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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander

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  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I compared the nav extensively. It was a big part of my test drives as it was one of the deciding factors. I would rank them in this order:

    1) Pilot
    2) Highlander
    3) CX-9

    The Highlander and CX-9 both license the same underlying system from the same provider so the physical navigation is almost identical. However, the Highlander has a slightly newer version of the software and each company has its own UI wrapper (menuing look, etc.) and in that category the Highlander's is way ahead of the CX-9 version. They both also have voice command, but the Mazda dealers could not get it to work at all on either of two test drives and two places with two cars. The Toyota one requires you memorize their not so obvious wording sequence but once I did I was able to input my home address by voice and it worked perfectly. It was less successful with things like finding the nearest gas station. However, the system was super annoying in that it required you wait for long, repetitive vocal instructions and hit the talk button twice for each command so it took forever -- about 3 minutes just to enter my address.

    The main problem I have with both of these is that they disable all user input, except by voice, when you are traveling 5 MPH or greater. This makes them almost useless in my book. Most people I know often travel with a passenger who can program the system while the driver is driving but Toyota, Mazda and the other users of this system seem to have decided that didn't matter. They would rather always have you pull over to the side of the road or off the nearest freeway exit, every time you need to search for something, or use the very iffy voice commands...

    The Pilot would win automatically in my book because it works while you're moving -- just like the Garmin and all the after-market ones do. But even if it weren’t for this, it would win because it also had the most comprehensive and best working set of voice commands and the most comprehensive control of non-nav functions from the screen. You could, for example, plug in your iPod and control it from the nav screen, seeing playlists, artists, albums, etc. Same for sat radio. Better still the voice commands control al these things too. You can say “passenger temperature 68 degrees” and it works. You can say something like (I forgot exactly what I said but I just did trial and error and it was pretty logical) “audio ipod track 2” and it works… Also, the new Pilot is using the exact same nav as the Acura MDX with just a few things taken out (the live traffic feature and Zagat’s I think), and the Acura nav is considered the best in the industry. My only gripe is I prefer the touch screen to the new “joystick” control that they have copied from BMW and others, but to each their own. It was easy to use, I just like a touch screen. Still, I would take the radical feature improvement over the touch screen any day.

    All of them navigated OK in my tests. None are remotely as good as the newest high-end Garmin or Tom Tom products, but the integration is important. I have a Garmin now and often don’t bother using it because I don’t like setting it up or having the dangling power cord, etc…
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    The AWD on the CX-7/9 works with throttle and G-Force readings from the DSC system, engine status as well. During a parking lot crawl below 10mph, the AWD is in total 100% FWD mode, above, it's in 90/10 split. Heavy throttle, snow, rain, cornering, and it can go as high as 50%, it all depends, but it is NOT a reactive system, it diverts torque BEFORE wheel spin, A highly common misconception of Mazda's AWD system is that it reacts and only diverts power only when wheel spin is present, not true in the slightest. There is a Normal, Sport, and Snow setting, all not controllable by the driver.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    If you want the other two, go get either
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    It sounds to me that the AWD system in Mazda is superior to that of Pilot or Highlander. I wonder why Mazda literatures don't "sell" it in more details and more aggressively. I know VTM-4 of Pilot is passive (reactive) and lockable (good for some people who need it). Not sure about the Toyota system. SH-AWD of Acura is very advanced but its cost prohibits it to be installed on Hondas.

    Maybe because of the 90%/10% torque split (above 10mph), the AWD system is always working on CX9. That might explain the worse MPG with AWD on CX9 than that of Pilot or Highlander. The FWD models of CX9 seems to be doing well as far as MPG is concerned.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    ... Many Toyota dealers these days call themselves Toyota/Scion dealers. So, solely Toyota dealers may not hold true these days, but considering the volume and prior knowledge, betcha those dealers are just as capable of servicing Toyotas just as fine prior to Scion arrival. ...



