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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander



  • G.
    the enclave is a wonderful vehicle! I'd b happy to talk to you about all of the features and benefits.
    talk to you soon.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    1st: Highlander: 6980 (+907 hybrids)
    2nd: Pilot: 5601
    3rd: CX-9: 1716
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    Test drove the Enclave before buying the CX-9. Very nice vehicle inside and out, quiet ride, although it felt more sluggish and had more body roll than the Acadia and the the CX-9, and is definitely tuned for comfort and not for "sporty" driving. If you're into more of a "floaty" ride as opposed to a sports sedan feel, I'd recommend the Buick over the CX-9. At the time the Enclave had the transmission issue (hesitation, etc) and no bluetooth, and Buick wanted too much money for it, so it fell off our list. But with the new engines and features going in, I would definitely consider it if I was in the market.

    Buick is here to stay,imo. Sells very well in Japan/China. I think the Chevy Traverse is also worth a look, it starts out cheaper than the Buick but has a nice interior. But the CX-9 trumps both of those, imo, I still can't get over how well I can carve the twisties with it! (as you can see, I prefer a somewhat more aggressive "tune" in a vehicle).
  • golicgolic Posts: 714
    Thanks nxs, for that comparison. That does help. I do need to look at the cx-9, as well.

    Which car would you say has the larger cabin? And what about the cargo space behind the 3rd row? Basically, I need something where I could put a hockey bag, baseball equipment bag behind it. Does one vehicle have a significant advantage over the other in behind the 3rd row storage?
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    The Lambdas have more space behind the 3rd row than the CX-9. Of the Lambdas, the Buick seemed to have less room because of the interior panels, I believe, but you don't lose that much (you lose a bit in width, I believe, but again, not all that much).

    With the 3rd row up in the CX-9, you'd barely be fitting a hockey bag back there, so the extra few inches of room in the Lambdas might help you. As a practical example, when the 3rd is up I can fit 2 rows of grocery bags nicely on the cargo floor. In the Lambdas, you might be able to fit 3 rows.

    If storage space behind the 3rd row is critical, I hate to admit it but you'd be better off with a Lambda than the CX-9. The worse contender is the Highlander, you wouldn't be able to fit an umbrella stroller behind that 3rd row!
  • That's the great thing about the Sienna, it has the "storage well" behind the third seat which increases your storage space quite a bit because it is deep down and you can pile stuff up. I can't see why these crossovers can't have the same kind of setup. Advantage to the minivan in this regard..
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    My dad bought a Sienna last year, and to tell the truth, it's very nice. Tons of space behind the 3rd row, much more than the Lambdas. It has a lot of pickup, might be just as fast or faster than all these crossovers. And ease of entry with the sliding doors is nice with the kids. Crossovers have nothing on the interior space of minivans, I can see why larger families should flock to minivans as compared to SUVs, if not only for all that space behind the 3rd row. Since we only have 2 kids, the CX-9 was more than enough.

    If crossovers had that well, they would lose their "stylish" back end look (i.e. I guess you would really have bring the rear bumper down more to accomodate the longer door, and I guess the rear wheels would have to come forward a bit). But then again, there's no reason why they couldn't tweak a minivan to make it look more cross-overish, i.e. lose the sliding doors, and angle the back end a little more.....
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Highlander: 7761 (or 7781 - not sure) - including hybrids
    Pilot: 6735
    CX9: 2103
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    We own a Sienna, just a few years old (still current model) and still in great shape with low mileage, and now an '09 Pilot. The entire family now prefers the Pilot and the Sienna is only getting used when when both cars in in use at the same time. Don't get me wrong, we love our Sienna too.

    Overall, you definitely can fit more storage in the Sienna and definitely more if you have the full third row up for seating. And it is easier to access the third row and the rolling doors are very convenient. The downsides: You can't get an 8 seat version like our Pilot with the high end features and finishes (the second row bench is only available on the base model). As a related issue, the lack of a second row bench is also very limiting in terms of seating options for larger families. One of our three kids still has to be strapped into a 5-point harness in a child seat, requiring him to pragmatically be in the second row. In the Sienna this left only one seat available for an adult, requiring both grandparents to climb into the rear and be squished. In the Pilot they can both sit in the second row with more room than the Sienna third row. It has no factor-installed towing package and even the expensive after-market ones are limited by how low the back sits to the ground; The seating comfort for adults in the third row is much better in our Pilot than our Sienna. This surprised us, but my in-laws spend a lot of time there and said it was no contest. The AWD is not as good in the Sienna as the Pilot and it has no option to force it on as the Pilot does. The Sienna (no Toyotas yet) also doesn't offer iPod intergration, a critical feature for us. There are some other things we prefer about our Pilot over our Sienna but that's the top of mind. They get very similar gas mileage -- the Pilot does about 1 MPG better than the Sienna.
  • Citivas,
    Still hanging around this board? I've read all your posts about the Pilot..very helpful. I wanted to ask how you manage to fit two car seats in the 2nd row AND manage to get someone in the 3rd row. We test drove the Pilot the other day and were wondering how this would be done assuming you have a car seat on the left end and one on the right end of the 2nd row.

