Video: Toyota Highlander vs. Mazda CX-9 vs. Snowstorm – Which is Better?

2021 mazda cx-9 awd toyota highlander awd turbo v6

Toyota Highlander vs. Mazda CX-9 for the family in the snow?

We wanted to put the new 2021 Toyota Highlander vs. the 2021 Mazda CX-9 into a challenging situation that families may have to contend with, even if they don’t drive off-road. We’re talking about snow. Not just an ice-covered parking lot, but a much more challenging (and unpredictable) dirt road covered in snow. On top of that, we wanted to see how these vehicles behave when these roads become more like off-road obstacles.

This Toyota Highlander vs. Mazda CX-9 comparison is somewhat unusual. They have a lot in common, but they are also quite different. Both vehicles are loaded and are prices about the same, which is around $48,000. The Toyota and Mazda are both configured to seat six with captain’s seats in the center row. They are also equipped with leather and multiple safety systems.

TFLoffroad was primarely interested in the AWD systems of the Toyota Highlander vs. Mazda CX-9

Our new Toyota Highlander has a 295 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 that makes 263 lbs-feet of torque. It’s hooked up to an eight-speed automatic transmission and it has an advanced AWD system. It can send power out back when needed, and it can use torque-vectoring to move power side to side as well. There are a variety of settings in the Toyota that allow the driver to fine-tune the traction system.

The Highlander comes with Bridgestone tires which are all-season with an M+S (mud and snow) rating. It is not a dedicated snow tire.

The 2021 Mazda CX-9 is very different mechanically. It has a turbocharged 250 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 320 lb-ft of torque. It’s hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission and it also uses a very sophisticated AWD system. This system uses a “Predictive AWD” setup that works with multiple sensors. It will measure everything (including outside temp and even the windshield wipers) to tell the vehicle when to engage AWD. On top of that, Mazda just introduced the “Off-Road Traction Assist Mode” which can help power the vehicle out of challenging situations.

The Mazda comes with Falcon tires which are all-season with an M+S (mud and snow) rating. It is not a dedicated snow tire either. Keep an eye out for our biggest issues: namely ground clearance and approach angle.

Equipped with similar performing tires (both are mounted on massive 20-inch wheels), and weighing about the same, how do you think these crossovers will do in the snowy Rocky Mountains? Better than many of you might expect we wager. Check out the video to find out how they did!

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.