    Scion is 100% owned by Toyota and only offer 3 vehicles (if my memory serves me well). Mazda is only 30+% owned by Ford and offer many more vehicles than Scion.
    So, I consider Scion is part of Toyota. Scion vehicles are sold as Toyota in Japan.
    Mazda/Ford relationship is more distant. My nearby Ford/Mazda combo dealer only has 1 master technician for Mazda. When he is off, there is no Mazda repair scheduled.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    cx7lover wrote: If you want the other two, go get either

    This was listed as a reply to one of my posts but I have no idea what you are referring to. What "other two"? I haven't expressed an overall preference for any of the three vehicles discussed in this thread. I've listed pros and cons to each (way back in this thread). Someone asked today for an analysis of the navigation systems and I ranked the cars for that specifically, but that is hardly the only factor in an overall vehicle decision.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    I would not call Mazda's AWD "superior" to Honda's VTM-4 or Toyota's full time AWD system. I would say Toyota's is better because it uses a static torque split AWD that is 50/50 all the time.

    The Mazda CX-9 mpg's vary only 1 mpg from AWD and FWD applications. Also, it is 100% FWD until slippage occurs, and then up to 50% can be distributed to the rear as needed.
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    The Mazda and Highlander NAV systems are not game changers by any means. The Pilot system sounds neat, almost like the Ford Sync system--too bad the Sync system was not installed in the Mazdas.

    I would have loved a system like the Pilot's...but we didn't like the look of the Pilot at all, and it lacks a bit in power, imo......
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    aviboy97,
    what you described is a typical "passive" AWD. It detects slippage and reacts.
    Mazda's ATS-AWD is called "active" for a reason. Here is what the Australian Mazda website describe the Mazda Speed6's AWD (similar one is used on CX7 and CX9)
    ...
    http://www.mazda.com.au/Technology%20and%20Environment/Driving%20technology/Acti- ve%20Torque%20Split.aspx
    ...
    On top of that, there are three modes
    Normal, Sports and Snow plus a Power TakeOff module to assist fast acceleration
    by sending more torque to the rear. It also adjust torque split at turns. i.e. it is more active than passive.
    However, I can't seem to able to find the 90/10 torque-split that the prevous post refers to.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    No doubt in my opinion that Honda/Acura has the best OE Navi system in the industry . I have '05 Toyota Prius and '08 Mazda CX9, both have OE navi systems Both are OEM from Denso. Other than some graphic interface differences, they are very similar in usage model, also look and feel. They both suck compared with stat-of-the-art portable units. However, I cannot say that the one on my Prius is better than the one on my CX9. Maybe this is not a fair comparison since the '08 models of Toyota might have made some advancements in this area.

    Anyway, the speed-lockout on Toyota/Mazda is a big headache. Buyers be aware of it. One needs to buy an aftermarket kit to bypass it (essentially cuts the VSS input to the NAVI unit when needed).
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    I know it's not a reactive system, but, it does go from 100:0 to 50:50. It is not 90:10 by default like the previous poster said it is.

    In the Mazda, if you are on dry pavement and going straight, the system reads 100:0. If you enter a corner or are on optimum driving pavement (wet or slippery) then you are anywhere from 100:0 to 50:50. The power distribution is measured in torque, not total power or horsepower.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    Yes it does, it's never in 100%FWD mode unless you're in a crawl.
    This is from a speed6 driving event pamphlet.
    The AWD on the CX-7/9 is almost the same, but the mounting for the rear diff is much more secure, along with a cheaper setup that isn't as performance oriented (no limited slip)
    http://i33.tinypic.com/24q1k0p.jpg
    I can't find the link to where I found out it's 90/10 but it is.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    Other two meaning Pilot or Highlander, you seem to put them on a higher level because of their iPod interfacing ability.

    If I couldn't have iPod with Bluetooth, then I would just buy an AUX in cable and control the iPod myself. The click wheel makes that possible because it's simple, I can change songs without looking.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    I read your post a couple times. You seemed to mean that CX9 has no limited slip differential. Is that correct?
    The Australian Mazda website seems to disagree....
    "A new rear differential with greater torque capacity is employed by the system to deliver a high level of reliability. Increased torsional rigidity of the propeller shaft and rear differential mount improves the response of torque transfer to the rear wheels and delivers a more rigid feel to the ride under acceleration. And a limited slip differential is used in the rear differential optimizes transfer of torque to the left and right rear wheels, realizing solid traction and linear vehicle control that delivers a stable feeling ride when cornering."
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    If you followed this thread you'd see I have been even-handed with all the cars and ranked the CX-9 first in other areas. The CX-9 doesn't have to be first in everything to be a good car, so no need to defend it... Controlling the iPod from the iPod itself is not as ideal or as safe as being able to control it from the steering wheel or with voice commands, as you can do on the Pilot. And you still have to buy the after market switch to even get the aux to work and still have sat radio. Then you have to run a second cable to power/change the ipod while you use it (unless you are using it for short time and charging it elsewhere) and order yet another part from Crutchfield (etc.) so that you don't get static with the CX-9 while charging and playing the ipod through the aux at the same time. It's doable but I don't think the average person would say its as elegant a solution as the Pilot or even the Highlander in this particular category.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Sales figures of July/2008

