Car Reviews

Car Q&A: 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and Mazda, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a few days. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveMazda.

Specs

MSRP (as tested):  $44,915
MPG Estimate: 21 city – 27 highway
Engine:  Skyactiv-G 2.5 Turbo Engine
Power:  250 hp @ 5,000 rpm  | 310 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission:   6-Speed Automatic
Color:  Sonic Silver Metallic (exterior) / Auburn (interior)
Options:  Navigation System and Sirius XM Satellite Radio

For more info, click here to view the 2016 CX-9 Brochure.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

Look, you don’t need me to convince you to check out the 2016 Mazda CX-9 AWD Signature. Plenty of experts have already written enough praise about this vehicle to make you want to trade in that ’98 Explorer for something far more fun. Oh, you want me to list the experts? Fine. Car and Driver gave it a perfect five star review. Consumer Reports called it the “Driver’s Choice”. Maybe an “A” grade from Edmunds is what you’re looking for

Rather than listen to one more person rave about this piece of four-wheeled vehicular art, we thought it would be better to go straight to the CX-9 itself on what the spotlight is like. While spending some time eating tacos and pie in LA, we sat down in the CX-9 for a quick interview:

Get in my Mouf (GIMM): You’ve received quite a bit of accolades over the last year. From your design, to interior craftsmanship, to performance. What are you most proud of?

CX-9:  Definitely the performance. Looking good is nice, having all the bells and whistles is great and all, but first and foremost, I’m a vehicle. My fleet’s motto is “Driving Matters” for a reason. It ain’t “Comfortable Seats Matters.” But, without sounding too boisterous, my seats are very comfortable.

photo-nov-12-10-12-10-am

GIMM:  Yes, they are–And beautiful in that Auburn color. Seeing as how you pride yourself in performance, what are some of your favorite roads to travel on?

CX-9:  Easy one. I’ve spent most of my time in California, so definitely the PCH.

GIMM:  You and I actually spent a bit of time on the PCH in Malibu together.

CX-9:  And that was nothing! Next time you’re out here, I’ll take you up further north into Santa Barbara and up to the holy grail of driving at Big Sur.

GIMM:  You mention Big Sur–We’ve previously driven on that road with a Mazda CX-3 and I think most people think of sports cars or smaller vehicles to get the full experience of the road. Being an SUV, how would you like to change people’s minds about the “big and bulky” SUV stereotype?

CX-9:  It’s more difficult than simply telling them. To break the stereotype, they really need to meet me. Sit behind the wheel and let the performance do all the talking. Look, I enjoying doing interviews like this, but what really brings me joy is getting out there to meet people and change minds. I encourage any of your readers who may be undecided about SUVs to just take an hour or so to visit their local dealer and give the CX-9 a shot.

GIMM:  You mentioned the fact that you’re based in California, home to some of the most amazing food in the country. I know you don’t eat human food, but is there any genre or dish that you wish you could eat?

CX-9:  Tacos.

GIMM:  Nice choice – Any particular type?

CX-9:  No. I spend a lot of time in Los Angeles, so I see a lot of taco stands and my drivers are always tossing bags of tacos in the back seat. They smell so amazing. One time someone spilled carnitas juice on my floorboard. That was as close as I’ve gotten to tasting a taco, but it made me wish I was a human for a second.

GIMM: Getting back to bells and whistles, you do have quite a few. The Bose stereo system is pretty sweet – What’s your favorite type of music to rock out to?

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

CX-9:  I’m partial to television and movie soundtracks – Stranger Things is a recent favorite and of course Drive. It makes me feel like I’m one of those famous cars in the film industry. And with my performance, the driver can easily pretend they’re in an action movie.

GIMM:  While obeying all traffic laws.

CX-9:  Absolutely.

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

GIMM:  I want to wrap things up by talking about dogs. What are you thoughts on having a dog in the car?

CX-9:  I can tell you’re trying to push me into saying something bad about dogs and how I get frustrated with their loose hair clogging up my vents and getting stuck to my carpet.

GIMM:  I wouldn’t dare.

CX-9:  The truth is that when I see their heads hanging out the window, tongue flapping in the wind, and wagging tails, it’s all worth it. Dogs get it…the performance, the thrill of driving (or riding in this case). The fun and exhilaration of exploring the world, one road at a time. That’s why driving matters.

GIMM:  Now that’s how you end an interview!

2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature | getinmymouf.com

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Disclaimer: As noted above we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Mazda. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. All opinions and fake interviews with inanimate objects remain our own. 

