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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander

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  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    The GM quadruplet are simply even larger than CX-9 in length. You have to cut it somewhere. Personally I was looking into Saturn Outlook, and I sat in one in autoshow. The 2rd row seat of Outlook is smaller than CX9 (not comfortable to sit in for an adult for a long time). Not to mention that I have read so much complaints about it on 'their' forum. So, it was dropped from my list. (transmission, gasket, poor MPG. etc.)

    Iterior material? Like stylng, it is very subjective. Some claim Audi has the best, but I never feel so. I often attend autoshow and have sat in many many vehicles.

    CX9 simply is the best 'overall' package. That is why it has obtained so many awards. I was driving to work today and I was thinking ... Mazda must have stolen the steering from BMW because it feels so similar to my old '98 BMW 5-series....
  • albookalbook Posts: 1,282
    Why do you suppose the CX-9 has beat the Acadia/Outlook in every other meeting?

    Hey- it doesn't matter. They are both good CUVs. Testers just like that while they are both as quick, the CX-9 handles better.

    But we all know which one sells better. ;)

    I agree that the Veracruz should have been on the test. I'd bet it would have taken second place. I think Honda didn't go for the right demographic when they redesigned the Pilot. It wants to be a truck. But no one wants a truck (SUV) right now.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I’ve been in the market for a 3-row crossover and have test driven most of them now. I tested American vehicles too but coincidentally I had narrowed in on the three in this article. By now I have test driven Toyota, Honda and Mazda at least 3 times each, including all three back-to-back this weekend so I would have a fresh experience.

    I grant virtually everything is subjective so this is my experience and priorities only.

    My ranked priorities were:
    1. SUV with optional 3rd row seating
    2. Best gas mileage possible
    3. The most “tech” possible in terms of the nav, entertainment, audio, controls, etc.
    4. The most “luxury” features possible, secondary to all of the above
    5. Appearance after all of the above
    6. Price after all of the above
    7. Comfort level with the brand after all of the above

    The truth is I’m still not sure which one I will get, which may make my review even more objective since I haven’t aligned myself with any one of these yet. That said, we also own a Toyota Sienna and we have had two other Toyota/Lexus’ in the past and all are/were great experiences so if everything were truly equal we would get another in a heartbeat.

    Based on all the test drives and kicking the tires, here’s my ranking by category:

    Driving Experience:

    1) Mazda CX-9
    2) Toyota Highlander
    3) Honda Pilot

    The Mazda had noticeably better acceleration and responsiveness. It was “fun to drive.” The Toyota accelerated reasonably but not quite as nicely and the steering was soft. The Toyota wasn’t as good with manual shifting. The Pilot felt substantially more sluggish with acceleration. It felt “heavier” even though it isn’t. And keep in mind we tried at least 2 viechles between our testing. I was “satisfied” with the Toyota if not happy until I tried the Mazda.

    Seating / Cargo Versatility:

    1) Pilot
    2) CX-9
    3) Highlander

    Toyota really blew it here. The lack of the split third row seat is a major blunder and I can’t fathom why as it looks like it would have taken virtually no effort to do it. For people like us (3 kids, frequent grandparents with us and frequent kid carpooling) the 3rd row is not elective, but to not be able to split it for cargo and partial seating use at the same time may be a deal breaker given the tiny storage space with all rows in use. But in our opinion Toyota added to the blunder with its cutesy removable middle seat in the second row. We already own a mini-van and if we needed this feature we’d get another. If it didn’t do any harm, fine. But it does. It makes the second row useless for 3 car seats or 3 adults, really making it a 6.5 seat vehicle. The Mazda seats 7 comfortably. But the real star is the new Pilot which truly seats 8 comfortably. We easily fit 3 car seats across the second row, something we haven’t been able to do in any other vehicle before, and the 3rd row fit 3 adults in our test (wouldn’t want to drive hours that way but it was doable). Amazing. If the Honda had a better driving feel, I think we would be sold based on the versatility of the seating alone.

    Seating Feel / Tech:

    1) anything but the Toyota
    3) Highlander

    I once vowed never to get another car without memory seats yet got sucked into the Sienna (which didn’t offer them at the time). I think once they started making seats will all the motorized discrete controls with infinite positions memory seating should have become required equipment. It sometimes takes me days to get comfortable again after a valet screws up my seating and my wife has taken pity any only moves it forward, not touching the rest of the controls. To pay around $40K for a premium vehicle and not even have an option for memory seating is just inexcusable. Both of the competitors in this case (and most others on the market) offer memory seating. I would also say the Toyota seats are the least comfortable overall, and since they are virtual clones to those in my Sienna and even previous Lexus RX series, I can say they are really uncomfortable on long drives for someone tall like me. In its favor, the new Highlander does have a button that inflates a cushion in the front to improve leg support for taller people and that helped a little but twice the capacity would have been better. I know it sounds crazy but I would not be the first to say the lack of memory seating is almost a deal breaker.