    Honda Pilot: 7486
    Toyota Highlander: 6763 (including Hybrid)
    Mazda CX9: 1965

    (others, competiting)
    GM Lambdas (triplet only): 11,600 (combined)
    Acura MDX: 3477

    This may seem like CX9 is selling poorly, when in fact it holds steady compared with 2007. Both Pilot and Highlander were selling at nearly 13,000/month July last year. So, both dropped nearly 50% compared with last year's sales figures.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Yes it does, it's never in 100%FWD mode unless you're in a crawl.
    This is from a speed6 driving event pamphlet.


    I attended the Mazdaspeed6 driving event at Fort Worth TX in November 2005. What Mazda means by that is the rear diff is active, however, power is not being applyed to the rear wheels. The rear diff is active the rest of the time and power is applied as needed. There was an extensive Q & A session that related to Mazdas ATS AWD system.

    I have the Mazdaspeed6 drive event guide book too.

    There are still some out there that think Mazda's AWD system is a Haldex system. That, is not true either.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    Thanks for the info. It makes sense. By keeping the rear differential active, it certainly should respond more quickly, but it may also consume more energy. So far, the AWD on my CX9 has been working very smoothly (not on snow yet). I can't really tell when it is working or not.
  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    So Ford, like Mazda, says their AWD system can "predict" slip and react before the slippage actually occurs too. According to this Ford press release their AWD system can send power to any one of the 4 wheels sort of like SH-AWD (but I'm guessing not in the same way). Would the Ford and Mazda systems be one in the same or is the Ford system actually better?

    I know the default setting of the system in my Explorer waits until slippage occurs, and it can be felt to an extent (unless I pop it into 4WD-Hi or Lo of course). But the system in our Escape is seamless and I've never felt the front wheels slip or ever even noticed that it was in 4WD mode. And yes, it is a "4WD" model. :D
  • slamtazslamtaz Posts: 55
    Sales figures of July/2008

    Honda Pilot: 7486
    Toyota Highlander: 6763 (including Hybrid)
    Mazda CX9: 1965

    (others, competiting)
    GM Lambdas (triplet only): 11,600 (combined)
    Acura MDX: 3477

    This may seem like CX9 is selling poorly, when in fact it holds steady compared with 2007. Both Pilot and Highlander were selling at nearly 13,000/month July last year. So, both dropped nearly 50% compared with last year's sales figures.


    My interpretation of the above:

    Both Pilot and Highlander sold poorly this year, dropping nearly 50% to only 7,4++ and 6,7++ respectively, though these figures are still far better than the CX9 which is steadily selling poorly at a current level of 1,9++ :D

    Regardless of the figures, i believe that all three have their own strengths and weakness and each may certainly appeal differently to everyone. :)
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 49
    They probably just got that info from the Speed6, but the CX-7/9 infact does not have a limited slip. The speed6 does.

    The AWD is seemless, wheel spin never happens, unlike the reactive system on the Highlander. The Honda has a system that isn't as generous to send power to the rear, most Ridgeline owners report poor snow performance, they share the same AWD.
  • qs933qs933 Posts: 302
    Both Pilot and Highlander were selling at nearly 13,000/month July last year. So, both dropped nearly 50% compared with last year's sales figures.

    Toyota's press release has the following numbers for the Highlander:

    July 2008: 6,763
    July 2007: 8,858
    DSR Change: -29.5%

    Source: http://pressroom.toyota.com/Releases/View?id=TYT2008080117514

    A 30% drop is not good, but that's not quite the "13,000/month" and corresponding "50%" drop that you're claiming.

    YTD numbers for the Highlander are off just 8% compared to 2007.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Ford and Mazda use different AWD systems. While they seem similar, and they are, they are different. They are both FWD biased AWD systems. Also, Haldex supplies the AWD systems for the Taurus / Taurus X and former 500 / Freestyle. The Fusion and Edge / Flex use Fords in house AWD, which again, is similar to Mazda's.