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Recipes

Cider & Sage Cocktail

Cider & Sage Cocktail | getinmymouf.com

While everyone else was swimming in leftover turkey, we actually had a surplus of sage. Now we could obviously make Pumpkin Sage Empanadas, but we figured it would be nice to wind down from Thanksgiving with a cocktail.

Cider & Sage Cocktail | getinmymouf.com

The Cider & Sage Cocktail is like the second cousin of the Moscow Mule, using hard cider instead of ginger beer and gin instead of vodka. The sage helps bring an herbaceous and warm holiday feeling to your insides. Herbaceous is a word that I need to use more of in 2017.

Cider & Sage Cocktail | getinmymouf.com

For the cider, we used a hopped up Double Simcoe from Potter’s Craft Cider (bonus points since they’re based in the great state of Virginia). We recently discovered the cider at a Whole Foods sampling — After tasting the Double Simcoe, Tina immediately said “It tastes like lychee!” and we purchased their last bottle. Even though the cider is good as-is, it’s a dry cider, so it actually lends itself really well to cocktails since it brings the acid that would normally come from lemon or lime.

The best part about this cocktail is that it’s really easy to make, yet it looks like it was made by an experienced mixologist. Herbs make everything look fancy. Seriously, next time you head out on the town, toss a few sprigs of sage in your suit pocket for a supremely dapper look.

Cider & Sage Cocktail | getinmymouf.com

CIDER & SAGE COCKTAIL

  • 1 oz Sage Syrup (recipe below)
  • 1 oz Gin
  • 4-6 oz Hard Cider
  • 3 Fresh Sage Leaves
  • Ice

Sage Syrup

  • 4-6 Sage Leaves
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  1. To make the syrup, simply add the water, sugar, and sage to a medium-sized pot. Stir everything together over medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool down.
  2. Lightly muddle two of the sage leaves in a glass, add ice, gin, the cooled syrup. If you don’t have a muddler, a small baseball bat will do.
  3. Finish with the cider and give it all a couple stirs to mix it.
  4. Rub the last sage leaf on the rim of the glass to release the oils and then use it to garnish.

Cider & Sage Cocktail | getinmymouf.com

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Travel

Roads Worth Driving: Vint Hill Road

Location:  Prince William County, VA
Length:  9 miles

Thanks to DriveShop and Kia, we were provided a 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo to test drive for a week (check out our car review). Vint Hill Road was a perfect match for the sporty, yet economical sedan. Much like the well-balance car, Vint Hill Road offers fun driver-friendly twists and turns, a calming rural atmosphere, and plenty of worth wile pit stops for food, drinks, and dogs.

Although the suggestions below aren’t the only places to stop, they’re the only ones we’ve checked out personally. If you’re feeling like wine we’ve heard good things about Vint Hill Craft Winery, and Covert Cafe has a solid following on Yelp.

Pit Stops

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters (thequeensbean.com)

Vint Hill Coffee Roasters | getinmymouf.com

There’s nothing better than a coffee shop that roasts its own beans. Grab a latte to-go to boost your brain before a turbo-charged drive along Linton Hall Road. This coffee house just opened during the summer, so you can feel even better about supporting a new small business, run by friendly locals.

Old Bust Head Brewery (oldbusthead.com)

Old Bust Head | getinmymouf.com
Tucked away, just off the road, this is the definition of a destination brewery. You’d probably never find this place by accident, but chances are good you’ve seen the beer around Northern VA at groceries stores, restaurants, and Total Wine locations. I’m partial to the Graffiti House West Coast-Style IPA, but you can’t go wrong with any of their fine brews.

Vint Hill Dog Park (vinthilldogpark.org)

Vint Hill Dog Park | getinmymouf.com

This pit stop is for all the dogs out there. As the largest dog park in the area, it’s a well-maintained pup park with tons of shade, lots of seating for two-legged animals, and plenty of canine friends. It can get pretty packed on the weekends, so come early to beat the crowds of dogs.

Yankee Farms (yankeyfarms.com)

Yankey Farms Strawberry Picking | getinmymouf.com

No matter the season, Yankee Farms has you covered. From fresh strawberries in the summer, to pumpkin patches and corn mazes in the fall, this farm brings out the kid in any adult. We left with a full basket of strawberries over the summer and can’t wait to check out the fall veggies!

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Did we leave out any of your favorite spots on Linton Hall Road? Let us know in the comments!

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Car Reviews

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

This post is made possible through a partnership with the awesome folks at DriveShop and Kia, who provided us with a vehicle to test drive for a week. You can follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #DriveKia.

This marks the second Kia Optima that we’ve been able to try out. The last one was a model year older and was not a turbo. So, there will be a lot of comparisons to our experience with the older, non-turbo, Optima. Was this Kia worth waiting an extra year and spending more money for the turbo and additional features? Sure! And I’m really wondering why they make cars without turbos…

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

Oh and don’t forget to check out our companion video post, in which we take full advantage of the Optima’s turbo on one of our favorite local roads.

