Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander
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
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2009 Honda Pilot vs. 2008 Mazda CX-9 vs. 2008 Toyota Highlander
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.
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.
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.
Where is it seriously though?
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??
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.
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
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.)
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.
P.S. Look and styling are subjective.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
My Toyota dealer provides loaners when they have to keep the vehicle overnight (in other words, more than just an oil change). The last time I required a loaner, they had a fleet of Echo loaners, though last time I was there, I think they upgraded to Corollas.
Mazda-Galpin in CA gives you a loaner whenever you ask for one, you just need to put a deposit down.
Sorry, your generalization does not work both ways. What you stated right before that, about the YMMV-ness of dealers, is going to be true for all manufacturers, including Honda.
Some dealers are just plain better than other dealers that sell the same vehicles. It doesn't matter if it's Honda, Mazda, or Toyota.
Honda offered to replace the fuel filler neck and gas tank, but didn't want to hear about the $4300 worth of engine damage I had suffered due to the original problem.
I mean, we can throw out anecdotal claims all day. The last person in my office who bought a Mazda ended up pursuing a lemon-law claim due to multiple serious defects in the vehicle that the dealer either couldn't or wouldn't repair under warranty.
I wouldn't even try to expand that one experience (or even several experiences) to being an example of Mazda and its dealer's quality everywhere
If it was named Japanese CUV Comparo it would be different. But it wasnt. GM makes 4 versions of the Lambda. Pick one Edmunds. Chevrolet Traverse? Saturn Outlook? GMC Acadia? Buick Enclave? The Saturn Outlook is probaby the most comparable. Saturn is like the Mazda of GM. So there you go, perfect comparison.
Your probably one of these people who still bash GM because of their cheap interiors, when the interior on the Outlook is better then the CX9. The rear seat of the Outlook is better then the CX9. I've sat in all of them, I have driven everyone except the new Pilot. The Lambda is the best.
Honestly though I can understand that there might not be one in the press fleet. There can always be another comparo that GM can win.
Why do you suppose the CX-9 has beat the Acadia/Outlook in every other meeting?
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....
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.
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:
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:
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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).
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:
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.
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.
I do like how Honda sets up their models and options. Everyone complains about it, but Honda has made the process so simple.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.