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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander



  • I drove my dad's R350 4matic for a few months last year. During that time, the battery died and blew the dash display fuse. All in all, I liked the 7 passenger wagon. The 3rd row is very easy to access. I even considered buying one myself a few weeks ago. However, when I drove the CX9, I felt that the MB R350 was not worth the extra 20K to me. My dad was able to be a very good deal on the MB R350, unfortunately, these deals are very hard to come by now.

    For last two weeks, I test drove the Highlander, MDX, and Pilot. I look for handling, 3rd row space and value when testing these CUVs. Here are my 2cents.

    Highlander: The handling was OK, the 3rd row was too small, and the sport model with leather was about 33K without bargaining.

    MDX: The handling was good, the 3rd row was small, and the base model was about 38K if the dealer could locate one for me.

    Pilot: The handling was OK, the 3rd row OK, and the EX-L was about 32K.

    In the end, I bought the CX9 last week. The dealer had the color I wanted. The CX9's handling is good, the 3rd row space is OK, but I was able to buy the touring at thousands less. Hands down, the CX9 with current pricing, offers the best value.

    Now, I am thinking to buying 20inch wheels and new tires to improve handling. I do not mind the harsh ride.
  • And I don't want xenon headlights. We had one of the very first BMW X5's the first year they came out and those headlights were terrible. The line of demarcation between light and no light was much too low and, IMO, was dangerous because over and down hills you couldn't see the whole scene in front of you. For us in deer country, it was a bad choice. Have they improved the visible lighting area of xenon headlights since then?

    As to the Mazda loyalty program, do you have to own one now or do you merely had to have owned one in the past? We used to own a 626-four wheel steering car. That's right, all four wheels turned and it was quite helpful when parallel parking. It was amusing when we showed our friends the back wheels actually turned a little bit. Mazda was certainly innovative at the time.

    And another hot button for us is 3rd row access. Our Sienna has captain chairs for the middle row and it is so easy to go between them to get to the 3rd row. You don't have to touch anything. All of these CUV's I see, seem to have the requirement that you must touch and adjust the middle seat in some way, which is a hassle if someone is sitting in that seat at the time someone wants to get in the back. Kids fight over the silliest things.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    You have to show a valid title to prove that you own a Mazda for the loyalty program rebate. One owned by your immediate family (husband/wife) members may also be allowed (check with the salesperson).
  • man I *love* the xenon lamps...never had a vehicle w/them and they're great...course I haven't had a vehicle as low as the CX9 in over 10 years either (compared to an F150) so that may be influencing me a tad (brightness, vis to distance, etc)...but I like em. But what's this nonsense that I can't change them? that the dealer has to because they're HV??
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    >> But what's this nonsense that I can't change them?

    Certainly you can do it by yourself.
    The HID bulbs of CX9 is not extremely white (somewhere around 4500k only).
    Many have replaced it with other bulbs that are higher in K. It depends on whether you like them or not. For me, those OE are fine.
    HID needs to have clear cut-off at top edge to prevent blinding the on-coming traffic. Have you seen the non-HID vehicles with HID bulbs coming at you?!
    Their lights are blinding, therefore, dangerous to others.
    I believe it is DoT requirement to have clear cut-off at top edge. I am not entirely sure about this. One certainly can google the vehicle codes for it.

    Replacing HID (right hand side - from driver seat view) requires removing the coolant tank (reservoir). That is probably why some rumor (maybe started by dealers) that you need dealers to replace the bulb. Not true. If you are handy, you can do anything. Removing the coolant tank is actually a 5-minute job.
  • cool..yep, my middle name is handy actually, house/cars/bikes/etc., if its elec or mech I'll tackle it...being as its still so new (<500 mi) I'll prob defer to the dealer until it starts costing me for stuff, then I'll take care of it. sounds like the bulbs wouldn't be all that big a deal...thanks for the rep ceric.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    You have to show a valid title to prove that you own a Mazda for the loyalty program rebate. One owned by your immediate family (husband/wife) members may also be allowed (check with the salesperson).

