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If you are considering a top-of-the-line, three-row luxury SUV but don’t want to drop upwards of $60,000 on a traditional “luxury” brand, you should take a look at what Mazda has to offer. Of particular interest is the Mazda CX-9, which made an appearance on MotorTrend‘s “5 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Luxury SUVs” list. 

Why choose a Mazda CX-9 over an Acura MDX?

A worker inspects a Mazda Motor Corp. CX-9 sports utility vehicle (SUV) in a light tunnel at the Mazda Sollers Manufacturing Rus LLC plant
The Mazda CX-9 | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In MotorTrend’s head-to-head comparison between the Mazda CX-9 and the Acura MDX, they found the Mazda CX-9 to rival the MDX in design and interior fit and finish. They even found the front-wheel-drive CX-9 more fun to drive despite the MDX’s high-tech all-wheel-drive system. They admit that the comparison is very close until it comes to price. The Mazda CX-9 wins the price category by over $10,000 when comparing similar trim levels. 

Take a look at the 2021 Mazda CX-9

In Mazda’s top Signature trim, featuring Napa leather, a 10.25″ infotainment screen, and captain’s chairs in the second row, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 makes a statement of which traditional luxury brands should take notice. The Signature trimmed Mazda CX-9 starts at $48,475 and is available in either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive configurations.

All CX-9 models feature the same turbocharged 227-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder and shift-able six-speed automatic transmission. Edmunds states that the 2021 CX-9 offers good acceleration and handling and is comfortable driving on the highway. The lowest mark they gave the Mazda CX-9 was its limited cargo space and third-row seating room for all but the smallest passengers. 

Other SUVs that offer luxury without the luxury price tag

If you are shopping for a smaller, sportier SUV than the Mazda CX-9, you may have noticed the Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The Stelvio features a sleek Italian design and delivers 280 hp to either a rear-wheel or all-wheel-drive configuration. If you are willing to sacrifice 30 hp to get a more refined interior, sporty handling, and save a few thousand dollars, check out the Mazda CX-5. The Signature trim CX-5 is still less expensive than the base Stelvio and is flush with premium upgrades such as Nappa leather, real wood trim, and Mazda’s 10.25-inch infotainment screen. 

Another option for those looking at a midsize SUV with three rows of seating is the Hyundai Palisade. If money is no object, one might be in the market for the more expensive Lincoln Aviator, which delivers 400 hp with its twin-turbo V6. However, if you want a more luxurious interior and are not tasked with providing get-away services for a bank heist, then the Hyundai Palisade is definitely worth a test drive. In fact, the money you save buying a Palisade over the Aviator could be more than your share of the bank job anyway. 

If you are in the market for a hybrid SUV, you have likely seen the Audi Q5 Plug-in Hybrid, but have you noticed the Toyota RAV4 Prime? While in this match up the Audi comes out on top of the luxury category, but the Toyota comes close in the comfort ratings and beats the Audi when driving on battery power.

The RAV4 Prime has an 18.1-kWh battery pack that allows it to drive up to 42 without recharging compared to Audi’s 14.1-kWh battery pack capable of only 19 miles driving distance. If you are buying a hybrid to save gasoline, then the Toyota RAV4 Prime is the clear winner. It will also save you about $10,000 compared to the Audi. 

2021 is a good time to be in the market to purchase a luxury SUV, especially if you are willing to skip the traditional luxury brands and explore other options. But if you want an alternative, the Mazda CX-9 is sitting right there waiting for you.


The Mazda CX-9 Can Be as Luxurious as the Lexus RX