Specs

MSRP (as tested):  $35,315
MPG Estimate: 22 city – 32 highway
Engine:  2.0L Turbo Gas Direct Injection, 4 cylnders
Power:  245 hp @ 6000 rpm | 260 ft-lbs @ 1350 rpm
Transmission:  6-Speed Automatic Transmission w/ Active Eco System
Color:  Remington Red
Options:  SXT Premium Technology Package (HID headlights w/ high-beam assist, panoramic sunroof, Harmon Kardon QLS premium surround sound, power front passenger’s seat w/ lumbar, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seat cushions,  front collision warning, blind spot detection system, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist system, lane departure warning system, autonomous emergency braking system, advanced smart cruise control, surround view monitor, and LED overhead interior lighting)

Click here for the 2016 Kia Optima brochure.

Comfort

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

I remember the 2015 Optima’s driver’s seat being a tad bit comfier, with a softer couch-like feeling. These seats aren’t uncomfortable, but they felt stiffer. The SXT Premium Technology Package does include a front power passenger’s seat, which was a vast improvement over the stationary passenger seat in the 2015 model we tried. As a passenger it was waaaaaaaay too low and felt like you were sitting on the floor. So, if you have shorter passengers, they’ll be happy you splurged for the package with the better seat.

Amenities

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

The entertainment system remains above average and is easy to use, but the show-sealers (much like in the 2016 Kia Sorento) included the 360-view camera and panoramic sunroof. The car isn’t huge, but it’s still nice to have that 360 view…just in case. And that sunroof is ice cold (cooler than being cool). You don’t even need to really use the sunroof, just the fact that it creates a two-toned look, adds some real street cred. And by using the term “street cred” I probably just lost all of mine.

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

Performance

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

Is it worth it to spend a bit more and lose some MPG’s for the turbo? Yes. Of course. Always, yes. When someone offers you turbo, you accept it. Sure the non-turbo is fine. But do you really want to live life with just “fine”? Seriously, is this even a conversation? Just get the turbo.

As far as handling goes, the road feel is improved–Still not to a place where I’m excited to drive solely based on handling, but it’s getting closer than last year’s car.

Who Should Buy This Car

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

If you’re looking for an affordable TURBO-CHARGED sedan with all the bells and whistles, give a hard look to the 2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo. Look, I realize that for some people, buying a Kia isn’t even on their radar. Before we were given the opportunity to test drive a few, I honestly didn’t think they could compete with some of the other brands. So, if you are in the market for a sedan, just take it for a test drive. You might be surprised!

Gratuitous Dog Picture

2016 Kia Optima SX Turbo | getinmymouf.com

Since this wasn’t an SUV, Cooper had no problem getting into and out of the Optima. I’m not sure he even noticed that it wasn’t my daily driver. The only thing he’s not quite sure about is that sunroof–Anything that moves by itself is clearly powered by evil wizards sent to destroy all dogs from earth.

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Disclaimer:  As noted above, we were provided this vehicle courtesy of DriveShop and Kia. Other than being allowed to test drive this vehicle, we were not provided any monetary compensation for this post. As always, all opinions remain our own.

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Reviews, Travel

Enjoy Los Angeles

I love Los Angeles, but I know there are a lot of people out there who have either had bad experiences, or just have zero desire to spend any precious vacation time in La La land.

There’s actually so much to do and so many ways to experience L.A. that, after a few trips, I think I’ve finally figured out how to experience the city in way that can even change the minds of nonbelievers:

Choose Your Location Wisely

Los Angeles covers a wide geographic area, so when planning a trip, try and stay in a location central to most of the things you want to check out. Otherwise, you’ll be spending A LOT of time in traffic.

For my last trip I stayed in this Airbnb guest house, located in Silver Lake. The location had a ton of perks including easy street parking (rare for L.A.), it was central to an infinite number of food options (I’ll touch on that later), and because it’s a residential neighborhood, the atmosphere is much calmer than staying in a hotel in Hollywood.

Silver Lake | getinmymouf.com

Such a calm street. I could totally live here.