    OR would one put the car seats right next to each other (taking up an end seat and the middle seat)?

    I noticed only the CX9 would allow one to even move the 2nd row all the way up to touching the back of the front seats, without moving car seats.

  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    In my experience you can have up-to three car seats side-by-side in the second row, but you can't have more than one that requires tethering if your goal is still to access the third row by pushing the second row seat forward. Others have allegedly tethered two seats in the second row, side-by-side on the drivers side and middle seat but it would have to be a couple of untypically narrow seats to do this and still allow adequate clearance for the 40 percent passenger side to slide forward without interfering with the middle seat.

    This hasn't been a problem for us for two reasons: 1) We rarely need to move the second row seat to access the third row. By default our third row is used for our 7-year old who LOVES to access it from the tailgate. Same with her friends when we carpool them. With our setup we could easily move the second row but they neither find this as fun nor have the patience to wait for our help. 2) Our oldest now just uses an booster which is small enough to still slide the 40 percent side forward or if he’s sitting on the passenger side it is easy to temporarily move since its light and not tethered…

    Good luck with your decision and negotiation.
  • So for my situation (a 16 month old and a newborn) where I am going to need two carseats for the next 3-4 years, is it reasonable/practical to even get a car with a 3rd row? If I can't easily acccess the 3rd row without accessing from the tailgate, I'm wondering if it's worth having.

    If I had older kids, I could see them crawling from the back, but I guess I envision my parents (in their 60s) to use the 3rd row (trips to church etc.) and they sure aren't climbing in from the back.

    So is a 3rd row vehicle really necessary/useful for my situation? I guess I'm trying to figure out how much importance to put on the 3rd row (vs. other aspects) of the cars I'm looking at.

  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Your call. My best advise is to take your actual car seats and go try it out at a dealership. When we were shopping I took all three of our car seats/boosters for every test drive, even when I didn’t have all the kids with me, and made them wait for me to try installing them in the car and trying them out. Whenever possible I took the kids too to get their opinion of the cars. Of course they sometimes got caught up in the bells-and-whistles features but they surprisingly were opinionated about practical things like the comfort of the seats and visibility. That’s one of the factors (among others) that ruled out the Highlander for us – even my 7 year old felt crammed in the third row.

    In terms of your specific situation, how often will your parents be driving with you? If almost daily, yeah, I would say that will be a challenge and maybe a mini-van is the right call for you right now. As I posted previously, in terms of easy of access to the third row, that is still advantage mini-vans. But you should try out your seats and see. This a newborn, you’re definitely looking at a rear facing seat for the next year and possibly one that clicks in/out of a smaller base that is tethered. That changes the dynamic because the wider point of the seat is facing forward instead of competing with other seats against the back of the second row. You may find it is possible to place the rear-facing newborn seat in the middle of the second row (the safest place for it anyway), with the forward-facing seat on the drivers side (the second safest place, statistically due to drivers instinctive tendency to turn away from an on-coming crash) and still have room to slide the passenger side second row forward.

    The other question is how long do you plan to own? Your kids are pretty young. If you see this as a 3-4 year lease or tenure of ownership you may want to do mini-van now, CUV next (unless you find a CUV that works perfectly for you now). But if you plan to own it a while, consider the long term. Certainly in 3.5 years your older child will be downright excited to be crawling into the third row without moving the seats. My 3 year old is jealous of my 7 year old on that front even now and constantly asking to be seated back there.

    Good luck.

    p.s. For what it is worth, we're almost 6 months into ownership now and I will say I have been entirely pleased. We may have been pleased in the CX-9 as well, or at least the '09 that supposedly fixes the iPod and Sat radio problems, too but if we're happy there's no point in speculating on that. We all like our Pilot way more than our Sienna.
  • golicgolic Posts: 714
    I have 4 kids ages 8-3. And nothing beats a mini-van for versatility, ease of mom jumping into back area to pick up dropped toy, stop a fight, etc and CARGO space.