    Now, on Ford's AWD Explorer and Mountaineer, that is a true full time AWD system that has a center diff and can distribute power virtually to any single wheel. The Edge/Fusion/Flex do not have a center diff, and cannot do that. They can only send power from front to back, not side to side (like the Explorer / Mountaineer AWD can) unless equipped with limited slip , like the Mazdaspeed6.

    Honda's SH-AWD is far more advanced then Ford/Mazda and Toyota in this case. SH-AWD is more like Subaru's Symmetrical AWD or Audi's Quattro (non Haldex Quattro).

    In my opinion, Mazda's system works very well with how they build cars. While there system is not the most advanced, their total vehicle package (suspension, steering and braking) assist in how well the car will grip the road in addition to the AWD system. In dry conditions, the CX-9 (or any Mazda AWD vehicle) is glued to the road. For example the Mazdaspeed6 has much better road manners then the Legacy GT Spec B which has a FAR more advanced AWD system, but can't handle or grip the road like the MS6 can.

    In foul weather, the CX-9 will do just fine. The cars weight helps keep the car dug into the snow, and the AWD keep you moving. It does do quite well.

    One thing to remember with any AWD vehicle. It is not how good the AWD system is, but rather how well it works with the vehicle that was built upon it. AWD is not everything. You need a total package (brakes, tires, suspension, ans steering) to compliment the AWD system so you can get the most out of it. It is up to the individual to asses what they think a total package is. Is it dry road handing? Is it deep snow driving? That is why all these cars are so different. One car is not better then the other for every situation.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    > A 30% drop is not good, but that's not quite the "13,000/month" and corresponding "50%" drop that you're claiming.

    Indeed, I overlooked the sales figure of Highlander for July,2007. In May, 2007, Highlander sold almost 12,000 unit. Check autodeadline.com for data.
    I assumed that two months should not make such drop in sales. Boy! I was wrong!
    My mistake in that sense.

    On AWD, I need to check my CX9 workshop menual to see if there is any reference to the aforementioned limited slip differential.
  • qs933qs933 Posts: 302
    Indeed, I overlooked the sales figure of Highlander for July,2007. In May, 2007, Highlander sold almost 12,000 unit. Check autodeadline.com for data.
    I assumed that two months should not make such drop in sales. Boy! I was wrong!
    My mistake in that sense.


    No problem. I can understand viewing roughly 2,000 units as nothing more than a rounding error when you're talking about sales volume.

    I don't remember when the 2008 Highlander first hit dealers' lots last summer, but I wouldn't be surprised if sales dropped as the '07s were blown out and the '08s made their way to shore.

    In any case, I don't think it really matters if one vehicle sells more than another. Mass market popularity doesn't necessarily equate to superiority.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,093
    > No problem. I can understand viewing roughly 2,000 units as nothing more than a rounding error when you're talking about sales volume.

    You did mean 1,000 right?
    (13000-12000 = 1000, not 2000) :)
    1000/12000 is about 8% off.
    True, the Highlander sale dropped because of '08 coming out. Between 12/06 to 05/07 Highlander was selling between 10,000 to 12,000 every month.
  • qs933qs933 Posts: 302
    Actually you were over 4,000 units off (13,000 - the actual 8,800), but my comment about it being a "rounding error" was just a poor attempt at humor (the CX9's sales volume -- even in a good month -- is less than the margin of error in our discussions of the Highlander). :)
  • baggs32baggs32 Posts: 3,210
    Thanks for the lesson avi, but I'm afraid I knew all of that already. Hopefully someone else learned something from your hard work though. ;)

    The Ford press release I posted stated several times that the AWD system in the Fusion, and a couple of other models, does shift power to individual wheels. That's the first I've heard of that too and I'm just fishing to see if anyone knows if it's true or not.

    Based on the information in this article that I the original question was posed, I'm guessing no one will say it is true. :shades:
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    lol....not much hard work on my part. I have posted that info several times, in several threads!....However, if one person got something out of it, it was worth it!
  • ch1rravuch1rravu Posts: 14
    Seeing the going prices on 08 MDX models, base model going for 33K, and top-of-the-line between 36K - 37K, certainly cutting into sales of top-end models of both platforms.

    Dunno what CX-9 purchasers cross-shop with though,
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