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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander



  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Highlander deserves to lose in sales (even with the new I4 engine offering) due to its lousy and cheap 3rd row seat. Just my opinion. ;)
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    I agree with all your assessments concerning the Pilot: in the end, it's a solid package that has a lot of good features. Honda did a good job packaging all the little features that people want right out of the box, even though the Pilot looks like that box. When it first came out, I would have bet that it wouldn't sell all that well since there was so many new, sleek CUVs, but man was I wrong. Functionality still sells, so it was a good move on Honda's part.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,728
    The poor tire choices Toyota is putting on the Highlander and Venza shows they are becoming the new GM. I don't think Toyota has the customer focus that Honda does.
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    My wife and I really wanted to like the Highlander--nice acceleration, comfortable, not too big and bulky--but there were many little negatives that made you scratch your head: no split seats on the 3rd row, no memory seats, the Limited had really fake-looking wood (which is why I would have picked the Sports model), the steering felt really light (reminded me of my dad's 1981 Malibu that you could steer with your pinky), and worse of all the dealers around us were locking us into really expensive packages. And there were signs where they cheapened out, like that felt headliner that looks like it was already pilling...

    They say that as a company gets bigger, it gets more expensive to run...I guess Toyota has to make cuts somewhere, and unfortunately it's showing in their vehicles.
  • lithnightslithnights Posts: 25
    Agree about the importance of the split 3rd row. That is what sold me on the Pilot over the Highlander. We've had our 2008 for two months now and have already utilized the split 3rd row multiple times.

    We've had someone sit in the 3rd row and still be able to fold down part of it for groceries or a stroller. Also, it's especially cool for the kids (nieces, nephews for kids in the future) to climb in through the lift, and climb into the split 3rd row since I have two car seats in the 2nd row. With the Highlander, that would be difficult to say the least.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Pilot: 8171
    Highlander: 6885 (inc. Hybrid and I4 version)
    CX9: 1568
  • carmamacarmama Posts: 3
    We recently purchased a Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring with moonroof and navigation after looking at/ test driving the following vehicles:

    Minivans: Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Toyota Sienna, Mazda 5
    SUV/ CUVs: Mazda CX-9, Ford Flex, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Honda Pilot, Saturn Outlook/ GMC Acadia, Lexus RX400h/ RX450h

    The CX-9 was the best fit for our family of 2 adults + 2.3 kids (3 year old, 2 month old, and 11 year old stepdaughter who lives with us in the summer). Passenger space and interior appearance are more important to us than towing or cargo capacity as we don't drive our own vehicles more than 600 miles from home. We fly and/or rent a vehicle for longer trips. We plan to have one or two more kids before we get another new car in eight to ten years, so seating for 6 to 7 was necessary. This eliminated the Lexus RX hybrids which I really liked otherwise.

    My husband is 6'-4" with long legs and the kids are taking after him, so legroom in all 3 rows is critical. He could not get comfortable in the driver's seat in the Mazda 5, Kia Sedona, or Ford Flex. I was surprised by the Flex, because the listed front legroom is similar to other vehicles that he liked. Sitting behind the driver, my 3 year old can kick the back of an all-the-way back driver's seat in every other vehicle we tried, but she had at least 8 inches to spare in Flex. If Ford had given the driver's seat a little more travel, the Flex would have been a stronger competitor.

    The Toyotas were overpriced compared to the other vehicles, and the dealers weren’t being flexible on price. So, we test drove an Outlook, an Odyssey, a Pilot and the CX-9. The best price we were quoted for an Odyssey EX-L RES/Nav was about $500 more than the best price we were quoted for the CX-9. The pricing on the Pilot, Outlook and Acadia was $3,000 to $5,000 more than the CX-9 for comparably equipped vehicles. Access to the 3rd row was easier in the CX-9 than in the Odyssey when all three seats in the middle row were in place. We thought the CX-9 interior was looked nicer than the Odyssey and Outlook, and the exterior looked nicer than the Pilot. With regard to the driving experience, the CX-9 drove much smaller than the Outlook (and I assume the Acadia). The CX-9 drove more like a car while the Pilot drove more like a truck. The acceleration and braking felt slightly more responsive in the CX-9 than in the Odyssey, but otherwise the ride was similar. In the end, we made the decision based on the vehicle that was the best value for our needs. Hopefully, our shopping experience will help others with their decision. I spent a lot of time reading these forums before we were ready to actually start vehicle shopping in person and found the information shared in them very helpful.
  • berriberri Posts: 7,728
    If Ford had given the driver's seat a little more travel, the Flex would have been a stronger competitor.