    Mazda employee here...close, but, not quite!

    To qualify for the Owner Loyalty Rebate you need to show a current registration for the Mazda that is already owned plus a valid drivers license. This rebate is transferable in household only. Only family members living under the same roof can benefit from this rebate.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    That's why having you around here is nice. Thanks for clarifying.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    That's why having you around here is nice. Thanks for clarifying

    Anytime ;)
  • Has anyone done a comparison as to which of these cars (and the Lambda cars) can and can not fit a golf bag w/ clubs in the back of the car lengthwise? TIAFAR.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Toyota Highlander: 5216
    Honda Pilot: 5438
    Mazda CX9: 1390
  • Considering that Toyota sells nearly 10 times as many vehicles as Mazda, I would imagine that Mazda is pretty happy with the way the CX9 is selling vs. the Highlander. I'm most surprised by the Pilot's success. This car has be universally panned by reviewers, most of whom agree that the current model is a step backwards. On top of that the car is expensive, ugly as can be, and somewhat truck-like in a market that is supposedly moving away from that image. I guess brand loyalty and a reputation for quality can go a long way.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    It&#146;s not even remotely true that the new Pilot was &#147;almost universally panned&#148; by the reviewers. The reviews were actually unusually polarized &#150; usually there is a general consensus on a car in the professional community but in this case it got panned by some and lavishly lauded by others. Numerous prestigious sources gave it the top of its class or named it Car (or SUV) of the Year. So you must be reading a pretty selected subset of the major auto mags to come up with your conclusion.

    It&#146;s also not fair to dismiss it as brand loyalty or quality. Our family were die-hard Toyota/Lexus fans, having had several vehicles from them and liked them all. We started out specifically looking at the Highlander and only considered other cars when we couldn&#146;t bring ourselves to accept the significant compromises and limitations of that car. We test drive the Pilot early on and didn&#146;t expect to end up with it because we didn&#146;t like the look or finishes. But we did because in terms of features it was unmatched. Others who&#146;ve posted here and elsewhere have said the same. In our case we weren&#146;t even that price sensitive &#150; we looked at the BMV, Audi, Acura, etc. too and none of them had all the benefits of the new Pilot. So we ended up with it by process of elimination &#150; our first Honda ever. And it has become our favorite car ever. All five of my immediate family (including three kids), plus both set of grandparents love the pilot. One set of grandparents even has the Highlander Hybrid and now regret they didn&#146;t get the Pilot. Our other car is a high-end Toyota Sienna and no one ever wants to be in it if they have a choice between it and the Pilot. It gets slightly better gas mileage than the Sienna too, and the Honda navigation blows the Toyota&#146;s away. The full iPod integration is a favorite too &#150; I couldn&#146;t believe that they didn&#146;t offer than in the Acura MDX cousin of the Pilot.
  • Reviews for the current Pilot were pretty poor, particularly in light of the praise showered on the prior version. Sure there were some decent reviews but Edmunds doesn't rank it too highly There are certainly plenty of good things you can say about it. This segment of the market has a lot of interesting cars and, unlike the minivan segment, they're not all marching to the beat of the same drummer. They all have strengths and there's something for everyone. The Pilot has great tech options and if you need 3 kids seats in the second row of your crossover, this is the one to get. But it has some major shortcomings as well:
    Fuel economy is no better than competition even though the car is neither extraordinarily powerful nor big.
    The styling is not particularly attractive although I guess some may like it.
    The brakes are pretty poor -- the Pilot may score well on crash tests but an additional 25 feet in 60-0 distance (vs. the CX-9) could mean the difference between a crash and a non-event.
    The price is relatively high and, if they're selling this well, dealers don't need to be as flexible in negotiations.
    Some may enjoy the Pilot. Is it better than the Highlander? I think so but that's faint praise. The Highlander (while also a strong seller) is not really a standout in this class either. It has a nice combination of power and fuel efficiency but there isn't too much else to distinguish it.
    We test drove many cars in this segment and, like I said, there's something for everyone. But for our family, the CX-9 and the GM Acadia/Enclave/Traverse stood out as being ahead of the pack. The Pilot and Highlander have some appeal but so do many others and I would say that if you take away the power of their brands, they are swimming in the same pool as the Hyundai Veracruz and Subaru Tribeca -- also good cars but not necessarily standouts.
  • Although this is all subjective, I have to fully agree with legacygt. I have been working for Honda for the past 9 years and I have owned a handful of their vehicles, mainly Civics and Accords and one CR-V. Honda may build exceptional quality vehicles but they have always been weak when it comes to brakes. Braking takes a lot of effort and durability of components (rotors and pads) have a very short lifespan..think, warped rotors and premature wear on pads, just take a look at the forums in the current generation Accord rear brake problems.

