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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander



  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    I don't know about you but I would not buy any SUV/CUV that drinks premium fuel.
    To me, the extra horse power/torque is not why I buy SUV/CUV for. I can complete understand the point of high-end luxury and sports car requiring premium fuel, though. People who buy them probably could care less about gas price.

    People are getting a fully loaded 2008 CX9 (MSRP for $40K+) for $31K to $33K. According to you, that is still less than the "base" model of MDX. Granted, MDX is more sporty (pulling 0.84g instead of 0.8g) and has better SH-AWD (instead of ATS-AWD). MDX is not as dominating as few years ago when Acura can charge mark-up over MSRP for them. Those days are long gone.

    I considered MDX before I bought CX9, but few things turned me off.
    - expensive (at least $8000 more comparably equipped - MSRP-wise)
    - small (wider but smaller in all else)
    - premium gas
    - no SmartKey (I am addicted to it. My key is always in my pocket.)
    - Acura does not give you better service than Honda/Toyota/Mazda but charge
    you more for it.
  • ch1rravuch1rravu Posts: 14
    As much as I had aversion on Premium fuel, it may ought to be a lesser turn-off these days. Say, you find a decent station that has premimum gas 20 cents over unleaded gas @ 3.80., its about 5% premium over your total Gas bill. Hence, premium fuel argument is less compelling these days .. compared to yester years. (Obviously, folks say, when gas prices are already that high, why pay an even a penny extra !? Can't debate too much on psychological/emotional points !! :-)

    Compare that to 20 cents when the gas prices were $1.30 ., it was over 15% extra on your total gas bill compared to the unleaded gas bill !!

    One of my cars accepts both, with regular/unleaded it gives decent performance, while with Premium gas, it gives out about 4% more horses with lean burning and better compression (company spec numbers, I am not making up ..). So, when/if I find a gas station with only 20 cents over unleaded prices, I rather fill-up with premium these days (see the above 5% only extra in bill point). But I do see there are a few gas stations - that want to charge 30 cents or more for premium., if their regular price is decent, I simply go with regular gas.

    By all means - I won't recommend premium for cars that are happy with regular gas, and have no added benefit with Premium gas ..
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    I think we were all wrong here about how the CX-9's AWD system works. I looked in the shop manual for the CX-9, and it is in fact a full-time AWD system. I believe it's something like 60-40 default. It's also a has viscus cupping diff's that can send power to either side of the car. There is also no limited slip like some there thought it had.
  • maltbmaltb Posts: 3,572
    I hate when I get viscus cupping (sic)...pretty much ruins my day.

    But seriously, there's no control mechanism on the CX-9 front or rear differential. The coupler is magnetic and mounts on the input side of the rear differential. So, call it Active Torque Split or whatever, you can still get stuck spinning two wheels.
  • cx7lovercx7lover Posts: 90

    A computer controls the AWD, using 34434 sensors to do so.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    For what's it worth, the price points for the similar fully-loaded top end model on each of these cars seems to have settled at different places, factoring in all the current deals and incentives. I am basing this on what the multiple deals posted in each vehicles buying experience posts here, excluding deals by one-time posters that don't back it up with specific dealer info.

    Based on that, it seems like you can get a fully loaded (nav, RES, etc.) Toyota for not less than $35K. The fully loaded Honda Touring can be had for less than $34K and the fully loaded Mazda GT for $31-32K... All three are offering special financing with Mazda having the most agreesive terms and Toyota the least. However, the Honda deals allow both the financing and dealer incentives to be combined which the others do not (though some have reported getting the best deals from Mazda anyway and still getting the financing).

    From a per economic viewpoint, the Toyota is the worst value and the CX-9 the best. The Toyota is also the only one in the bunch with no memory seats and with the least overall seating roominess. But it obviously has other benefits...
  • spi5spi5 Posts: 48
    CX-9 loses on popularity, resale value and brand image. However, it wins on other aspect like handling, styling, functionality.... That is why it had won on all comparison tests.

    I own a CX-9.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    For what's it worth, here in Central NJ, it is the Honda dealers that are being the most aggressive and good faith so far. I have gotten quotes comparable to the best listed on the fourms here for comparably equipped. The Toyota dealers are still a ways off and surprisingly the CX-9 dealers have been the least competitive (relative to the best prices listed in the forums here)...

    This is ironic since he Honda is an '09. They are really bending over backwards to move these... Don't know if that is a good or bad sign.
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    "(relative to the best prices listed in the forums here)... "

    That's because many like to lie about what they pay. Sites like these can sometimes do more harm then good and cause people to walk away from a good deal because of some of the garbage they read on the internet.

    Common everyone, you can't believe EVERYTHING you read on the internet!!!
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    It's easy to compare a price paid with TMV and see how far off the norm someone's price it.

