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Honda Pilot vs Mazda CX-9 vs Toyota Highlander



  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Our stroller fit fine behind the Highlander with the 3rd row setup when we tested it several times... I guess it depends on the stroller model.

    If your goal is the most room behind the 3rd row, you should look at the '09 Pilot which has more than the CX-9. It has more seating capacity and legroom too...

    I agree that some people are very defensive about their particular cars and sometimes feel the need to "dis" the competitors as a way of somehow elevating their preferred car. I wish people could just have a straight-forward discourse on the pros/cons. I will almost certainly end up with one of the these three cars soon but whichever one I get will be a compromise of my requirements and the fact that I pick one and own it won't suddenly make me blind to those limitations or a "cheerleader" for the car / critic of the others. They all seem like great vehicles and its frustrating no one got it 100 percent right for me, but oh well. Which is best will still come down to each individuals priorities. My problem is I don't have any one priority that outweighs the others...

    At the end of the day I have one thing that is still holding me back on each of these vehicles, more than the other little things for each:

    1) Highlander: lack of a split 3rd row. Really dumb.
    2) Pilot: Lack of responsive acceleration or braking.
    3) CX-9: Sub-par electronics / radio / tech integration.

    Each of these things is really important to me. Some of you may not care that much about the car tech and if so I would recommend the CX-9. Some of you don't care about the third row in which case the Highlander is a great choice unless you are picky about the "feel" of the drive, in which seriously consider the CX-9. Some of you may not care about responsive acceleration in which case the Pilot is a compelling choice unless you don't like the retro-SUV look or are a bargain hunter (in which case, again, the CX-9 is a great choice right now). Some of you want the comfort of a top tier rated brand (not just for reliability but for breath of after market options, # of dealers, etc.) in which case if you are hung up on that save yourself the stress and skip the Mazda. The Mazda fans can counter all they want but if someone doesn't feel good about it or trusts CR or whatever, let them; no need to try and talk them out of their perception...
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    The only CUV missing from your list is the Acadia/Outlook. I believe it has the most room behind the third row, and drives nicely (except for a bit of gear hunting and transmission hesitation). No bluetooth, though, you have to pay a monthly fee for their OnStar to get the equivalent technology. Nonetheless, I think it's the closest thing to a minivan replacement at the moment. My wife and I didn't like the transmission hesitation, and it felt "big" to drive, so it didn't make our list, but otherwise it's a nice vehicle. And we also didn't need a minivan replacement--else we would have bought an actual minivan.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I limited my list to those in the title of this tread (and they are my finalists) but I did test drive and research many more including the GM models (GMC, Buick and Saturn). The fact that they still didn't have an integrated bluetooth option was a deal breaker for me, but I also didn't like the drive (sluggishness of acceleration, etc.) -- so it sounds like the same problems you had. I liked the Acura but was disappointed they had no ipod or even aux option at all and I didn't like the fuel econ. Also its third row was less usable than any of the three in this comparison (though it did split). The Lexus didn't have a 3rd row. The audi and BMW had ridculously small third rows. Etc.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Let us be clear to people who plan to buy. The "sub-par electronics" of CX-9 refers to the integration of iPod interface and Sirrus Radio, correct? I have neither and I see 0 problem with the electronics of my CX9.

    The Highlander also turned me off at first sight of the 3rd bench. I never even test-drove it. I waited for the Pilot until I saw the 1st photo release from Honda. I went to Mazda dealer the next day.

    To each his/her own. Buying a vehicle is such a complex formula. Some of us are owners of those vehicles already. Let us focus on providing experience, knowledge and information to help those who plan to buy. :)

    I own Honda stocks. I should be an advocate for Pilot, really..... not CX9.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    See, that sounds defensive which was my point...

    In any event, the only reason I abbreviated my reply was I had already gone into extensive detail on it about 85 posts ago in this thread. For me there is a general lack of sophistication to the user-controllable electronics package of the CX-9 compared to the competition. I am not saying it doesn’t work or isn’t reliable or that the stereo is under-powered, etc. I have no issue with those things.

