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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander

Karen_CMKaren_CM Posts: 5,018
We keep a couple seven-passenger crossover SUVs in our long-term test fleet and they're indispensable for carting around kids, terriers and lawn furniture. Of course, we still crack the obvious jokes. We'll tell you that these are minivans with hinged doors, SUVs trail-rated for the Starbucks drive-thru, tall wagons that think they're too good to be called tall wagons.

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2009 Honda Pilot vs. 2008 Mazda CX-9 vs. 2008 Toyota Highlander

Community Manager If you have any questions or concerns about the Forums, send me an email, karen@edmunds.com, or click on my screen name to send a personal message.

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Comments

  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    I noticed they picked on the Pilot for its brakes. Compared it to the Edge which was hammered for its brakes when it first came out. Look at the chart from the latest mid-sized comparo C&D did and you'll find that the Pilot's brakes aren't all that bad. Note: The Murano won that comparo even with its awful brakes.

    C&D CUV comparo data

    C&D has no 70-0 braking data for the Pilot yet. They do however estimate it to go to 60 in 7.6 seconds. Either the Edmunds editors can't drive or C&D is waaaaay off. ;)
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Observed MPG's

    Highlander 20mpg (270hp / 248tq)
    Pilot 18.6mpg (250hp / 243tq)
    CX-9 18.4mpg (273hp / 270tq)

    From the looks of this comparo, the Highlander has the best combo of power and fuel economy with the CX-9 right behind it due to the fact its observed fuel economy was on par with the Pilot while boasting a 23hp and 27lb-ft tq advantage over the Pilot. From this, I read that the VCM does not do much to help real world fuel economy.
  • rexfrexf Posts: 20
    I like everything about my 2006 Pilot EX-L AWD.

    When I first looked at the 2009 Pilot, I was very disappointed to see it did not get the new 3.7 liter motor of the Acura MDX. Now, it's clear. Dear Honda, as soon as possible, fix the brakes, change the tires and give us the new motor. Then, I'll buy one. For the moment, I can see NO reason to sell my 2006 and buy a 2009.

    Oh yeah, while I'm at it. Price the cars you offer in Canada fairly. There is almost a $11,000 PENALTY if you buy a 2009 Touring in Canada. That's $11,000 more than the identical car in the US. WHY?

    Thanks for listening.
  • Why do reviews neglect the importance of the center seat in the second row? The center seat in the Higlander is a joke and the CX-9's is not much better. Of the current crop of crossovers, only the Pilot and the Lambdas have enough room for three normal sized humans in the second row although the seat cushion in the middle spot in the Lambdas is not too comfortable. If you need the option of transporting 5 adults/teenagers and a significant amount of gear inside the vehicle, the Toyota and Mazda are not realistic options. Frankly, the Toyota is a four seater since the third row is not fit for human occupation. The center seat in the Audi Q7 is also an afterthought suitable for no one over the age of ten. Lest anyone think my girth is causing this squeeze, I assure you my 6'2" 170 lb frame is not the problem here.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    Right, sit them in the very back then, because adults can fit back there, the seat in the middle is for children, not for grownups.
  • rf600rrf600r Posts: 3
    Shouldn't the title have read, "Asian Crossover Comparison"? No Lambdas, no Flex, no Journey, and so on. Please explain.
  • omfgomfg Posts: 1
    !!!!!!!!!!!!?
    Where is it seriously though?
  • jerrywimerjerrywimer Posts: 588
    I was just wondering the same thing. After all, they *do* have a Lambda in their stable too (the Enclave). Or would that have put all the Asians to shame, so they just decided to leave it out?
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    I did not have a problem sitting in the middle row of the CX-9. I'm 6'3" and 195lbs. Shoulder room is a little tight and the seat its self was not as comfortable as the outer seats, however, it is doable.
  • albookalbook Posts: 1,282
    That's exactly how I would have placed these CUVs. But you guys are missing some competitors. Like the GMC Acadia (Chevy Traversr?) and Hyundai Veracruz. And eventually you'll have to compare the Ford Flex to something.
  • prosource1prosource1 Posts: 234
    As a 06 Pilot owner, the failure of my air conditioning system with only 51,000 miles and the general arrogance displaying by Honda towards consumers in both customer service and the abysmal design offerings by Honda force me to go elsewhere, I'll either buy the quality offering by Hyundai in the 'Veracruz' or wait for the 4-cylinder Santa Fe in 2010. But I'm done with Honda. This company just isn't the company they once were. The Koreans and domestic seem to be hungrier for my business. The Pilot has to be the worst design Honda has ever produced. And how 'bout that horrible plastic interior?
  • No freaking Outlook/Acadia/Enclave in this comparo? So was it Mazda that bribed you so they could be #1?
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    If the comparo was named "Japanese CUV Comparison" would you be so angry? Just because GM makes a billion versions of the same car, does not constitute them being in every comparo.