    Cabin Tech:

    1) Pilot
    2) Highlander
    3) CX-9

    This one was tough. But for a critical screw-up (even if it was done purposefully), Toyota would have had this one. The large touch-screen you get with the nav system is beautiful and has the best GUI of the three by far. However they have rendered the nav system basically useless with a shut-off that disables almost all touch screen use if moving more than 5 MPH. INRECDIBLY DUMB. We get the “safety” idea, but almost no one else including the industry leading Garmin does this and it overlooks the fact that many people have passengers to control the system. If they were so obsessed with this, why not tie into the same sensor that turns the passenger side airbag on and off and only defeat it when it detects no adult in the passenger seat? It wouldn’t be a big deal if the voice commands worked well, but they don’t. Mazda is even worse because they source their nav from the same company as Toyota so they have the same problem but with an even worse GUI that is weak on audio controls, etc. The Pilot’s nav didn’t shut down while moving and had better voice controls. It also uses a joystick like the Acura and similar to newer BMW’s. Personally I prefer the touch screen and the GUI wasn’t as good as Toyota. But the Pilot’s voice commands did a great job controlling the audio and climate control, something Toyota appears to have defeated in the Highlander despite the capacity in some of their other cars (or if it is supposed to work, I couldn’t get it to nor could three different salesmen on three occasions).

    Fuel Economy:

    1) Highlander
    2) Pilot / CX-9

    No subjectivity here. The Highlander is class-leading for a 3 row cross-over even without the Hybrid version. That’s why I started with it. I actually started with the Hybrid version until I figured out that in the real world you pay about an $11K premium for a 4-5 MPG advantage (I could go into detail on why the premium works out to so much but that is for another thread). Unless I drive the car at least 15 years, I won’t make up the difference in up-front investment, even at $5 fuel, and that’s not even considering the cost of the capital. In terms of “helping the environment,” do the math and you figure out you’re not really saving that much gas and in the end you do just as much good for the environment by mowing your lawn once less per season (mowers are about 40x bad for the environment than cars) or lowering your heat one degree in the winter (heaters are worse for the environment than A/C). While driving styles
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Oops, I guess I exceeded the maxiumu thead. Here is the rest...

    Fuel Economy (continued):
    ... While driving styles vary actual mileage greatly, the general consensus average for the Highlander is 20 while it is closer to 18 for the other two. On paper the Pilot does slightly better than the CX-9 but in real world experience they seem about the same based on many sources. Terrible gas mileage completely removed many premium crossovers from contention for me, including the Acura, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes (they had a diesel with decent mileage but diesel cost a fortune these days) and some of the American models.

    Interior styling:

    1) CX-9
    2) Highlander
    3) Pilot

    Not a top priority for us. But the CX-9 was really nice. I thought the leather seats were the best, the wood grain actually looked luxury (looks really fake on the Toyota) and everything worked. I still like the Toyota’s focus on the center console touch screen display but the Mazda wins in every other respect. I realize some people will like the intentionally retro rugged SUV styling of the Pilot but we didn’t. It also wasn’t function in a practical way. You either have a cover over all the useful stuff in your center console or you have it open with huge, deep compartments. There is no logical place to rest your arm in the Pilot. Those shelves over the glove compartment are a junk trap. And the audio and climate controls are over-the-top with complexity and would be hard to use while driving and glancing (which is why it was nice that you could control audio and climate with voice commands).

    Exterior styling:

    1) CX-9
    2) Highlander
    3) Pilot

    This is perhaps the most subjective of all the categories. Honda research proved there was a market for people who like the boxy SUV look and from the posts I have seen they are right. We just don’t happen to be a part of that market. We don’t like boxy and we don’t like the awkward transition from the front and middle side windows to the rear window on the Pilot. And that front grill is out of place. The wheels look too small on it too, proportionately. We are indifferent to the Highlander; it neither put us off or moved us. It feels like an SUV that they disguised with some sharp edges and curving. The CX-9 looks great to us. Nice colors, nice use of metal trim, nice continuous window look. And it is amazing how much smaller it looks on the outside than it really is – almost magical. Just our opinion.