    I'm tall and also find that a frequent problem with Ford models. In fact, sometimes I wonder if they Ford family and their management team are all short people? Generally, GM seems to have better 6 footer accomodations, but not always. The problem with a lot of the Asian vehicles is short seat bottoms and backs which doesn't show up on your body until you've drive several hours so its hard to figure out on a test drive.
  • Hey carmama,
    Great review. Extremely helpful!
  • Has anyone driven the Mercedes R class CUV? You can get a used 2007 with about 15K miles for the same price as a new CX-9. It's a 6-7 passenger vehicle. I now own a 2004 Sienna and it's time to get something new. I have mixed feelings about my Sienna now with 65K miles. I won't buy another. The interior has many design problems which annoy me.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Has anyone driven the Mercedes R class CUV? You can get a used 2007 with about 15K miles for the same price as a new CX-9

    First off, finding a 2-3 year old family vehicle with only 15K on it is extremely tough. Second, a 2007 M-B will have extreme quality and reliability issues. Unless it is a CPO Mercedes-Benz, I would avoid it like the plague.
  • jcpharmjcpharm Posts: 92
    not only that, CPO will drive up the price to pay for the warranty.

    why an R-class? is interior comfort/luxury your most important priority? It has substantially less power (260hp for R350 and 210hp for R320), worse handling and only the R320 BlueTec gets better gas mileage (21mpg combined). I doubt it has more interior room than CX-9/Pilot/Highlander....and make sure it is not a rear-wheel drive R350 if you are in a snowy/wet area (R320s are all AWD i believe).
  • carmamacarmama Posts: 3
    I checked one out in the showroom about a year and a half ago, but did not test drive. It was a very comfortable vehicle and the R320 was intriguing. A new one was out of our price range by about $20K, so it never made the short list. I would be concerned about reliability on a used Mercedes unless you get a warranty that covers the entire period that you plan to own it. It will be much more expensive to fix than a Mazda, Honda, Toyota, GM, Ford, etc.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Anyone who had owned BMW/MB will tell you this...(and I did)
    unless your MB/BMW is covered under some sort of warranty (OE, CPO, EW, whatever), be prepared to budget money for expensive repairs and maintenance.

    Some folks will greatly tell you that, if you can't afford those expensive repairs (which actually happen quite often for German vehicles after 3-4 years), you are probably not "qualified" to own one. What I am saying is this.
    If you are thinking about owning a $50K German vehicles for long term, make sure that you can afford a $100K one financially. :(
    Otherwise, lease one (BMW covers all maintenance cost!) and return it at the end of lease. :)

    When I owned my BMW 540iA (1998-2007), I spent about $1000 average per year FIXING that bimmer. (after OE warranty expried)
    Brake pad/rotors per aisle costs about $1000 to replace, just so that you have a feeling of how much you are looking at. BTW, German use soft steel for rotors so that the pads and rotors HAVE TO be replaced simultaneously. ;)
  • I am the recent buyer of a 2009 AWD Touring. I am a researcher and I test drove the following cars, Honda Pilot (2nd choice but too noisy and poor handling), Highlander (Yawn and too expensive), GMC Acadia/Chevy Traverse (too expensive harsh transmission), Sante Fe (good value but too small, poor handling), Veracruz (too expensive, poor handling), Flex (styling too weird).
    I choose the AWD Touring as I needed 3500 lb towing capacity and I am not a big gadget fan so I didn't want the Grand Touring. Also the CX-9 had the best handling. After 16 years with a Suburban I needed something close to a car and the CX-9 fit the bill. Mazda has great incentives and the CX-9 is likely the best value in this lineup.
  • gks1969gks1969 Posts: 1
    Just have to say that we recently purchased a 2009 CX-9 and we have 2 kids ages 22 and 36 months. With the car seats latched in (two boosters with harness - Graco 3 in 1) there is access to the roomy 3rd row. Both sides of 2nd row 40/60 split slide all the way forward with the carseats latched. We are thrilled with the car so far.
  • Yes, a smooth, luxurious ride is now a top priority, My current 2004 Sienna is an AWD, which has a very harsh ride, especially when it had the run-flat tires. Now that I have regular tires, the ride is better, but not great. Now the car doesn't have a spare tire, so that will probably hurt me on trade-in. I have read in numerous places that many Sienna owners were dumping their run-flats and going with regular tires and keeping a air pump (car powered) and a can of fix-a-flat in their storage drawer. That's what I've done for the past few years, with no ill effects.