    And right now there's some amazing deals out there. There's "secret" money to the tune of $4,500 on the CX-9 (dealer cash) and those deals are being posted about here, on Fatwallet,, etc. Civics are going for $500 under invoice and some people back in Ohio, iirc, were buying new Quests for $10,000 off MSRP a couple of weeks back.

    Sounds a lot more believable to me than claims of a rubber Bigfoot in someone's freezer. :P
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159

    Yes, there are great deals out there, no question. But, lets be honest here...not everyone here is totally honest with what they pay.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,572
    Some people post OTD prices and overlook taxes or tags or destination, but I don't think there's some nefarious scheme to post cheap car prices around here. Honestly. :)
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I think there are some fake posters but the "collective" of posters usually calls them out. The honest ones post the exact confirguation and specify whether it includes tax, title, docs and destination, etc., and they post the exact dealer they got it (or the quote) from. And even when you factor all that in, there are people getting great deals for all these cars right now. All I was saying was that in Central NJ, off the three only Honda was quoting comparable to the best (likely legitimate) deals posted here. The Toyota places weren't even close. I'm sure others are having different experiences elsewhere...
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Some folks posted what they paid for the new vehicles w/o mentioning the fact that they got a lousy trade-in value. I don't know why some people see that as a separate "deal", I treat my "money" equally...

    On CX9, the recent deals on newspaper of SF Bay Area is about $7500-$8000 off MSRP. That includes the $4500 cash rebate from Mazda if not taking the 0% financing.

    First, Mazda has image problem more than reliability problem. Some people only consider Honda/Toyota. Mazda probably is not even on their shopping list. It takes time for people to rediscover their interest in Mazda vehicles again. Overall, Mazda is doing very well. The sales numbers, revenue and profit show that. In fact, Mazda is the best performing company under Ford's control (~31% owned)

    Second, many people truly believe in CR (consumer reports) when it has been very biased toward Toyota/Honda for a long time now. They claimed MAZDA CX9 has poor 150+ft of stopping distance from 60mph, when in fact CX9 has one of the best stopping distance among its class (averaging 135-140ft from all magazine tests). That must have turned off many potential buyers. (one of my friends questioned me about it since I bought a CX9.) I don't blame them since Toyota/Honda vehicles are always good bet.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I ended up getting the Pilot this weekend. Happy so far, but not enough time to really judge fairly. I ruled out the Highlander in the end because it just has too many flaws I considered important and didn't get excited any time I test drove it (4 times in the end). The lack of the split third row, memory seats or iPod integration, the so-so nav system that doesn't work when moving, the limited second row (which is only really 2.5 seats wide) and finally the lack of great deals that made it at least $2K (based on the best deal) more than the Pilot or the CX-9... I would have considered the CX-9 if I could have gotten it for meaningfully less than the Pilot, to make up for my lack of enthusiasm about its tech and entertainment features but around here the Honda deals were comparable to the CX-9 and the lease deals were even better. The drive on the Honda is not as exciting (and we don't personally love the look) but it has the best seating and cabin tech, nav and entertainment in the class...
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    I agree, the CX-9 is not class leading in cabin tech. It's somewhat disappointing for a vehicle in this price range, but since it's my wife's car and not my daily driver, I really didn't need something leading edge. As long as it had bluetooth, that's all she wanted. But a better iPod integration, along with a real trip computer, would have made me happier....
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Just went to check out the problems with the new Pilot.
    Apparently, many new owners have issues with the electronics as well. What else is new? The electronics in automobiles is getting more and more complex.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Where did you check this, out of curiosity? I've been reading the forums here and a few other places for all of these cars and haven't see any reports of widespread electronics issues? I'd like to read about it so a link is appreciated.

    BTW, if there are electronics problems, its not the same issue as the CX-9 if that's what you're comparing it too. The CX-9 electronics issues aren't bugs, they are by-design limitations; simply the choices Mazda made, for better or worse. They chose to prioritize other things, like the drive, and unfortunately all the cars made compromises and for Mazda it was the cabin tech. Since that's not a priority for many buyers, assuming they did their market research right it may have been a smart decision. It just wasn't compatible with my priorities, and those of some other posters.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    There is a thread under Honda Pilot, called "2009 Pilot".
    I counted two people reported problems with Bluetooth so far.
    (one of the two is you if I am correct).
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    A trip computer is now standard on 09 CX-9's as well as an upgraded iPod integration system. It will be the same as the new Mazda6.

