Mazda CX-9: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

Most significant changes: New mid-level Carbon Edition trim; 10.25-inch infotainment screen standard on all models; higher trims get additional safety tech

Price change: $70 increase for CX-9 Sport; $40 increase for CX-9 Touring; $390 increase for CX-9 Grand Touring and Signature

On sale: Late August

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? It depends. The 2021 CX-9 offers additional model diversity and safety features for a modest price increase, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the multimedia system lost the outgoing CX-9’s touchscreen functionality.

Mazda is updating its CX-9 flagship three-row SUV for the 2021 model year, adding a standard 10.25-inch dashboard display to all models, additional safety tech to higher trims and creating a new Carbon Edition that lets buyers purchase what Mazda considers a more visually exciting CX-9.

Related: Mazda CX-5, CX-9 and Mazda6 Get Carbon Editions for 2021

It wasn’t immediately clear if the 10.25-inch display still works as a touchscreen, a functionality eschewed in favor of Mazda’s arm-level controller on cars like the CX-30 and Mazda3. The outgoing CX-9 offered 7- or 9-inch displays with touchscreen functionality when the car was stopped. Asked to clarify the 2021 CX-9’s interface, a Mazda spokesperson did not immediately respond.

The new Carbon Edition comes with gray exterior paint and red leather upholstery, along with a gloss-black grille and mirrors, and trim-specific 20-inch wheels. It doesn’t, however, change the CX-9’s performance, as it remains powered by the same 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower and 320 pounds-feet of torque — but only on premium gas. Use regular and those numbers drop to 227 hp and 310 pounds-feet.

Carbon Edition models and above also add low-speed rear automatic emergency braking and a driver attention alert system to the standard i-Activsense suite of safety features, and the Grand Touring and Signature models also add a 360-degree camera system.

Price

The base front-wheel-drive Sport now starts at $35,060, up $70 for 2021. Upgrading to a 2021 FWD CX-9 Touring will cost $36,850, an additional $40 over a comparable 2020 model, and a Touring-specific Premium Package adds an extra $2,060. The new Carbon Edition sits in the middle of the range at $42,180 for a FWD example. A FWD CX-9 Grand Touring costs $43,040 for 2021, while the top-of-the-line CX-9 Signature with standard all-wheel drive costs $47,705 — both $390 increases over 2020 models. (All prices include an unchanged destination fee of $1,100.) Adding AWD to every 2021 CX-9 but the Signature adds $1,900 to the price, as it did for the 2020 model year.

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Lower trim levels of the 2021 CX-9 might cost a slight premium versus competitors like the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, but both the Palisade and Pilot can surpass higher trim levels of the CX-9, and the 2021 Pilot can even surpass $50,000. The touchscreen remains a question mark, but with modest price increases in exchange for a better interior and safety tech, the 2021 Mazda CX-9 is an otherwise solid choice over a comparable 2020 CX-9.

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