    I've very leery of the CX-9 with the 20 inch tires and it's "firm" ride. But I need features like powered rear liftgate, auto on-off headlights and other creature comforts that the Sienna has.

    You're right, I just checked Consumers reports and the R-Class has a bad reliability record. But I did find a 2007 with 15K miles for the low $30K area, but it is not a CPO, so that is a red flag. Maybe the 2010 CX-9 will have more options in the models w/o the 20 in. tires?
  • jcpharmjcpharm Posts: 92
    Other possibilities to consider then:
    1) Used Acura MDX (more luxurious and responsive ride and hopefully can get CPO)
    2) New 2010 CX-9 Touring loaded with options you might like (although Nav might only be available in GT as an option but you will get the "softer" 18" wheels)
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    I am sure your dealer will be more happy to swap out your 20" wheels with 18".
    People pay $$$ to go vice versa.
    CX9 GT has the features you listed: power-liftgate, auto-on/off headlight.
    What other creature comfort that your Sienna has that CX9 GT does not?
  • That's an excellent idea of swapping the tires if the ride is overly harsh. I guess the features I need are all in the GT. And probably some I don't want. I need heated seats, power seats, auto headlights, power liftgate, good storage for CD's, AWD, roof rack, two power receptacles in dashboard, good AM radio reception and some decent power to the stereo. (Sienna stinks in the area of AM radio and music amp power), and perhaps a sunglasses holder that can actually hold a pair of sunglasses, and a gas gauge warning light that gives you warning well before you only have 10 miles left in the tank. I could go on about my Sienna, but my blood pressure is rising now.

    I don't want blue dashboard instrument lighting (have it now on my Sienna-dislike), no NAV system(got my own that I'll plop on the dash for the few times I need it), no LCD display on stereo (hard to read in daylight and can't read with polarized sunglasses-Sienna stinks again), no run-flat tires (really stinks, grrr!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And another hot button for us is 3rd row access. Our Sienna has captain chairs for the middle row and it is so easy to go between them to get to the 3rd row. You don't have to touch anything. All of these CUV's I see, seem to have the requirement that you must touch and adjust the middle seat in some way, which is a hassle if someone is sitting in that seat at the time someone wants to get in the back. Kids fight over the silliest things.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    You have to show a valid title to prove that you own a Mazda for the loyalty program rebate. One owned by your immediate family (husband/wife) members may also be allowed (check with the salesperson).
  • man I *love* the xenon lamps...never had a vehicle w/them and they're great...course I haven't had a vehicle as low as the CX9 in over 10 years either (compared to an F150) so that may be influencing me a tad (brightness, vis to distance, etc)...but I like em. But what's this nonsense that I can't change them? that the dealer has to because they're HV??
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    >> But what's this nonsense that I can't change them?

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

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

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

    To qualify for the Owner Loyalty Rebate you need to show a current registration for the Mazda that is already owned plus a valid drivers license. This rebate is transferable in household only. Only family members living under the same roof can benefit from this rebate.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    That's why having you around here is nice. Thanks for clarifying.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    That's why having you around here is nice. Thanks for clarifying

    Anytime ;)
  • Has anyone done a comparison as to which of these cars (and the Lambda cars) can and can not fit a golf bag w/ clubs in the back of the car lengthwise? TIAFAR.
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