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2023 Mazda CX-9 vs 2023 Acura MDX

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  • 2023 Mazda CX-9

    A blue 2023 Mazda CX-9 Touring is angled left.

    Starting at

    $38,750[a]

    2023 Acura MDX

    A silver 2023 Acura MDX is angled right.

    Starting at

    $49,550

    23Fuel Economy (MPG) 22
    29.7Third-Row Legroom (in)29.1
    320Standard Torque (lb-ft)267

    There's a delicate balance in the automotive industry between luxury and affordability. Many automakers are quick to equip their models with high-end features, upscale comforts, and innovative technology, but these details often come at a premium. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions in the industry, especially when comparing rivals like the 2023 Mazda CX-9 vs 2023 Acura MDX.

    As Honda's luxury arm since the late 1980s, Acura is no stranger to the spotlight as drivers flock to the brand because of Honda's reputation for reliability. It's a reputation that's often hard to compete with, but Mazda is giving the brand a run for its money by proving even luxury and sophistication can be affordable and accessible to the masses. We see this firsthand with models like the 2023 Mazda CX-9 as it challenges the more expensive 2023 Acura MDX.

    Where the 2023 Acura MDX forces drivers to dig deeper into their wallets, Mazda refuses to make that request. Instead, the 2023 CX-9 starts at an affordable $38,750, compared to the 2023 MDX at $49,550.[a] Acura asks drivers to find $10,800 more in their budgets without giving them a significantly more extravagant or luxurious experience than they will find in the CX-9. That begs the question, "Is the 2023 Acura MDX worth the splurge?"

    With the CX-9 in the picture, the Acura MDX is outshined in many categories. Mazda achieves the perfect balance and makes luxury affordable with the 2023 CX-9, giving drivers every reason to get behind the wheel without asking them to compromise. Here's a closer look at how Mazda accomplishes this feat and the many ways the CX-9 is superior to the MDX.

  • Value

    A person is shown stowing luggage in a grey 2023 Mazda CX-9.

    What Do You Get in the MDX?

    The Acura name exudes luxury, and the MDX's four-trim lineup for 2023 proves as much with its starting price of $49,550. For nearly $50,000, you can get behind the wheel of the entry-level MDX, which includes Acura's fully digital Precision Cockpit, a 12.3-inch HD Center Display, and wireless smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This three-row SUV also offers seating for seven, with a configurable second row that lets you remove the center seat to make the third row more accessible.

    Climbing the MDX lineup means spending far more on trims like the Technology Package, A-Spec Package, and Advance Package. The Technology Package adds the Acura Navigation System, premium leather seating, and 20-inch alloy wheels. Meanwhile, the A-Spec transforms the MDX into a sportier SUV with an exclusive interior wrapped in red leather with Ultrasuede trim. Finally, the top-tier Advance Package builds on the Technology Package, adding a head-up display, surround view camera, and 16-way power front seats for optimal driver comfort.

    What Do You Get in the CX-9?

    While the MDX lineup is impressive, it doesn't match the value that Mazda offers with the CX-9. For example, you can get behind the wheel of the 2023 CX-9 Touring for $38,750 and enjoy a dynamic driving experience courtesy of the SUV's 250 hp engine.[a] Moreover, the entry-level trim is outfitted with premium leather seats, provides all-season confidence with its standard i-Active AWD technology, and makes every moment in the driver's seat more engaging with advanced driver-assist technologies like Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go and intuitive smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

    The Touring Plus trim builds on the entry-level CX-9 by adding distinct design elements and conveniences, like ventilated front seats, optional second-row captain's chairs, and a front grille finished in Gloss Black. The Carbon Edition is truly stunning with its black metallic wheels and exclusive Polymetal Gray Metallic exterior with red leather-trimmed seats giving it an athletic and race-inspired demeanor. On the opposite end of the spectrum sits the Grand Touring and Signature trims, which offer premium luxuries without a mile-high price tag. These luxuries include a 360-degree view monitor, navigation, and Nappa leather-trimmed seats.

