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Automotive consumers have many choices for the three-row midsize SUV segment. And two leading models are the Honda Pilot and the Mazda CX-9. While there’s much to like about both SUVs, the 2023 Honda Pilot has one giant benefit over the 2023 Mazda CX-9: a redesign — with many upgrades and a new TrailSport off-road model.

2023 Honda Pilot is redesigned — but the 2023 Mazda CX-9 hasn’t received a major overall in 7 years

Front angle view of blue 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport off-road midsize SUV
2023 Honda Pilot | Honda

The midsize SUV segment is fierce. Automakers try to get a “leg up” over the competition with upgrades each year. And the 2023 Honda Pilot made a big jump forward with an excellent redesign for the new model year.

Conversely, the 2023 Mazda CX-9 is a carryover model. It only has minor changes. Also, the CX-9 hasn’t received a major overhaul in seven years. Additionally, the first-ever CX-90 will replace the CX-9 in the Mazda lineup for the 2024 model year. And 2023 is the last year of production for the CX-9.

Compared to the outgoing model, the redesigned Pilot has a more rugged look — with truck-like styling and a boxier shape. Other new design elements include flared fenders, a large upright grille, and a strong horizontal beltline. Also, the next-generation Honda SUV is more sporty with its pulled-back A-pillars. Plus, the rear section features a body-colored roof spoiler and new LED taillights. 

Unlike the 2023 CX-9, the 2023 Pilot has an off-road model: TrailSport

Front angle view of gray 2023 Mazda CX-9 midsize SUV
2023 Mazda CX-9 | Mazda

Another aspect of the 2023 Honda Pilot midsize SUV is the introduction of the new TrailSport model, which is geared for off-road use. However, the 2023 Mazda CX-9 doesn’t offer an off-road model. 

Along with even more rugged styling than the standard Pilot model, the TrailSport trim has a range of off-road features. This includes all-terrain tires, a trail torque logic off-road system, a TrailWatch camera system, protective inset spokes for the wheels, and stabilizer bars. Additionally, the Pilot TrailSport features an off-road-tuned suspension, which provides extra ground clearance over rugged terrain with a one-inch lift. 

Other ways the Honda Pilot is better than the Mazda CX-9

There are other ways the 2023 Pilot is better than the 2023 CX-9. This includes a higher horsepower output from its engine. All Pilot models come equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which churns out 285 horsepower. In comparison, the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the CX-9 produces 227 horsepower.

Also, the Pilot has a higher towing capacity. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds, compared to 3,500 pounds for the CX-9. 

Furthermore, the cabin of the Pilot is more spacious. It can seat up to eight people — with a total passenger volume of 158.4 cu-ft. In comparison, the CX-9 can only seat up to seven, with 135.8 cu-ft of passenger space. Additionally, there’s considerably more cargo space in the Pilot. It has a maximum cargo capacity of 113.7 cu-ft, compared to 71.2 cu-ft in the CX-9.

With its redesign, including the new TrailSport off-road model, the 2023 Honda Pilot has a giant benefit over the 2023 Mazda CX-9. For midsize SUV shoppers choosing which vehicle to get, the redesign is a key element to consider.


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