If you’re a runner, staying near the Silver Lake Reservoir gives you an easy jogging path to start or end your day. As an added bonus, there’s a dog park nearby, so how can you run past dogs and not have great day? Oh, it is a reservoir, but don’t expect to see any water…

Keep Your Wheels Small

You’ll be doing a lot of street parking (you do know how to parallel park, right?), so make it easy on yourself and rent or borrow a car that’s on the smaller side. Thanks to DriveShop and Mitsubishi, I was hooked up with a 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer for the week (check out our car review here). The Lancer was nice because it was nimble enough to get around easily, yet wasn’t so small that I felt cramped.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWC | getinmymouf.com

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC

Ridesharing is Your Friend

Although you’ll have to drive most of the time, it’s nice to occasionally not have to get behind the wheel. As much bad press as Uber and Lyft get, I still have yet to have any experience that is anywhere close to as awful as nearly every taxi ride I’ve had.

I also highly recommend using uberPOOL or Lyft Line to share your ride with a stranger. Sounds a little weird at first, but your ride costs will be cut in half AND you might meet some cool people. Thanks to sharing a ride one night, I got some sweet restaurant recommendations from two locals (shout out to Christine & Nick!). Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to their top pick, a new Nashville hot chicken joint in Chinatown, Howlin’ Rays, but I can guarantee I’ll be back soon…

Eat as Much as Possible

If you’re not eating well in L.A., then you’re doing something horribly wrong. I ate so well that it was almost painful (I didn’t wake up hungry once during the trip). There are hundreds of must-eat lists, celebrity chef restaurants, and local-filled dive joints to discover, but here are a few of my favorite bites:

The Fairfax breakfast sandwich from Eggslut (Downtown in Grand Central Market) – Almost custard-like scrambled eggs with chives, cheddar cheese, Sriracha mayo, caramelized onions, on the world’s softest brioche bun. And of course I added bacon. Easily the best egg sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

eggslut LA | getinmymouf.com

Good brews and great burgers from Stout (Hollywood) – Their signature Stout Burger did not disappoint and was topped with blue cheese, Emi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. And with over 30 beers on tap and 4 0z pours, you can sample nearly all of them in one night (thanks to Uber and Lyft). The staff is super friendly as well, and will happily share some celebrity sighting stories (everyone apparently has an Andy Dick encounter) and most of the waiters will even let you read their screenplay. Kidding, I actually didn’t meet any writers, but I did meet a stunt man, stand-up comic, improv performer, and a DJ.

Stout Burger - LA | getinmymouf.com

World class dim sum at Din Tai Fung (Glendale) – Din Tai Fung is a popular international restaurant with only six locations in the U.S. (all on the west coast). Man those soup dumplings…You think you’ve had dumplings, but you just don’t even know! Go with a group and order everything on the menu.

Din Tai Fung Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Cheap eats at Porto’s Bakery & Cafe (Glendale) – Porto’s is one of those places where–no matter how much you order–you always feel like your bill is way too low. This bakery has it ALL. Literally anything you could possibly want. My favorites were the fried potato balls filled with cheese or meat. And dessert…good luck picking one item.

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Porto's Bakery Glendale | getinmymouf.com

Everything at Republique (Hancock Park) – With such huge range in flavors drawing inspiration from around the world, you will definitely find something that hits any craving you have. They cure their own meats. They bake their own pastries. They even have a daily house-made soda special. My Cuban sandwich was perfect and the Tangerine Vanilla Soda was like a liquid creamsicle on steroids. DO indulge in something sweet; my jam-filled bomboloni (basically a filled doughnut…also on steroids) was so good I cried a little.

Republique LA | getinmymouf.com

Indulging in ice cream at Salt & Straw (Larchmont) – Check out these insane flavors. Bet you’re craving ice cream now. I went with two of their staples:  Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache and Stumptown Coffee & Compartes Love Nuts (chocolate-dipped caramel-coated pecans). Ice cream nirvana was immediately achieved.

Salt & Straw LA | getinmymouf.com

A delicious marriage of French, Mexican, and California cuisine at Trois Familia (Silver Lake) – As my final meal in L.A., I enjoyed breakfast of a real champion: Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho. I had tears streaming down my face as I took the last bites.

Trois Familia | getinmymouf.com

Take a Hike

With as much eating as you should be doing, you might want to hike off some calories.  Luckily, there are tons of trails to check out like Runyon Canyon, the Griffith Observatory hike, and of course the famed Hollywood Sign hike.

Echo Mountain LA | getinmymouf.com

Thanks to my L.A. hiking buddy (and cousin) Stephanie, I was directed to my new favorite spot:  Echo Mountain. It’s was a reasonable 30-minute drive from Silver Lake and wasn’t very crowded (although it was a weekday). The hike itself is a moderate five-mile round-trip adventure that rewards hikers with scenic views and the ruins of “White City,” a former resort at the top of the mountain. Bring water and sunblock, ’cause you’ll be in a lot of sun.

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Still not convinced? Fine. Guess I’ll just have to go back for more ‘research’ to try and make a better argument…

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