similar features, albeit less luxury. Truly, the only item I noticed to be missing from my CX-9 experience was a panoramic sunroof, the powered moonroof overhead being more traditionally sized.

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Fold the third row down and the CX-9 becomes a lot easier to live with. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Pricing and features in mind, make sure to check all of the 2019 Mazda CX-9 trims, package and individual option prices at CarCostCanada, plus find out about any available rebates too, while you can save even more by accessing the 2019 CX-9’s dealer invoice pricing. Currently you can save up to $2,500 in additional incentives on a 2019 (at the time of writing), or up to $1,000 for the virtually unchanged 2020 model.

I’m sure you’ve seen top-line CX-9s like my tester before, so you’ll likely agree that it looks as if it could’ve rolled off the assembly line of a luxury manufacturer. Its big, stylish satin-silver grille, featuring special night illumination wrapping around its lower half, plus its full LED headlamps with auto high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-leveling, not to mention its beautifully aerodynamic lower front fascia with integrated LED fog lamps, stunning 20-inch light grey high lustre alloy wheels, tastefully applied satin-chrome trim all-round, attractive LED taillights, and overall sleek, elegant lines from front to back make it a standout entry in its otherwise practical mid-size three-row crossover SUV class. Added to this, all the refined luxury, top-tier features, superb driving dynamics and full suite of advanced safety equipment make the CX-9 a very strong contender, and fully worthy of your attention.

The Infiniti Q50 has been one of few sport-luxury sedans that found continued success despite the unprecedented onslaught of crossover luxury SUVs, at least before Q1 of 2019. Last year, Canadian premium…

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition Road Test

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
With each new generation, Infiniti’s Q50 looks better and better. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Infiniti Q50 has been one of few sport-luxury sedans that found continued success despite the unprecedented onslaught of crossover luxury SUVs, at least before Q1 of 2019. Last year, Canadian premium car shoppers said their unceremonious goodbyes to the BMW 3 Series, which saw its sales drop by 19.5 percent, and the Audi A4, that lost 20.3 percent, while Acura’s TLX, Cadillac’s ATS, and Jaguar’s XE gave up even more ground, but the Q50 actually grew its sales by 6.8 percent throughout 2018. 

Over the past few months, however, Q50 sales have gone off the deep end with a 36.3 percent downturn, and while this is no doubt cause for concern by the powers that be at the company’s Hong Kong headquarters, it’s still not as bad as BMW’s 3 that lost 37.7 percent compared to Q1 of 2018, and Audi’s A4 that’s seen 39.9 percent of deliveries taken off its order books. Even Mercedes-Benz’ mighty C-Class has fallen by 34.5 percent, while Lexus IS deliveries (which were down 10.9 percent in 2018) have now plummeted by 45.5 percent, and Jaguar XE sales are currently nose-diving by a staggering 78.1 percent (its sales were only off by 27.8 percent last year). 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50 has a curvaceous body that looks especially nice from the rear. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I suppose I should stop tapping away at the keys right now and point you to my review of the impressive new Infiniti QX50 compact luxury SUV instead, but in all seriousness, 2,576 Canadians purchased the Q50 sport-luxury sedan during 2018, plus an additional 517 over the first three months of 2019, so I can think of plenty of good reasons to continue writing this review. In fact, I find the Q50 one of the smartest choices in the compact luxury D-segment, even if this category isn’t exactly filled with optimism these days. 

As a bit of a backgrounder, Infiniti gave the Q50 a mid-cycle update for the 2018 model year, refreshing its grille, front fascia, headlamps, taillights, rear bumper design and more, so it continues forward into 2019 unchanged from a visual perspective, except for a new Canadian-exclusive “I-LINE” styling treatment that now comes standard with the renamed I-Line Red Sport 400 model. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights come standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Infiniti chose the new I-Line nomenclature from the words “Inspired Line,” and just like eyeliner it blackens the grille surround similarly to last year’s gloss-black fog light bezels and diffuser-like rear bumper cap, while the spoiler on top of the trunk lid also gets an upgrade to high-gloss carbon-fibre, plus new “custom imported” glossy black 19-inch alloys trim out the lower regions. Possibly more important, I-Line trim helps to visually differentiate the sportiest 400-horsepower Q50 from lower trims within the lineup, an intelligent move when factoring in the $7,700 leap from the already fast 300 horsepower Q50 3.0T Sport. 