    Also, I have heard that the nav system has been upgraded with more user friendly features.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    I hope that the NAVI upgrade of '09 can be had with future NAVI disk upgrade.
    I am using a ScanGaugeII in place of the trip computer, which is missing on 07/08 CX9.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    The trip computer has been well reported but where did you get info about iPod integration? It's not in the Mazda press release and the local dealers I spoke with all said there was no change to allow true iPod integration for '09. The Mazda6 system sounds promising so that would be a welcome upgrade. Do you have a link to any details on this for the CX-9?
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I was one of the two, but I didn't have a functional problem with the Bluetooth -- I had questions about its capacities and how to use it, which I've since answered. It actually has been working fantastically -- one of my favorite new features. We have paired three phones so far, the two I carry and my wife's. It flawlessly prioritizes my main calling phone if all are in the car but seamlessly uses the others if it is not. We have never had to re-pair, never had to reset it, it just works. And we haven't had any failed calls or initial sound cut-offs of the beginning of calls (a problem I was reading about in the CX-9 forum). There was another poster who said they were having a specific problem with their LG Chocolate, but that's one person with one phone. I wouldn't draw any conclusions from that.

    I just re-read the entire Pilot 2009 thread from the point in June when real users/owners were posting (versus the many pages before it actually was in the wild). I would say the only issues reported by multiple people so far has been the exterior noise, probably from the tires, and some rattling from various parts, such as the optional cross bars. I think there is some legitimacy to this. I hear some exterior noise if I don’t have the radio on and it does sound like the tires to me. And I have had some minor rattles when I hit rough road, though I haven’t isolated if they are car parts or content yet (there are so many storage spaces with loose items and car seat tethers, etc.).

    I’m sure the Pilot’s electronics won’t be perfect, certainly not in every car (and the same could be said of any car), but it doesn’t sound like there is evidence of systemic issues yet either…
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    In the interest of closure from the back-and-forth I’ve done on this thread about the three cars as we weighed our decision, I will say the more I test drove and examined each vehicle the less I liked the Highlander. If I could have gotten the Hybrid for some reasonable premium over the non-Hybrid (as in 10% instead of 33%) I probably still would have because of the MPG advantage, but it wasn’t worth paying $15K+ more than I got the Pilot for or could have gotten the CX-9 for, especially when I liked those cars more but for the mileage advantage.

    I test drove the Highlander more than any of the others too. I kept coming back to it as our default since my wife loves her Sienna (and loved the Lexus RX300 before that) and liked the familiarity of the Highlander seating, drive and controls, not to mention reliability and the convenience of a nearby dealer. So I really wanted to like it. I suspect the problem in the end is that while the Highlander on paper is in a similar class as the Pilot and CX-9 it must really be aimed at a different group, for whom the third row seat is a cute extra for very occasional use. It’s designed for a family with two kids or less who usually will be hauling not more than 4 people and only need the convertible third row on rare, select occasions. For us with three kids and car seats, plus frequent guests in the car and the design to travel with all of them and luggage on road trips, the Highlander makes no sense. My default configuration on the Pilot already includes having the 40 of the 60/40 split in seat configuration and the 60 in cargo configuration. That’s not even possible with the Highlander. And there is a substantial difference in comfort and capacity in the thid row seating between the Highlander and most of the competition. I could not comfortably fit in the Highlander third row even on short trips but I can in the Pilot (and could have in the CX-9). This seat will have grandparents in it. The Highlander can’t handle that.

    But what bugged me almost as much as the third row was the lack of a real 3-seat second row. Again, this must appeal to a certain market, just not us. If you want a pass-through, seriously, get the mini-van; it will get comparable or better MPG and have more cargo capacity and much more flexibility and ease of access. We already have one for all these reasons. The optional middle seat for the Highlander just isn’t a full seat. You can’t fit most combos of three car seats across the way you can with the others, and you definitely can’t have an adult sit there comfortably – we tried. So it is really a 6.5 seat vehicle, with only 4 real seats. I consider all 8 of the Pilot seats “real” by comparison, and I am 6’1”.

    (I ended up seriously reconsidering the Acura again with the deals so good on the ‘08’s (really, it could be had for $5K more than the Pilot), but it was similarly the seating that kept us away. Like the Highlander, it really only has 6.5 seats of which only 4 can handle adults.)

    The seating was the driving factor but after that the little things bothered me about the Highlander. The lack of memory seats on a Limited with a $40K MSRP should be criminal. By comparison the pilot not only has memory seats, but ties it to the side mirrors and a variety of user controls including dash display, lighting and door locking options that can vary by user (it would have been nice to control the radio and climate like some luxury brands do but alas…). I also was really bothered by the rear view visibility in the Highlander. If you put the RES screen down, combined with the rear headrests they create a perfect storm that cuts rear visibility to almost zero. Really poor design. The gimmicky pop-out/GBA version of the CX-9’s RES had this problem too, but neither the Pilot or the CX-9’s conventional RES did – they sat higher in the visibility and only slightly obstructed the view. The loose-y steering (it really drives identically to our Sienna, so been there done that), NAV motion lock-out and lack of iPod integration rounded out my main gripes. These aren’t deal breaker by themselves but it was just hard to get excited about the perks of the car without them. The nav would have been mostly useless whereas we are using it even when we don’t have to in the Pilot just because its so fun (I’m sure that will wear off).