    If you are going to keep this car until or through booster seat age, then I would get the third row - you can always keep the seats down for extra storage on those family vacations or camping weekends.

    Since I refused to own 2 - minivans. Our second car is a 3-row SUV. I have had great success with the Pilot for the following reasons:

    1. The middle row seats lean and slide forward to access the 3rd row. Which does allow for a booster seat to stay in place. Not the best for a car seat.

    2. The third row on the Pilot - is the only car I know which is wide enough for either two car seats or two booster seats and kids can buckle themselves.

    3. I can also get 2 booster seats and 1 car seat in the second row.

    4. I would recommend a 3rd row, for the instances you take grandma and grandpa with you to the ball game, recital, etc...It also allows you to take kids friends on car pools etc.

    5. I did not look at the cx-9, but the buick and flex failed the Hockey bag and stick test behind the 3rd row. Cargo area is vital!!!
  • Will the parents be driving with us daily? No, more like a couple times a year, if that. Now that you've asked me that, and I've answered, it makes me realize that it's not an important aspect of the purchase. Now that I think about it, I think it's feasible to say that if we got a 3rd row vehicle, for now, it would be folded flat most of the time. And I guess if we needed to take a bunch of us in the car, my wife and I could scoot through the tailgate and have my parents drive up front.

    It would be interesting to see if the backward facing infant base and seat would fit next to the forward car seat, and leave the passenger side open to slide. That would be awesome. Maybe I will bring the seat with me when we test drive again.

    My wife is anti-minivan so they are not on the possibility list.

    How long will we keep it? Could be 3 years, could be 5-8 years. Who knows? I have always kept our cars a long time (2000 Maxima, 2001 Altima) but if we realize our needs don't match a car we have, I could see us swapping more often. I think that's realistic as kids get older and requirements change. Agree? I told my wife that as time goes on, we will realize things that we like or don't like but hadn't thought about when buying. Simply b/c we've never had kids and don't know what we'll need.

    It's funny you mention the kids loving the 3rd row..I've heard that from a couple people now. It must be the place to be for a kid!

    One last thing..what was the ipod issues with the CX9? Was it just the 2008 model? That is one big thing I like about the Pilot and CX9..the aux in capability and where they placed it.

    Thanks for all your feedback.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I have not seen the '09 CX-9 personally so I don't know its setup but have heard it fixes the iPod issue.

    First, by way of explanation (you may know but for those that don't) there are two different things: 1) An AUX port that allows you to plug in any input device and have it play through the speakers. The limitations are you are getting no power/charge through this method and you still have to control the device locally rather than through the car audio system (other than volume); 2) true iPod "integration." This is what the Pilot has built-in (in the Touring). It uses USB and both charges the iPod and allows full two-way communication with the device. As a result, you can control the iPod from the car audio system and in the case of the Pilot even by voice control and see all the info from the nav screen.

    The Pilot has both of these. The ’08 CX-9 had only an AUX, no iPod integration. You could order and after-market product from Mazda to add iPod-integration but it was awkward and had two problems: 1) The audio system had capacity for only one aux device so if you used the iPod integration you could not also have sat radio (some people got around this with an even more awkward A/B switch); 2) It still didn’t charge the iPod so you had to use the lighter port, but that sometimes resulted in an feedback loop that messed up the sound.
  • Wow 4 between 3 and 8. You and citivas are the real life examples I was looking for!

    You mention carseats in the 3rd row. Is this practical? Or did you need to put a carseat back there? I guess I figured it would be tough to get a kid in and out as compared to the 2nd row.

    I am now sold on getting something with a 3rd row. I may not use it all that often in the next year or two but I think after that, it would come in way handy. And in the meantime, the cargo space that the CX9 and Pilot offer with the 3rd row down will be great.

    How did the buick and flex fail the hockey stick test? Are you saying you can fit a hockey bag and hockey stick (I assume youth size) behind the 3rd row?
  • Ahhh.. I was wondering what true ipod integration is. I guess I thought it was cool enough just to be able to play the ipod directly (without a bunch of wires going into the stereo) but charging would be nice.

    So are you saying only the Touring has that USB port to charge it? I believe you are right from what I read in the brochure. I really didn't want to get the Touring (don't want the nav or RES for the amount of money they charge) so I guess I'll be stuck with having to charge the ipod outside of the car. It'll be my wife's car so we'll probably only use MY ipod when we go on longer trips.

