Mazda's 7-passenger CX-9 gets overhauled for the 2016 model year. The new exterior design is more upright and confident, fitting in nicely with the rest of Mazda's new lineup.

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Under the hood is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes up to 250 horsepower when fueled with 93 octane.

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However, Mazda has tuned the engine to perform best in the low-RPM range where most people do most of their driving.

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To this end, the CX-9's powertrain has been optimized to deliver up to 310 pound-feet of torque as low as 2,000 RPM. This is a gasoline engine that behaves like a diesel on the road.

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Not only has Mazda optimized the powertrain, it's also imbued the CX-9 with the same attention to driving feel as its sporty sedans and hatchbacks.

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The steering feels direct and responsive. The suspension and chassis feel nicely planted for a vehicle of this size.

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Much like Volvo with the XC90, Mazda wants to push its image upmarket with the new CX-9. To this end, the brand as introduced a new 'Signature' trim level at the top of the line.

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The Signature model ups the cabin comfort ante with real rosewood trim on the console and doors.

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The dashboard and touch points feature Nappa leather and real aluminum trim.

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On the outside, the CX-9 feels more hunkered down, but the cabin aft of the driver's seat feels more spacious. I was able to fit my average sized adult frame into the third row without any discomfort.

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Mazda has paid attention to noise reduction with this generation, equipping the CX-9 with acoustic glass and some 53 pounds of sound deadening material beneath the carpeted floor.

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The CX-9 keeps things simple where the tech is concerned, but doesn't skimp on advanced driver aid systems. Lane keeping assistance, forward pre-collision braking and adaptive cruise control flesh out a fully featured i-ActivSense suite of technologies.

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