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

The Lexus RX boasts exceptional style and comfort. Even so, a few things might make you reevaluate its premium price tag. Going for the RX’s mainstream counterpart, the Toyota Highlander, is an obvious choice to save money. Though, you’ll see that the ‘under the radar’  Mazda CX-9 is a compelling alternative to the RX also. 

Where the 2021 Lexus RX shines performance-wise

A 2021 Lexus RX with Black Line trim drives down a coastal road
2021 Lexus RX SE Black Line trim | Lexus

Supreme comfort is what the RX is known for. We’ve praised this Lexus for its ability to remain even-keeled on bumpy roads and for its quiet nature. Most reviewers are quick to call out that this Lexus isn’t as sporty as it looks, though. 

The standard RX 350 features a 295-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic. Two of the most popular variants in the RX lineup is the F Sport trim and the RX 450h. The F Sport model looks even more aggressive and adds a performance-oriented suspension. The RX 450h is the hybridized version. For 2021, there’s the new Black Line edition that looks even cooler.

How does the 2021 Mazda CX-9 compare?

A silver 2021 Mazda CX-9 parked next to trees
The 2021 Mazda CX-9 on display | Photo via Mazda

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Even though it’s not as powerful, the CX-9 can hold its own against the RX. The CX-9 also provides a tranquil driving experience. Additionally, this Mazda supplies more sportiness than the RX can, thanks to its crisp handling. All CX-9s come with a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic. This turbo-four produces 227-hp with regular fuel or 250-hp with premium fuel. 

Consumer Reports’ evaluations further demonstrate how similar these SUVs are. CR gave both models an overall score of 80. The CX-9 scored slightly higher in the road test category with a 79; the RX got a 77. The CX-9 isn’t available as a hybrid, but it does offer distinguished options such as the new Carbon Edition trim. 

The CX-9 encroaches on RX territory on the inside too

The driver and front passenger seat interior shot of the Black Line trim level of the 2021 Lexus RX
2021 Lexus RX SE Black Line interior | Lexus

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Mazda has made the CX-9 more upscale over the years, making it more competitive against the RX. Both models come with modern smartphone connectivity apps and a long list of advanced safety features. And from a utility standpoint, these two SUVs provide passengers with similar accommodations. The CX-9 can carry six or seven, depending on the configuration you pick.  

Standard RX models have five seats; the RX L model can accommodate up to seven. Neither are incredibly spacious when it comes to cargo room. The RX has up to 58.48 cu. ft. of cargo space; the CX-9 is slightly better with 71.2 cu. ft. cargo room. 

Side-view of the CX-9 front row.
2021 Mazda CX-9 front-row seat | Mazda

Furthermore, the CX-9 can be just as luxurious as the RX. The 2021 RX starts at $45,170 and comes with frills such as synthetic leather and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. There are plenty of RX customization options, including genuine leather, heated and cooled seats, and a sunroof. However, the CX-9 can give you these amenities more affordably.

You’ll want to go up to at least the Touring trim ($36,850) to get leather trimmings and ambient lighting. Carbon Edition models have heated and cooled seats; the Grand Touring trim adds advanced gadgets like a heads-up display. The top-tier Signature trim has quilted leather and real wood finishings. You can score the Signature model for about the same price as the entry-level RX. 

Should you get the CX-9 over the RX?

The CX-9 and the RX are both dynamic, family-friendly vehicles. But if you want to ball on a budget, the CX-9 is the savvy way to go. On the other hand, the RX’s daring style may be too hard for some to pass up.