Of note, both 300 and 400 horsepower Q50 models utilize the same turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, albeit with unique components and tuning. Engines in mind, an even bigger change for 2019 is the discontinuation of the Mercedes-Benz-sourced 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder from the Canadian market, although it continues to make 208 horsepower in other world markets, including the U.S. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
With all the fine lower front fascia detailing, it would be a reasonable mistake to mistake this Signature Edition for one of the top-line Sport models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Back here at home, both V6 engines use Infiniti’s advanced seven-speed automatic gearbox with manual shift mode and downshift rev-matching capability, the latter a rare and wonderfully fun enhancement to the Q50’s overall strong performance, while the Japanese luxury brand’s “Intelligent” rear-biased all-wheel drive also remains standard. 

Fuel efficiency has seen improvements since Infiniti replaced the naturally aspirated 3.7-litre V6 with the new 700-cc smaller turbocharged 3.0-litre engines, but now that the four-cylinder is no longer available the model’s base fuel economy, which measured 10.7 L/100km city, 8.6 highway and 9.7 combined last year, no longer sits amongst class leaders. Still, the new as-tested base 3.0-litre’s rating of 12.4 city, 8.7 highway and 10.8 combined remains competitive amongst six-cylinder rivals. 

Such practical elements covered, I should also point out that the 2019 Q50 now includes standard predictive forward collision warning and forward emergency braking, which certainly is a step in the right direction for helping the Q50 to eventually achieve an IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
These 19-inch alloys are standard with Signature Edition and Sport trims. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

With the 2.0-litre four now gone for 2019, Q50 3.0T Luxe AWD trim replaces the Q50 2.0T Luxe AWD, with the base price commensurately moving up $5,000 to $44,995 plus destination and fees, which just happens to be last year’s entry price for the V6. The Q50 3.0T Signature Edition being reviewed here starts just a hair higher at $46,495, while the upper mid-range of the model lineup gets filled by the previously mentioned $48,495 Q50 3.0T Sport AWD, whereas the $56,195 I-Line Red Sport 400 ends up on the top spot. This said all trims are very affordable when factoring in everything that’s on offer. 

By the way, each price noted is available in detail, along with trim, package and option information, from CarCostCanada, where you can also source money saving manufacturer rebate info and otherwise difficult to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The badge on the back gives this “Signature Edition” away. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Although mentioning the word “base” a moment ago, nothing about Q50’s twin-turbocharged V6 is remotely basic. To be clear, no rival offers a 300-horsepower base engine, or the direct-injected mill’s near equally impressive 295 lb-ft of torque. I’ve sung praises about this talented V6 before, plus gone on ad nauseum with respect to the seven-speed automatic and all-wheel drive setup it’s mated to, so rather than pore too much attention on the numerous technological advancements that make this combo worthy of your full attention, I’ll lay down a more experiential tone. 

For starters, the base engine feels even quicker off the line than those figures suggest, although those 300 and 295 output numbers are hardly insignificant. It just has more full-throttle jump from standstill than the majority of similarly rated cars, this probably due to the engine’s twin-turbochargers delivering most of that twist from only 1,600 rpm all the way to 5,200 rpm, which is considerably sooner in the rev range than a normally aspirated mill would be capable of, with a wider torque band as well. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
All Q50s provide a very upscale, luxury experience inside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those turbos spin at speeds of up to 240,000 rpm, incidentally, a thought I just can’t get my brain to comprehend, especially considering their almost silent operation and complete reliability. Also worth mentioning, the mostly aluminum and therefore lightweight V6 has been on the Wards “10 Best Engines” winner list since it was created, just as its 3.7-litre and 3.5-litre predecessors were, so I’m not alone with my accolades. 