    I hope you have some evidence to support your Mazda bribery claim. Why is it hard to believe that a small auto manufacturer can build an extremely competitive car that's better then the majority out there??
  • maltbmaltb Posts: 3,572
    There have been plenty of comparos against the Acadia and CX-9. i believe the CX-9 won all of those including North American Truck of the Year. I assume the little guy bribed all the Detroit journalists too?
  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    Why is it hard to believe that a small auto manufacturer can build an extremely competitive car that's better then the majority out there??

    Especially since the CX-9 has won multiple comparisons from multiple sources now. It's not just Edmunds that likes it.

    Does that mean the CX-9 is the be all, end all of CUVs? No. But it seems to be the enthusiasts choice.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Well said.
  • ericheseriches Posts: 7
    A 2008 Saturn Outlook XR AWD model was supposed to be part of the test, but the week before, our contacts at GM informed us that the Outlook has been in an accident and was tangled in a messy insurance claim. "Perhaps you have another all-wheel-drive Outlook we can use?" we asked, "or even a Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse or GMC Acadia?" But the answer was no.

    As in, no, there's not a single all-wheel-drive, Lambda-platform-based, General Motors SUV in the western United States that could be made available for this comparison test.

    We decided not to use our long-term Buick Enclave, because that vehicle is front-wheel-drive, while the Pilot and Highlander we'd requested were AWD.

    I wish we could have had a Lambda SUV in this comparison test, but when we can't source a vehicle, there's nothing we can do. Not having a Ford Edge or Dodge Journey is less worrisome to me, as neither of those vehicles are class leaders. A Ford Flex might have been a good fit, but it's too soon to get one of those.

    Erin Riches, author of the comparison test
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    I believe there is another thread that compare GM quadruplet to other CUVs (CX-9 included).

    I bought my CX9 back in Jan, 2008. If I had to choose a CUV today, I would make the same decision one more time knowing all the new entries. All it takes is a test-drive to appreciate why many magazine editors chose CX-9 as winner of comparison tests.

    CX9 actually can accommodates 7 adults. Something that I can't say about Highlander or Pilot. The extra 10 inches of length really shows on the inside.
    But, Pilot is 8-passenger, you said. Yeah, right?! Have you ever tried to sit three adults in that tiny space? It is a torture chamber if you put three adults there. Putting one more seatbelt on the 3rd row does not make it 8-passenger, IMHO. It is just marketing, people. Besides, I don't have three small kids to sit there.

    Of the three, CX9 should be on par with Highlander in performance since Highlander is the lightest among the three.
    Edmunds tested 9.5sec for new Pilot and 7.6sec for CX9 in 0-60mph. No data on Highlander (maybe someone can chime in here) CX-9 also shines in braking. Pilot did poorly in that department. All ventilated rotors do help CX9 after all.

    I absolutely love the SmartKey system of CX9 (not available on Highlander or Pilot). 20" inch wheels are amazingly good looking. One thing surprises many people who sat in my CX9 is the low noise level. Mazda did not went cheap when it comes to sound insulation on CX-9.

    I once raced a new Camry (4-cylinder, I bet) up the highway ramp, and I won!
    (No, I am kidding, I have been a good driver.)
  • mdhuttonmdhutton Posts: 195
    I'm looking at my '08 Highlander's SmartKey right now. Why do you say it isn't available?

    A small factor in my purchase decision was Mazda's attitude. When I told them I was seriously leaning toward the HL, they arrogantly said,"but don't you realize that over 100 editors rated it best-in-class?" I said, "That's good, but I don't feel that way. Are these 100+ editors going to chip in and make my monthly payment for me? If so, I'll reconsider." Haven't heard from them since.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    FYI that isn't Mazda, that was your dealer, Toyota the company itself is pretty arrogant.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    While Mazda does not have the greatest in dealer satisfaction, it is a matter of fact that Toyota is at the bottom. Toyota dealers are statistically the absolute worst when it comes to customer satisfaction, and don't like to deal. If it were not for the fact that Toyota's are decent cars, that company would not due business in North America. It's a pitty that, as a whole, Toyota dealers are so disgraceful. As always, there are acceptions.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    My mistake on the availability of SmartKey on Highlander. It is standard on the Limited. However, I stopped looking at Highlander when I see the cheaply made 3rd row that is not 40/60 split (my co-worker owns one). Besides, the ride on Highlander is much more floaty and steering is not as precise as CX-9. I know some people love soft ride of Toyota, but it is just not me. I have been basically a BMW/Honda guy (more handling oriented). The styling of the new Pilot just turned me off. I had been waiting for Honda to release the new Pilot. I stopped waiting for it when I saw the first photo of the new Pilot.