  • Performance

    A grey 2023 Mazda CX-9 is shown driving on a city street after winning a 2023 Mazda CX-9 vs 2023 Acura MDX race.

    Engine Options Understood

    The 2023 Acura MDX seems to have an advantage over the 2023 Mazda CX-9 because of its two-engine lineup. However, the powertrains deserve more than a quick glance to understand what you're getting with each model. For example, higher power outputs generally lead to higher fuel consumption, forcing you to spend more at the pump. Is it worth the expense if Acura already forces you to pay more for the MDX?

    The 2023 Acura MDX rolls off the factory floor with a 3.5L V6 engine and 10-speed automatic transmission under the hood. This combination produces 290 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, giving the SUV ample power to handle itself at any speed. However, this power comes at a cost. The front-wheel drive MDX is rated at 19 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway. Upgrading to all-wheel drive lowers the SUV's rating to 25 MPG on the highway. Opting for the available turbocharged 3.0L V6 sends these figures in a downward spiral to 17 MPG in the city and 21 MPG on the highway. As a result, you'll not only pay more for the turbocharged power plant, but you'll also spend more of your hard-earned money at the pump.

    Power and Efficiency

    Mazda does something remarkable by refusing to ask drivers to choose between performance and efficiency. Instead, the CX-9 offers both, with Mazda sweetening the deal by making all-wheel drive standard across the lineup. As a result, the 2023 CX-9 offers all-season confidence as its potent 2.5L turbocharged inline-four engine produces 250 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, offering far more low-end power than the MDX. Moreover, the CX-9 delivers this output without guzzling fuel, with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 20 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.

    The CX-9 gains a significant advantage over the Acura MDX because of its i-Activ AWD system and G-Vectoring Control Plus technologies. Mazda's all-wheel drive system reads the road conditions 200 times per second and constantly adjusts torque delivery to enhance your control in slippery conditions. At the same time, the G-Vectoring Control Plus technology monitors steering inputs and the conditions to make subtle adjustments to improve the CX-9's performance when navigating corners.

  • Safety

    A close up shows the front driver side of a grey 2023 Mazda CX-9.

    Standard Safety Suites

    Technology levels the playing field between the 2023 MDX and 2023 CX-9 because Acura and Mazda prioritize keeping you connected, informed, and aware when you're in the driver's seat. These automakers offer comparable connectivity, safety, and driver-assist features that are intuitive, accessible, and easy to use. However, the CX-9's more affordable price tag makes it the better value because Mazda doesn't force you to spend a fortune on technology that comes standard across the lineup.

    Mazda and Acura outfit the SUVs with their respective safety suites, with the CX-9 boasting i-Activsense and the MDX offering AcuraWatch. AcuraWatch equips the MDX with a Collision Mitigation Braking System, Advanced Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control with Low-Speed Follow, a Lane Keeping Assist System, a Road Departure Mitigation System, Traffic Jam Assist, and Traffic Sign Recognition. In addition, top-tier trims extend the driver-assist suite by including a Surround-View Camera System, Low Speed Braking Control, and front and rear Parking Sensors.

    Mazda Driver-Assist Technology

    While many of these features are industry-standard, Mazda doesn't stop there. The CX-9 includes the i-Activsense suite across its lineup and has a host of available upgrades that heighten your situational awareness. The i-Activsense suite equips the SUV with Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Stop and Go, which actively monitors traffic and adjusts the CX-9's cruising speed even at low speeds, like rush-hour traffic when accelerating, braking, and stopping are frequent. In addition, the suite includes Smart Brake Support with Collision Warning, which can automatically respond by engaging the brakes if a frontal collision is imminent. Advanced Smart City Brake Support with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and a Lane Departure Warning System complete the suite.

    Enhancing the i-Activsense suite is straightforward and includes options like a 360-degree View Monitor that gives you an expansive view around the SUV to make navigating any situation more manageable. You'll also find top-tier trims have an Active Driving Display with Traffic Sign Recognition, an Adaptive Front-Lighting System, and conveniences like a windshield wiper de-icer to enhance your visibility even in rainy or wintry conditions.

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