    When my wife and I decided to buy our CX-9 we also test drove and looked at the Highlander, Acadia, and Pilot. Clearly you know who the winner was!

    The Highlander was as expected from a Toyota product with nice quality fit and finish and good power and brakes. The highlander lost due to its expensive price, somewhat cramped interior and just boring styling (Toyota, in my opinion, has always made great quality vehicles but their styling is ho-hum boring and bland).

    The Acadia although very nice it is very expensive as well and it just felt to big for us, sort of clumsy in spirited driving, however, very spacious and nice standard equipment.

    The Pilot was also very nice in the inside, very refined in every aspect, nice options and standard equipment. The deal killer was its dumb looking, ugly front end styling. Which brings me back to the begining of my post.

    Honda, in my opinion, has dramatically deteriorated in their exterior styling department. The Pilot's front end as mentioned above is just plain ugly and does not flow nicely with the rest of the body. The current generation Accord is also not the nicest Accord Honda has produced. It has protruding frog like headlamps, the rear end is plain unflowy if you will and the side body lines are unorthodox with the body stance. The Element is unique to put it simple and nicely, unless you go with the SC model you may as well drive a Nissan Cube, Kia Soul, or Scion xB...all ugly in my book. Honda even managed to screw up possibly what would have been the nicest CR-V ever with an ugly looking two piece grille that resembles buck teeth. The Ridgeline...not a true truck in my book, but pasable. Definately would not be my first choice if looking for a truck. Also, if guys get a chance take a peek at the upcoming Accord Crosstour and tell me if you can find something nice about this whale looking montrousity. And last but not least, lets not even touch Honda's Acura division because all of their line up has been hit and abused with the "Decade's Ugly Stick"

    So all in all I believe that Honda has managed to continue its quality of refinement, fit and finish, and reliability but I hope they don't rely on their styling to get their units sold because they will be in deep trouble if they continue this trend.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    The CX-9 is a nice car. We liked the ride and the look better than the Pilot or anything in the class. It was our second choice in the end when we bought the Pilot 14 months ago. The main things that stopped us were the truly terrible cabin tech (it really was terrible compared to the competition) at the time (perhaps they have improved this since) and the fact that the NJ dealers weren&#146;t very competitive &#150; the Pilot and it had comparable list prices but despite some people getting amazing deals elsewhere in the country in NY you could get the Pilot cheaper. In the end, though, I am glad we settled for the Pilot because we use that extra seating capacity so often, even though we didn&#146;t expect to. I also liked that the Pilot options were so much more straight forward &#150; Mazda made getting way too many of the bells-and-whistles options on the top model and it not only seemed like nickel-and-diming (plus you couldn&#146;t get the best entertainment package for example and a sunroof at the same time), but then it made it that much harder to find a vehicle equipped exactly as you wanted it.

    I&#146;ve read the brake reviews. All I can say is in normal world use (not crashes), the Pilot brakes great. They feel much smoother than our previous Toyota or Lexus vehicles and we don&#146;t have issues with it not stopping quickly enough. As for the fuel economy, in the 4WD model it was comparable to anything else in the class except the Highlander. So to ding it for that is really to ding the entire CUV segment except the Highlander. In practice, it gets better mileage than our Toyota Sienna mini-van ever has, and more than our previous and much smaller Lexus RX300.