Push the “START/STOP ENGINE” button just next to the gauge cluster and it purrs into action, a subtle rasp from the dual exhaust noting that this is no four-banger. Flick the “DRIVE MODE” toggle switch on the lower centre console to “SPORT” instead of “STANDARD” (SNOW, ECO and PERSONAL modes are included too), pull the contrast-stitched leather-wrapped shifter rearward into “D” and then over slightly for manual mode, and prepare yourself to shift via the gear lever as steering wheel-mounted paddles are only available with the 3.0T Sport and I-Line Sport 400 trims. No issue here, as I’ve been shifting stick for longer than I care to say. Then again, I’d appreciate having paddle-shifters too, but obviously Infiniti sees the Luxe and Signature Edition as its luxury-focused models, in spite of their quick response to throttle input and dynamic handling. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50 instrument panel is well made and filled with top-tier features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

This Signature Edition wears the same standard 245/40R19 all-season run-flat performance rubber as the Sport model, but as it was my test car purposely featured winter M+S tires that without doubt impacted its lateral grip on dry sections of roadway. Just the same Infiniti didn’t go cheap on its winter tires, skinning the standard triple-five-spoke alloys in Pirelli Sottozero 3s, which showed such prowess through wet and snowy conditions that nothing nearing the likes of an SUV was at all necessary. In fact, it was so good at managing wet Left Coast snow that this Q50 quickly became my default ride for a very cold and soggy Vancouver week, while it was not only a great help in overcoming inclement weather, but its wonderfully reactive steering, wholly capable suspension, and smooth, comfortable ride made each stint behind the wheel a joy. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
No digital gauge cluster here, but the Q50’s analogue dials are easy to read in any light. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Of note, additional Signature Edition upgrades include the same performance-oriented exterior design details as found on the Sport, such as a sharp-edged glossy black lip front spoiler and similarly black fog light bezels, as well as a slightly less aggressive variation on the black and body-colour diffuser-infused rear bumper theme noted earlier, while each mid-range model also utilizes of an identical set of silver-painted 19-inch alloy rims, which is an improvement over base Luxe trim’s 18-inch alloy wheels and 225/50 all-season run-flat performance tires. 

Finally, both mid-range Q50 trims get silver “S” badges on each front fender, but oddly the Signature Edition includes a special rear deck spoiler just above its own scripted “Signature” badge, but the Sport model doesn’t get a spoiler at all, although it does receive a silver “S” insignia beside its Q50 badge. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50’s standard dual stack of infotainment displays is easy to use and highly functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Slide inside and you’ll quickly see that Signature Edition and Sport trims also share identical Sport Type seats featuring driver’s power lumbar and powered torso bolsters, plus manual thigh extensions for both front seats. The driver’s seat was thoroughly comfortable and provided superb lateral support, which is always appreciated when slinging such a capable car through fast-paced curves. Additionally, the Signature Edition’s Kacchu aluminum decorative inlays mentioned earlier are also found in the Sport model, a bonus as they look fabulous and feel substantive. 

Almost every other feature not yet mentioned is shared between the base Q50 Luxe model and the Signature Edition, which means the Q50 Signature Edition receives standard automatic LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, LED fog lights and front turn signals, LED brake lamps, aluminum “INFINITI” branded tread plates, proximity keyless access, pushbutton start/stop, Infiniti’s “InTuition” for storing climate, audio and driving preferences within each “Intelligent Key”, welcome lamps on the front outer door handles, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a universal remote for your garage, micro-filtered two-zone automatic climate control, an Infiniti InTouch dual-display infotainment system featuring a bright, high-resolution 8.0-inch upper monitor and an equally clear and colourful 7.0-inch lower touchscreen, a reverse camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, decent sounding six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/satellite audio with HD playback, RDS and speed-sensitive volume control, dual USB chargers, a heated steering wheel rim (that truly responds quickly), heatable front seats (almost heating up a fast), power front seats, a power glass sunroof, plus more. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The top monitor displays the navigation system, rearview camera and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Notably, along with the move up to the base V6 engine a variety of features that were previously optional now come standard, such as remote engine start, Infiniti’s precise InTouch route guidance/navigation system with lane guidance and 3D building graphics, the Infiniti InTouch Services suite of digital alerts and remote services, voice recognition for audio, SMS text messaging and vehicle info, power-adjustable lumbar for the driver, and 60/40-split rear seatbacks with a handy pass-through down the middle. 