    P.S. Look and styling are subjective.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Dealer dissatisfaction is a local phenomena. In my area, there is one Toyota dealer that I absolutely hate, while I like the other one much much better. (I have a Prius). Similarly, there is a Mazda dealer (a Ford/Mazda combo - don't go to this kind of Mazda for service) I dislike very much, while there is another one that actually gave me a free Mazda3 sedan as a loaner for service. I have never been treated with a loaner at Honda/Toyota dealers. Have you?
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Not to be a fanboy of CX-9, I must warn people who are considering CX-9 that the after-market support of CX-9 accessories is much worse than Highlander and Pilot. Basically, all you can choose from are whatever Mazda offer. Even OEM accessories, Mazda offer fewer for CX9 than Honda and Toyota for Pilot and Highlander.

    If there are specific accessories that you must have, please take that into consideration. Besides, the most complaints on CX9 center around so-so fuel economy and lack of trip computer (US model). The latter is said to be standard for '09.

    On navigation, both Highlander/CX-9 use Denso system (different GUI, but basically the same) that has speed-lock. Once the vehicle goes beyond 5mph, the NAVI locks up so that you can't enter address or phone numbers. Honda has not been doing this, but I am not sure about the new Pilot's system. Other than the locking, Honda's NAVI system has been well-known to be better than Toyota's (also Mazda's).
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Like what?? Can you provide some examples?
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Like side step or running board.
    Due to the design of the doors, it seems hard to design a side-step to ease the entrance for small kids and old folks. I haven't had any luck finding one. If you do, please inform me.

    In general, go to autoanything.com or accessories websites. CX9 is often not on their radar to offer accessories. It is frustrating, the lack of choices and options to have. In a couple more years, maybe.
  • ericw2000ericw2000 Posts: 3
    The availability of accessories will increase as the popularity of the vehicle increases. I'm seeing more and more CX-9s as time passes.

    I purchased my CX-9 2 weeks ago. I tried the Pilot, and FWIW my wife drives a Honda Odyssey which is the best van out there hands down, so I have a positive experience with Honda. I found the Pilot to be "frumpy" in both looks and performance. The only thing I'd like to see in the CX-9 is auto locks and a trip computer.
  • klossfamklossfam Posts: 7
    The CX-9 is simply more comparable to the OutlookCadia than the Pilot or Highlander...It's substantially longer (it has 11 inches on the Highlander - just like the General's 200 inch long rigs)...So this is a goofy comparison in many ways...The Veracruz is a better size/price equivalent. That being said - I traded a 2004 Pilot EX-L for a 2008 Highlander Limited (due as much to the lack of Pilot power as the horrific look of the 2009 Pilot - both totally unacceptable). Honda/Acura is also WAY BEHIND in outfitting proper brakes on their vehicles...I had a TL-S and TSX - and the brakes where weak at best/dangerous at most...I have a 2008 G35 - so now I know what actual automobile brakes are! The Highlander review is accurate...Great acceleration and powertrain, great brakes but little feel from the electric steering and a little soft when you are coming from an older Pilot (and my last two cars were the G and a 2006 A4). Still - I tow a 4200 lb boat which eliminated all but the Pilot and Highlander. The 2004 Pilot pulled this boat pretty well but I saw no way the new Pilot with the extra pounds could handle it. The Highlander has no issues and the 5000 lb towing capacity is not over stated...it really is the only choice for a V6 crossover tow vehicle. I liked the General's Lamda offerings but an extra foot of length and the associated weight did me no good...and I can vouch for the Highlanders mileage (around 21 mpg in mixed driving and even close to 15 mpg pulling the boat and having 4 passengers and all kinds of crap). An impressive crossover and you can smoke almost any other truck in a stoplight drag...
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    We bought a CX-9, but the Highlander would have been our second choice. I liked the acceleration on the Highlander, it feels faster off the line than the CX-9, and liked the fact that it has captain's chairs in the 2nd row.

    However it's the little things that started adding up: the cheap felt lining on the roof, the lack of a split 3rd row seat (we've made use of the split row many times on the CX-9), the numb electric steering, the fake looking wood in the Limited, the small amount of space behind the 3rd row, and most importantly, the high price that dealers force on you with all the dumb package options. We would have likely chosen a Sport model since we really didn't like the wood in the Limited, and it was at a better price point, but in the end the Mazda just rode more like a car and we got a much better deal from our Mazda dealer on the GT.

    I think the Highlander is perfect for those who might have 2 kids and have very occasional use of the 3rd row.
  • mdhuttonmdhutton Posts: 195
    You're right - the attitude display was from the dealer, not Mazda corporate. But...he's representing the brand. He IS the company to his customers and prospects. If that's the type of treatment folks receive, they're bound to go elsewhere -- either to another dealer or a competitor.

    So far, my treatment by Toyota has been abysmal at one dealer (I walked out), yet supurb at another 40 miles away. Night and day to the highest degree! Service after the sale, follow-up, very flexible and fair negotiations, I could go on and on. There are good and bad stories at every dealer, so find what works for you, as we all should.
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