    I assume you have the Touring? Do you find it worth the extra $3200 it costs just to have Nav, RES, USB, window shades, memory driver seat, premium audio? That's about the only difference according to my research. I'm having a hard time justifying that..especially when you can't even change the Nav while moving (and I could buy a $400 Garmin).
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    You can still charge without the touring by using the lighter port...

    I love the Touring for a few reasons. I love the NAV and use it all the time. With our last car I had the same thought as you and figured I would get an after-market nav. I got the top of the line Garmin. But there is no substitute for an integrated nav and the Honda has one of the best factory navs on the market. It is night-and-day better than our portable nav and much more convenient. We also use the iPod integration all the time, more than over-the-air radio. Charging is nice but the real benefit is the intergation with the nav screen -- being able to use the joystick or voice command to navigate playlists, etc. without having to mess with the iPod itself or take your eyes off the road. The nav screen is also great for getting much more data on audio and radio in general and has a nice, big rear view camera.

    But everyone has different priorities. These were just ours.
  • golicgolic Posts: 714
    Yes, we utitlize the 3rd row for both car seats and boosters. When they were younger, we would get them in the car, then just open the hatch and buckle them that way.

    Now the older kids can buckle themselves or they will buckle the 3 year old in the car seat if she is back there. As a previous poster said and I can attest - the kids do love the back row.

    The Hockey test:

    Test one - was to see if I could lay the stick flat with the third row seats up. This failed on the flex and barely made it in the enclave. My son is 8 and his stick is only going to get bigger over the next few years.

    Test two - was can I get the hockey bag behind the 3rd row. The problem with the flex was the body molding narrows - and it was just not going to fit.

    I didn't have the bag with me for the enclave test, but I am pretty sure it would have been like getting a 10bls of potatoes into an 8lb bag.

    The Pilot storage area behind the 3rd row, does not narrow in, it is square with the car and now it has a small well. The stick lays flat and the bag fits in like a glove.

    I will say this, the Flex was very impressive but just not practical for a sports family with 4 kids. The Buick is nice as well, but I think you can get just as much car for a lot less money with the Pilot, Flex or CX9.
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    We have the CX-9, and had the same dilemma as you did, since we only have 2 young kids (2 and 4 years old) in carseats: should we get vehicle with a 3rd row?

    Well, we use the 3rd row maybe 4 times a year, whenever grandparents come over and we want to take one car. Getting into that third row isn't the easiest for older folks, even though the seats in the second row fold down and push forward. This is mainly due to the height of stepping in and out. We end up sticking the kids in the 3rd row (our 4 year old actually doesn't like that one bit) so that the grandparents have an easier time getting in and out.

    Other than that, the 3rd row is always folded down, which gives you tons of space.

    Personally I would have been fine with a 2-row vehicle, something like a Murano, which would have likely been a bit smaller and lighter, thus better on gas. But to the CX-9's credit, it drives like a European sedan and I love taking it out on the twisties. So I guess it's a good compromise, in my case.
  • ewsncewsnc Posts: 14
    After reading through this thread, I got an impression that Highlander may have an edge of better resale value. So did a quick comparison of 2007 Highlander Limited vs. 07 CX-9 Grand Touring, both AWD with 30000 miles, and default equipment options on Here are the results:

    Excellent: $21245
    Good: 20195

    Excellent: $22575
    Good: 21475

    You may get slightly different numbers using your zip code. But the trend likely stay the same. With Mazda's aggressive incentives ($3k for 09 models), I think CX-9 represents tremendous values. I priced at local dealers 2009 CX-9 GT vs. Highlander LTD, similarly equipped, and consistently got at least $2K lower for the CX-9. I'm interested in both cars but lean toward CX-9 for this great look inside out and outstanding handling and ride. Welcome any thoughts.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Edmunds would give the edge to the Toyota for the '07 models in those styles, using a Houston zip code.

    CX-9 True Cost to Own is $45,251 over 5 years

    Highlander True Cost to Own is $44,075 over 5 years.

    You can run the numbers for new or used models and for different trims and zip codes.
  • We have two kids ages 4 and 5 and currently drive a Volvo S60 and have been looking for something with more room to carry additional passengers and more flexibility for the family - i.e. carrying larger items since we do not have a truck.

    We drove almost every three-row seat SUV and CUV on the market. Our decision came down to between the CX-9 and Pilot. I also like the highlander for the way it handled and smooth ride, but the interior material was not kid-friendly. Every used highlander I've seen didn't seem to "wear" well. I loved the look of the CX-9 and the way it handled on the highway. It was fun to drive. The only negative for me was the runners in the floors - I could just image how much junk would end up down in the runners with the kids. My husband who is tall felt that the CX-9 seats where too short and too cramped.