    Price / Value / Deals:

    1) CX-9
    2) Highlander
    3) Pilot

    When you load them comparably (as in virtually everything), they come out almost exactly the same, within $1K or so. Not surprising that the Pilot has no incentives right now since it is brand new. Still, with SUV sales what they are even Honda is negotiating so you can beat them down pretty far. CX-9 is the most aggressive. They are offering 0.0% financing for 3 years with $0 down, or 1.9% for up to 5 years, OR they have pre-tax dealer incentives of up to $3K. And that is on top of what you negotiate off the price to begin with. The Highlander has a rebate that varies by region but seems to be either $750 or $1K, OR up to 4.9% financing for up to 5 years. In every case most people seem to be able to walk away at or below the dealer invoice price available online. In terms of the perception of “value,” I like the Pilot the most and the Highlander the least. Honda keeps it simple. If you get the Limited, you pretty much get everything standard. That feels good. Toyota is pathetic with the things they make optional in a top-end car, including automatic climate control (or any rear AC at all in the Hybrid Limited!), floor mats, etc. On top of that, Toyota makes it hard to elect only certain features. You can’t get the DVD player without the moonroof or the nav system, etc. Mazda is only marginally better than Toyota, with tons of basic things as options including too many that are “dealer installed.” And their options are often confusingly overlapping. In their favor, at least you can get things like the DVD without the nav or moonroof, etc.

    Overall:

    You tell me… We started out wanting to like the Highlander due to our history with them. But we’re having trouble getting over the seating issues given that was a priority for us, and paying a huge premium for a virtually useless nav system. Despite the appearance, we really like the Pilot, until we drive it. We like the CX-9, but are not impressed with the tech controls, the useless nav or their lack of long term track record to prove the reliability with comparable vehicles.
  • albookalbook Posts: 1,282
    I'd say CX-9 as Mazda's track record seems to be improving quickly. Also, I think you could get used to the tech controls after a while of use. Then again, I thought I could get used to idrive, but after a day with it I quit. Maybe it's just me (I know it's not) but I can't fathom waking up to the Pilot's face every morning.

    I do like how Honda sets up their models and options. Everyone complains about it, but Honda has made the process so simple.
  • zorcereszorceres Posts: 23
    We have the 09 Pilot and love it! But we also love the boxy SUV style you seem to hate so much (and hate the "egg" style you seem to love.. lol). In any case, it seems like you are more inclined to the CX-9...

    PS You should be able (with good credit obviously) to get 4.9% in a credit union. We did and managed to get 4.5% from the dealer (they wanted our business??), so I wouldn't take that into consideration. Just my 2cents.
  • spi5spi5 Posts: 48
    Well, I don't hate boxy SUV. However, the 09 pilot is simply not a good looking boxy box. See the LandRover or 08 pilot. They are better.

    Honda designer must be replaced ASAP. Their new Accord and Pilot are one of ugliest car on the road. Unfortunately, you will see them a lot. I think Honda designer has more responsibility to make the street view prettier because the high volume of Accord and Pilot. :mad:
  • msammsam Posts: 15
    It seems to me that there is a very diverse opinion on which is good.

    I was very interested in the Mazda CX-9 for a long time, but was afraid of the reliability. Consumer reports rated it to be below reliable for a new model. Also, I was tracking the repair reports on a different web-site and found a few problems reported.

    Then the 2009 Honda Pilot came out. I did not like the looks initially, but it grew on me every bit. I then fell in love with the number of standard features that came with the Honda. I was considering it very seriously, until I saw this report. Braking is a big issue. I have had some friends who have owned Accords and found their braking to be not as good as well. So, for me it is more worrisome.

    Can I get some comments on how people who have test driven the Honda feel about the braking of the Pilot? Thank you.
  • qs933qs933 Posts: 302
    In terms of the perception of “value,” I like the Pilot the most and the Highlander the least. Honda keeps it simple.

    Even "value" will differ from person to person. I see it the opposite way with the Pilot and the Highlander. With the Highlander, I can get a Limited 2WD with exactly the options I want (power liftgate, JBL with Bluetooth, auto rear air, spoiler). I don't want a moonroof.

    With the Pilot, in order to get the power liftgate or Bluetooth, you have to get the Touring. If you get the Touring, you automatically get the moonroof and navigation, neither of which I want (even if it's "standard," it's still incorporated into the price of the vehicle).