Moving upward in trims from this Signature Edition, the only significant improvements to the previously noted Sport model are performance oriented, with upgrades including the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters I spoke of before, a special sport-tuned dynamic digital suspension, and an identical set of sport brakes as found on the Red Sport 400, which incorporate four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers, while the two sportiest Q50 models also include an exclusive set of front seat-mounted side-impact airbags. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The bottom display is a touchscreen for accessing audio, climate and other functions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features in mind, items not available with this Signature Edition include optional electronic power steering with the Sport model, while Infiniti’s exclusive drive-by-wire Direct Adaptive Steering (DAS) system can be had with all trims except for the Signature Edition. The same can be said for the auto-leveling adaptive front lighting system (AFS) with high beam assist, the power-adjustable steering column with memory, the Around View Monitor (AVM) with Moving Object Detection (MOD), the top-line 16-speaker Bose Performance audio system featuring Centerpoint technology, front and rear parking sonar, adaptive cruise control with full speed range, distance control assist, blindspot monitoring, blindspot intervention, lane departure warning and prevention with active lane control, and backup collision intervention with rear cross-traffic alert. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
This elegant knurled metal rotating dial is for controlling the top display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Some features that are not available with the Signature Edition, are optional with the Sport, and come standard with the Red Sport 400 include auto-dimming exterior mirrors with reverse link and memory, plus Infiniti’s advanced climate control system with auto-recirculation, Plasmacluster air purifier and grape polyphenol filter. 

This puts the Q50 Signature Edition in a unique value position, by including much of the Sport trim’s features yet limiting choices to colours, which are identical to the five provided for the Sport, including Liquid Platinum silver, Graphite Shadow grey, Black Obsidian, Majestic White, and the beautiful deep Iridium Blue coating my test car; as well as interior themes, which just like with Sport trim come in Graphite (black) and Stone (grey). By the way, the base model’s interior can also be had in Wheat (tan), while available dark-stained gloss maple hardwood gives off a more traditional luxury ambiance. Additionally, those who move up to sportier Q50 trims lose the option of base Pure White and optional Mocha Almond (brown metallic) exterior paint, but the base model doesn’t offer Iridium Blue, while Red Sport 400 customers have the option of Dynamic Sunstone Red. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50’s seven-speed automatic is truly and advanced gearbox. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Features aside, all Q50 trims are finished to a very high level. My test model included stitched leather across the dash top, instrument panel, both sides of the lower console, and the upper two-thirds of each door panel, while the glove box lid boasts a high-quality soft composite too. The materials are superb as well, from that leather surfacing to the finely upholstered premium leather seats, to the gorgeous Kacchu aluminum inlays, the plentiful satin silver accents, and other surface areas, while all switchgear looks good with nice tightly spaced fitment, and feels substantial with proper luxury-level damping. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Sport Style driver’s seat provides powered lumbar, torso bolsters, and manual thigh extensions. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Q50 is quiet too, whether rushing around town or speeding down the freeway, while it’s ideally spacious for all occupants. Adding size and roominess to a given market segment has long been part of Infiniti’s value proposition, and in the case of the Q50 it comes close to mid-size proportions when compared to a number of D-segment competitors. This benefits larger folk more than someone measuring a mere five-foot eight like me, but my longer legs and shorter torso often make it difficult to set up a comfortable driving position in other cars. Not so with the Q50, which provides extensive reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column, which when combined with the multi-adjustable driver’s seat allowed for optimal comfort and control. Improving on that, the power-adjustable lumbar support ideally fit the small of my back, the powered side bolsters snuggly kept me in place during hard cornering, and the thigh support adjusters nicely cupped under my knees. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The rear seating area is roomy and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As usual, I took the opportunity to sit behind my preset driver’s seat to find out how roomy the rear quarters are, and am happy to report that the rear left-side seat provided approximately five inches in front of my knees, a lot of space for my big winter boots below the driver, plus ample room side-to-side, while I had about three inches above my head, meaning six-foot-plus passengers should fit in back just fine. Rear passengers are treated to accommodations that are just as nice as the front compartment, with features including a flip-down armrest with cupholders at centre, overhead reading lamps, plus a set of air vents on the back of the front centre console. 

