Restraint Has Its Rewards: The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD

Front view of 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
The 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring.
It was just five months ago that I wrote very enthusiastically about the new 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature.

Signature is the new top-of-the-line trim level of the CX-9, bringing with it Nappa leather-trimmed seats, auburn-colored interior accents, genuine rosewood interior trim, and enough other luxury equipment that I called it a Mercedes with a Mazda price tag.

But would I need all that to stay in love with the CX-9?

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring.
To find out, we requested another week in a CX-9, this time down one level to what has traditionally been Mazda's premium trim, the Grand Touring.  Unlike the Signature, which only is available in all-wheel drive, the Grand Touring we drove was front wheel drive.  That has a slight edge in fuel economy, with an EPA-estimated 18 city/28 highway to the Signature's 18/27 (both trims...in fact, all four trims of CX-9...run with the same Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 227 horsepower).

The Nappa leather and all the luxo touches mentioned above are gone, but we were by no means roughing it. The Grand Touring brings with it 20-inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, heated power mirrors, rear privacy glass, a power moonroof, leather-trimmed (just not Nappa leather) upholstery, an eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar and memory, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, genuine aluminum interior trim, second row window sunshades, keyless entry with pushbutton start, a three-zone climate control, a Bose 12-speaker audio system, eight-inch color display with rear camera and navigation.

All that....standard....for $40,170.

Interior view of 2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD
2016 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring FWD interior.
And the Mazda has genuine seven-seat capabilities....important as the new Mrs. Tirekicker and myself upheld our annual holiday tradition of cruising the Christmas lights in Sacramento's Fabulous Forties neighborhood (40th through 49th streets) with her two daughters, their boyfriends and one extra in tow.

With the only additional charge items being $300 for the Soul Red Metallic paint and the unavoidable $900 delivery, processing and handling fee, the bottom line rang in at $41,370. That's $3,845 below the Signature model we drove.

So which should you choose?  Hard to say.  There's a strong argument for having an extra $3,800 and change in the bank, but an equally strong one for the special touches in the Signature model.  Let your heart (and wallet) decide.  They're both great.