    I pass a Honda dealer every morning on the way to work. The Pilot isn't as bad looking in person, though I think the Highlander looks better. I don't really care for the way the CX9 looks.

    For me, it's between the Highlander and the Murano. I don't need the third row.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I personally don't understand why anyone would get any of these vehicles if they didn't need the third row. There are other SUV and crossover options with much better mileage if you don't need the third row like I do. But to each their own...

    Opinion on value is subjective of course. But I can't agree on your characterization of Toyota giving people more flexibility on options. Of the three, that would be the Mazda by far. It may have worked out for the particular options you picked, but in general Toyota is notorious for packaging options together. You can't get the nav without getting the high-end car, you can't get the RES without the moonroof, etc. I don't know any other competitor that makes you get a nav and moonroof to get a factory installed rear dvd screen.

    But what bugs me more about Toyota is that they aren't even sincere about what are "options" -- they like to list some things as “options” to disguise the actual price of a vehicle then basically make no cars without those “options.”

    Try actually finding a Highlander Hybrid for example without rear air conditioning. Good luck. According to CarsDirect and the dealers I spoke to Toyota doesn't ship any. It’s possible they may ship a handful somewhere every year just so they can claim it is an option but that's just for show. The reality is it is a several thousand dollar required add-on that you are going to have to accept but is packaged as an "option." For that matter, no one would want the car without it which is all the more reason it is insincere on Toyota's part. Similar with things like floor mats. They list them as options which is just tacky. But try finding a vehicle without them. Possible, but very rare. Even if you buy online and don’t select this “option” what usually happens is the site gets back to you with a modified quote that included them. Honda's approach is more honest IMHO. But if you like a large Chinese menu of options, at least Mazda gives a lot of flexibility in what you pick and choose without having to buy stuff you don’t want.
  • spi5spi5 Posts: 48
    Looks is just a matter of taste
  • albookalbook Posts: 1,282
    I personally don't understand why anyone would get any of these vehicles if they didn't need the third row. There are other SUV and crossover options with much better mileage if you don't need the third row like I do. But to each their own...

    The Highlander straddles the third row midsize CUV market (Pilot, Veracruz) and the smaller midsize CUV market (Murano, Edge). because of its midrange size. Therefore, it would be just fine for someone who doesn't need a third row. What I don't understand is why you would get one if you need a third row.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    My favorite in atoumobile packaging is when MDX includes "power lift gate" in the "entertainment package". Folks, that is what power lift gate is for!!! Entertainment!
    ;)
    Sorry for side-tracking.
  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    I personally don't understand why anyone would get any of these vehicles if they didn't need the third row. There are other SUV and crossover options with much better mileage if you don't need the third row like I do. But to each their own...

    Some people just need the extra cargo room. Unlike traditional BOF SUVs these CUVs (or at least most of them) do not let you omit the 3rd row from the option sheet.
  • zorcereszorceres Posts: 23
    I don't have an issue but then I don't drive fast and keep my distance.. I'm just a safe driver I guess...

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder... I love the look of the new Pilot, but that is just me... and my husband and all of our friends so far.. even a random guy at a shopping center that stopped us to ask about the car since he had never seen it before and loved how it looks. Seems to me that it might be a love it, hate or it might grow on you thing.. :P
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 48
    As far as CR goes, the CX-9 was rated unreliable, because of Audio system issues(HAHAHA) since when does that make a car unreliable?

    CR is a JOKE, take it from other owners that you meet on the street, and on a forum. the CX-9 is a reliable vehicle so far.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 48
    Keeping your distance has nothing to do with dismal stopping distances, if you need to stop on the dime because someone cuts you off or pulls out in front of you, keeping your distance will NOT help you in those events, same with someone stopping short infront, you have no "keeping your distance" control over that.
  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    As far as CR goes, the CX-9 was rated unreliable, because of Audio system issues(HAHAHA) since when does that make a car unreliable?

    Interesting. So how do they rate Bose audio systems in general? I know how I rate them. :lemon:
  • albookalbook Posts: 1,282
    CR is a JOKE

    CR is just as reliable a source as any other magazine. Okay, that's a little much. Maybe they are not quite as good as MT or C&D. But you have to take their ratings at the same amount- with a grain of salt. You can only figure out what you like for yourself. If everyone listened to CR GM wouldn't be here right now.
  • spi5spi5 Posts: 48
    "I don't have an issue but then I don't drive fast and keep my distance.. I'm just a safe driver I guess... "

    You should do so no matter what kind of car you are driving. Better brake give you better chance to survive, though.
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