Trunk volume should be amply sized for most owners too, but its 382 litres (13.5 cubic feet) isn’t as large as some others in this segment. I’d prefer the European-style 40/20/40 split-folding rear seatback configuration too, rather than the Q50’s 60/40 division, but the rear pass-through is probably large enough for two or three pairs of skis, which may work well enough depending if skiing is your thing, or whether or not you ever load in long cargo. 

2019 Infiniti Q50 Signature Edition
The Q50 provides plenty of passenger and cargo flexibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

No car is perfect, but honestly the Q50 competes very well in this class, and easily deserves your earnest attention. On top of its list of virtues is value, which is always an important consideration, while Infiniti also has a very good record of dependability, makes beautiful interiors, provides arguably attractive styling, and has long been the go-to Japanese brand for performance. In the end, Infiniti will no doubt be more than happy to sell you a QX50 crossover SUV if you need more cargo capacity, but those who want the better performance of a low-slung sport sedan will appreciate that this Q50 continues to serve such purposes. Either way, Infiniti has you covered.

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals.  What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher…

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
With its big illuminated satin-chrome grille, LED headlamps, 20-inch alloys, and elegantly understated good looks, the 2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature could easily come from a pricey luxury brand. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is in a unique branding position, in that it’s wholly independent and therefore able to offer more for the money than some of its rivals. 

What do I mean? Most of Mazda’s rivals offer a higher priced premium brand for owners to gravitate to when they might otherwise feel the inclination to move up to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and therefore they won’t allow their mainstream volume models to wander too far upmarket in design or finishings so as not to interfere with this hierarchal brand strategy, but Mazda has no such constraints, so therefore its cars and SUVs are often a cut above their rivals. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9’s narrow LED taillights, stylishly understated satin-chrome detailing, and sleek overall shape make it a head-turner from every angle. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Take the 2019 CX-9 mid-size crossover SUV I’m driving this week. It looks like it could’ve rolled off the assembly line of a luxury manufacturer thanks to a big, stylish satin-silver grille with special night illumination that wraps around its lower half, full LED headlamps with auto high beams, adaptive cornering capability and auto self-leveling, a beautifully aerodynamic lower front fascia with integrated LED fog lamps, stunning 20-inch light grey high lustre alloy wheels wrapped in 255/50R20 all-season tires, tastefully applied satin-chrome trim all-round, and a great deal more on the outside. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Easier to see at night, the Signature includes thin white LED illumination around the lower half of its grille. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