    The CX-9 versus the Pilot was a much closer call for us – styling and ride (CX-9) versus features, space, deal and confidence in the dealer. Honestly it could have gone either way. We ended up competitively quoting on all three from all kinds of dealers within a 50 minute radius. If the CX-9 dealers had been as aggressive as the Honda ones around here, who knows. Both are great cars. With the CX-9 my “excitement factor” would have been the drive itself. With the Honda it’s the built-in toys. If they fix the cabin tech for the ’09 CX-9 it may be my favorite…

    Anyway, that was our decision process. All are great vehicles and I can certainly see why each would be the choice for different drivers. I don’t expect to become one of those cheerleaders who can only defend and pitch my car in these comparisons. Good luck for those who haven’t settled or closed a deal yet…
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    I hear that the trip computer for the 2009 CX-9 is not backward compatible with the 2008 (or 2007 for that matter). So I can't go to the dealer and ask for a software flash, which kinda sucks.

    It should have been in the car in the first place, especially since this is essentially Mazda's flagship vehicle.

    I guess I shouldn't complain too much, though, since the Acadia didn't even have bluetooth until the upcoming 2009 model. Now that's a huge oversight...
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    When I asked, in pasisng (not remotely expecting the answer could be no) about the Bluetooth functionallity when I was testing the Enclave (Buick's version of the Arcadia) and was told it wasn't even an option, I seriously ended the test immediately after that. I told the dealer that I couldn't see myself getting any car without it (and am not interested in some third party after-market solution), let alone considering a car where the manufacture didn't see it as an essentail feature by 2008. He said it was being added fas an option or '09 but honestly it gave me a bad vibe about GMC. It I had loved the vehicle in every other regard I might have waited for the '09 but I didn't so I didn't...
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    I don't have any documentation. I was told that by a Mazda rep who came to educate us on the 09 Mazda6. Most of which was concentrated on tech features. According to Mazda, they really improved on the points where customers complained about the "user friendliness" and sophistication of the tech features. According to her, we should see these up grades in the CX-9.

    BTW, it really does seem that Mazda has listened. The Mazda6 tech features are much much better then the CX-9. By a long shot. I do believe that the full iPod integration will now show your play lists on the display screen, from what I understand.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    That would be really great if they do more than just add a trip computer and fully integrate iPod and voice controls of audio, etc. into the CX-9 both because it would improve one of its few weaknesss and as you say demonstrate Mazda's commitment to meeting its consumers expectations. Toyota by contrast usually makes a great, reliable vehicle but always leaves important things out (sometimes on purpose I think) and is slow to address them. With memory seats, for example, I have noticed they always leave this out of new models for a few years then add them. I had the same problem with my Sienna. No memory seats on the limited, but they added them two years later. That wans't an oversight, it was a strategy for gradual release of "enhancements" over the previous model year.

    Now if Mazda along with the AV enhancements could un-restrict the nav while driving and do like Honda/Acura with a user opt-in release of liability it would truly be the best in class in my opinion...
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    I don't know why manufacturers still play the game of introducing important features a few years down the road (like memory seats, or even full power passenger seats). I know that they want to make the product interesting for many years, but in essence they are screwing the initial customers who buy the car. Unless they honestly believe that people who bought first year models will trade in 2-3 years down the line to get the upgraded features.

    Oversights like that are part of the reasons we didn't buy the Highlander (no split 3rd row) or the Acadia (no bluetooth).
  • qs933qs933 Posts: 302
    I don't know why manufacturers still play the game of introducing important features a few years down the road (like memory seats, or even full power passenger seats).

    The dilemma for manufacturers is figuring out how to balance the individual needs/wants of consumers with building an economically-feasible, mass-produced product.

    It is a very difficult "game" to play, as you'll inevitably disappoint those whose "must-have" features didn't make the cut.

    For me, the Highlander hits most of my gadget wish-list: Bluetooth, power rear door, rear backup camera that's not dependent on Navigation, and Smart Key. I don't need memory seats and the 3rd row will remain stowed most of the time anyway, so I'm not too bothered by it not being split.

    The more I see the CX-9 on the road, the more I like the way it looks. However, it's just too long (the extra 10 inches makes a difference), and I'm not as confident about reliability and resale as I am with the Highlander (which may be more perception than reality).
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