    We ended up getting a 09 Pilot. I don't like the look of the Pilot, but it was much more practical for us as a family. With the boxy design, it gives it much more room inside. We didn't feel cramped. Because of the type of tires (so my husband says) it doesn't drive as smooth on the road as the CX-9.

    I wished I could get more of the CX-9 look with the practical interior of the Pilot, but my husband is super happy with the Pilot and we got a good deal, so I think it was the best decision. We have a long road trip planned this summer and it will be nice to have some room for travel.

    I read through this whole discussion before buying and appreciate everyone's input. Thanks!
  • thegraduatethegraduate Posts: 9,731
    Thanks for sharing, and be sure to stop in and tell us how your family is liking the Pilot after a few thousand miles!
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Pilot: 6789
    Highlander: 5404
    CX9: 1795

    MDX: ~2200
    Veracruz: 1587
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Pilot: 6569
    Highlander: 5595
    CX9: 1179
    Varecruz: 1206
    MDX: 2337
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    I'm still amazed that Honda is selling so many Pilots: general reviews make it seem like an average SUV, even Consumer complains about lackluster interior fit and finish, poor acceleration, low mpg, and road noise (it rates below all the SUVs you have listed in May sales). I guess it does have good functionality, though.

    Then again, it is a Honda. Might be the reason why a few colleagues at work want to buy the new Honda Insight Hybrid, even though the new upcoming Prius is almost the same base price, bigger, quieter, and gets nearly 10 mpg more....ah well.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    First, I think you hit on it with “good functionality.” The ’09 Pilot Touring is my first Honda, so I have no loyalty to them. I did have loyalty to Toyota and have owned a variety of brands. I tried pretty much every 3 row CUV on the market last summer before settling on the Honda, including most of the luxury brands, so price was not a primary factor (only in relation to relative value for the money). I test drove the Honda early in my test drive survey and wouldn’t have guessed it would end up on top. I hate the exterior look, even now, and am not in love in the interior either. I would agree with most of your listed criticisms, except MPG. It’s not as good as the Highlander but is on par with any and better than many three row CUV’s. And in real-world conditions, it’s beating our Toyota Sienna and our former Lexus RX300.

    But virtually every other model was eventually eliminated due to lack of features. We absolutely refused to get new car without integrated Bluetooth and it was shocking this was still missing from the GM line even at the high end, especially since it is illegal in many states including our own to use a cell phone while driving unless you have a hands-free solution. I use the Pilot as my cell phone mic and speakerphone almost every day. I just say “call office” or “call home” etc. and am good-to-go. The Toyota was ridiculous with its lack of memory seats, cramped 2-seat third row that couldn’t split and its middle second row seat that was useless. And we really wanted true iPod integration, not the silly AUX jack most of the cars settle for. Between Sat radio and our fully-integrated ipod, which we can control by voice or from the steering wheel and read on the large LCD screen and never worry about the battery on long trips because it is charging, we never need the CD or AM/FM radio. And the Pilot nav is simply excellent, the best I have used including high-end Garmin and Tom Tom’s. It lacks real-time traffic data re-routing but otherwise is awesome.

    And then there’s space and capacity. We have used all 8 seats surprisingly often. The ability to seat adults in all three rows, have that 8th seat and to splint the back row 60/40 has been priceless. The capacity is great too. I can take a ski trip with adult skis in the back, with the second row up and half the third row still in use – so all the equipment in the car (not on top) and 6 passengers, no problem.

    I don’t regret it to this day – I love this car, more than I expected to. It also drives great. I also initially didn’t like the acceleration on the test drive but once I owned it I figured out the trick and now find it very responsive. It also brakes much more naturally and smoothly than any of the Toyota/Lexus’ we have owned.

    On top of all that, our Honda dealers in the area were much more competitive with each other and eager to make a sale than the Toyota or Maxda dealers – the CX-9 was the only other CUV I would have been happy with in the end, but I couldn’t get passed the screwed up, limited cabin tech on the ’08 model.

    Bottom line, some people prioritize style, some people the “ride,” and some people prioritize feature and function. Toyota scored a home run in the latter – even its Acura cousin doesn’t have the iPood integration, lacks an 8th seat (and the 3rd row is virtually useless for passengers). I really wish the Toyota had gotten it right – and I realize it did for users with smaller families and different priorities. But no one else touched it for features…
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Sorry, I meant "Honda scored a home run with the latter.." (I wish Toyota had)
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