    The Highlander was a major disappointment. First, the Hybrid is a joke. To get it comparably equipped as a Limited with all the options (including air conditioning which they brake out into three different add-ons and don&#146;t include standard!) made the price 25% higher than the non-Hybrid Limited, meaning even with $4 fuel (at the time) it would take about 15 years of serious driving to make up your cost. After that the car was just a collection of major compromises, including the useless non-split third row seating, the useless (and tiny) removable middle-row seating, the fact that adult males couldn&#146;t sit in the third row without permanently crocking your head sideways, the lack of a memory seat option for the driver (seriously, that&#146;s just pathetic in a $40K+ list price Limited model car), the fact that the rear screen entertainment blocks the rear view mirror view when down (this was true on the CX-9 too, but not the Pilot), the fact that the navigation system is useless while driving (true of the CX-9 too; whereas the Pilot continues to allow programming, preferably from the front row passenger, while on the road) or the lack of true iPod integration (an AUX port just doesn&#146;t cut it these days). The only thing I really liked about the Highlander, other than my good track record with Toyota, was the gas mileage. It looked nicer than the Pilot too.

    Believe it or not, some drivers pick their car based on features over look or drive. I suspect this is the reason for the success of the Pilot overall. Though looks are so subjective. We bought our Pilot despite the looks but I am constantly surprised when some people go out of their way to rave about its looks. Granted, they are in the minority overall, but it is a large minority. I ask them what they like about it and they go on about how it looks like a &#147;true&#148; SUV and is &#147;rugged&#148; &#147;truck-like&#148; (as a complement) and how they HATE how so many other SUV&#146;s are all &#147;curvy&#148; (meant as an insult), etc. To each their own. In any event, I know we bought it because our prioritizes were safety first (and they all were in the same class for that), features second, drive third and looks fourth, brand reputation or loyalty fifth. It destroyed the competition on features, especially for a family with three kids, a dog, a lot of grandparent shuttling and lots of kids carpooling, and the drive was fine. Obviously we&#146;re not alone in our assessment. The fact that Car and Driver, among others, named it SUV of the year, over the Highlander and CX-9 among others and after we already pulled the trigger, was nice but had no impact on the decision. I suspect most car buyers don't buy based on reviews in the end -- its too big a financial commitment to leave to someone else's subjective judgment.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Somehow the sales figures I posted re-ignited the discussion. Great.

    That title should really be changed to
    Highlander, Pilot and CX9, now that even 2010 CX9 is available at dealerships.

    Believe it or not, most people buy vehicles based on brand reliability reputation. Honda/Toyota obviously have the upper hands. Most people I know questioned my decision to go with Mazda. Their questions are all alike. "Is Mazda reliable?"
    I guess no one would ask such questions if I had purchased a Honda/Toyota.

    Well, IMHO, competition is good for everyone looking to buy a 7/8-seat CUV.
    Lots of CX9's electronics integration flukes have been addressed in 2009 and also 2010 already. My CX9 continues to impress me everyday. I love driving it.
    The brake is strong, on par with my ex-1998 BMW 540iA.

    Most of vehicles I owned before have been Hondas. Poor brakes? Definitely! They were scary under hard braking, if you ask me. Reliable? Definitely. None of the 5 Hondas I owned had any single problem after 7 years of ownership. That speaks volume. After 21K miles, my CX9 showed one window problem. Though a very minor assembly issue, it still counts as one in my book. :(

    A major downside with CX9 to me is the city-driving MPG. Expect 15mpg for AWD and 16-17mpg for FWD. I guess it comes with 3.7L engine, and wider tires (245mm) than competitors' offerings. With a 4500lb vehicle, 15mpg isn't too bad, but no where near good.
  • Stever@EdmundsStever@Edmunds YooperlandPosts: 38,968
    title should really be changed to Highlander, Pilot and CX9

    Good idea!
  • You may want to add Acadia and Traverse in the mix as well because most people compare these 5 CUV's Just an idea!
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    In case you didnt know (not being a smart aleck, just trying to help :shades: ) there is a Crossover SUV forum as well, for a less specific discussion, besides these three.
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