That said it’s the CX-9 Signature’s interior that really makes occupants feel pampered, much thanks to a two-tone brown and black motif that includes soft Nappa leather upholstery with beautifully detailed stitching, genuine Santos Rosewood trim on the centre console and doors, aluminum dash and upper door panel inlays, satin-chrome interior switchgear, loads of soft-touch surfacing throughout, fabric-wrapped front roof pillars, LED overhead and ambient lighting, plus more, while areas not seen are stuffed full of sound-deadening insulation, the windshield and front windows are made from noise-isolating glass, and plenty of additional refinements to the body shell, steering and suspension systems make everything from the way its doors close to the CX-9’s overall driving dynamics feel as if it were a luxury-branded SUV, while providing a much quieter interior. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
A vertical stack of LED fog lamps join special 20-inch alloy wheels in Signature trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The driver and passengers alike will be comforted in other ways too, for instance in the knowledge that the CX-9 Signature is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road when it comes to advanced driver assistance and safety systems, with all the usual active and passive safety features complemented by adaptive cruise control with stop and go, forward obstruction warning, Smart Brake Support and Smart City Brake Support autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, advanced blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, new seatbelt reminders on the second- and third-row seats, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
In similar fashion to how Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV pulls its taillight design from the beautiful F-Type sports car, the CX-9’s tail lamps are inspired by the lovely little MX-5 sports car. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The CX-9 Signature offers an impressive assortment of electronics too, such as a head-up display that projects key information onto the windshield ahead of the driver for easy viewing, a 7.0-inch colour TFT display within the primary gauge cluster, an 8.0-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen on the dash top with new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, new SiriusXM Traffic Plus and Travel Link data services with information on real-time traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, and sports scores, a new four-camera 360-degree surround parking camera with a bird’s-eye overhead view, navigation with detailed mapping, 12-speaker Bose audio with Centerpoint surround and AudioPilot noise compensation technologies, plus SurroundStage signal processing, satellite and HD radio, voice activation, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, text message reading and response capability, plus much more for just $51,500, which is superb value when comparing to luxury branded crossover SUVs with similar equipment (check out all 2019 Mazda CX-9 trims and pricing at CarCostCanada, plus make sure to learn about any available rebates and save even more by getting the 2019 CX-9’s dealer invoice pricing).

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Check out the CX-9 Signature’s fabulous interior! You’ll see a lot more of it in my upcoming road test review. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Other features that provide CX-9 Signature owners with a premium-branded experience are proximity access with pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a new frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, new power-folding side mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, a reworked overhead console with always appreciated sunglasses storage and a better designed LED room lamp control switch, front and rear parking sensors, tri-zone automatic climate control, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with premium cross-stitching detailing, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with powered lumbar support and memory, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat with power lumbar, three-way heated and new cooled front seats, heated rear outboard seats, rear side window sunshades, and more. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
Move up to the Signature and you’ll get this ultra-helpful split-screen 360-degree overhead parking monitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

The changes to the CX-9’s steering and suspension systems not only provide the higher-quality, more premium-like ride noted earlier, but were also designed to deliver greater linear behavior at high speeds, and I’ll let you know how Mazda succeeded in my full road test review. Likewise, I’ll comment on how the carryover its G-Vectoring Control technology feels while seamlessly shifting more torque to the front wheels during corner entry and then sending it rearward upon exit, how i-Activ AWD deals with inclement conditions (although we only had to deal with a rain storm during our weeklong test), how the dynamic pressure turbo-enhanced SkyActiv-G 2.5 four-cylinder engine responded to throttle input at takeoff, when exiting fast-paced corners and while passing on the highway, and whether or not the SkyActiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission was still up to snuff in an era of seven-, eight-, nine- and even 10-speed autoboxes, not to mention CVTs, despite the inclusion of manual actuation and Drive Selection with a Sport mode. 

2019 Mazda CX-9 Signature
The CX-9 Signature even one-ups some of its premium-branded rivals by including real Rosewood trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Mazda is very clear in its specifications that the engine makes 250 horsepower with 93 octane gas or higher, but I’m going to correctly guess that the majority of journalists refill it will much cheaper 87 octane, so the engine is probably only making the 227 horsepower claimed with the lower grade gasoline, but this said its extremely robust 310 lb-ft of torque doesn’t change with the budget fuel and only needs 2,000 rpm to release full twist, so I wouldn’t worry too much about thrust. 

As for the rest of the story, make sure to come back for my full review…