    I am saying I value a complete “tech” experience – a display that tells me the temp, inside and out, that shows me the tire pressure of my individual tires, that shows me statistics about my trips or overall car performance, that shows me extensive data about what I am listening to, whether it be the radio, satellite, CD or iPod, that allows me full control of my iPod (since for MILLIONS of people that is the sole source of their music listening and the CD is now irrelevant), etc. I want to be able to change car configurations from this display, I want it to be easy to glance at and read. And I want it all factory integrated with no need for dealers or after market people to mess with the wiring, etc. I think in a few years not having all this integration will be like not having power windows or door locks. It’s just slightly ahead of the curve to expect it in a vehicle now as standard but I choose to have that expectation and much of the competition is meeting it. I think the Mazda is a great car but for those that prioritize this user tech it is a real weakness in the overall package.
  • msammsam Posts: 15
    Thanks for sharing. Currently, my preference stands as follows:

    a) Mazda CX9 (gripes - would prefer a little less longer vehicle, improved electronics including trip computer)
    b) Honda Pilot (gripes - acceleration and braking, center console layout)
    c) Toyota Highlander (gripes - no split third row, higher price for the options I am interested in)
    d) Acura MDX (gripes - not sure about reliability, overall costly including premium grade fuel)

    I should say that I am waiting for what the 2009 models of Mazda CX9 and Toyota Highlander have to offer to make up my mind on one. Maybe I will wait until the 2010 models!! Too confusing because a lot of vehicles offer a lot of good things.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    While I have no insider knowledge, it seems like you may have to wait a while on the 2009 Highlander. Whereas Mazda dealers are saying the new CX-9 is "coming soon" etc., all the sources I have seen for Toyota refuse to even speculate and there is virtually no info out there on when it is coming or what will have changed. I think Toyota is keeping the date fluid and pushing it out as long as possible to use up 2008 inventory which they still have a LOT of. We may not see the new Highlander until well into the fourth quarter. If I knew for sure they were fixing the seat split in the new model, I would wait for certain. I just don't have any faith they will. For all of Toyota's pluses, they are not known for being quickly responsive to customer feature requests or being introspective about the flaws in their own designs. I bet we may see some new colors and not much else.
  • sethnagasethnaga Posts: 50

    1) First of all Acura MDX is out of this league since it is a Luxury SUV.
    2) If you are in to buying luxury SUV, you need to look at different list - RX 350, FX etc
    3) You statement that you are not sure about Acura reliability- you need to do more research before deciding to buy - Acura/MDX is one of the most reliable SUV out there with RX 350
    4) If one should buy a 40K+ performance SUV, they should be able to afford premium fuel.
  • ch1rravuch1rravu Posts: 14
    We do, really, ran out of gas. Any interesting points we can share and discuss here on this Comparo ?

    One observation - Yota folks may not be the first folks to jump at adding new configurations/options real-fast, but they sure are the best in fixing current-set of any small issues, along the way. If there are any problems left by first year model run, consider all (if not most) of 'em fixed in 2009 year update, but gotta wait till 4th quarter @ current rate of SUV/CUV sales everywhere. Wish Highlander gets mild-increase in steering resistance for 2009.

    Dunno what to say about 2009 Pilot yet, haven't driven one yet. But, I do want to figgure if mileage has improved on this model yet !! So far reasonable consumer reviews on edmunds.

    Wonder which vehicle going to get good awards in 2009 and beyond ?
  • msammsam Posts: 15

    Reliability-wise, that is what I would have figured. Yes, I am still doing my research on the Acura MDX. Up until the 2006 model, I am seeing a number of consumers report transmission issues and the rear impact rating to be poor. It seems like the major problems have been addressed in 2007, but still if you even look at the consumer reviews on edmunds, people are reporting way more problems than have been reported for these other 3 vehicles that I am considering. Of course, as far as the Pilot goes, we have to wait a bit more.

    I am considering the Acura and not many other luxury SUVs because it offers adult 3rd row seating with enough space behind the third row as well.

    It is not about whether I willl be able to afford the vehicle and the premium grade fuel. It is about - do I feel comfortable (not from a money standpoint) spending that much initially and on a regular basis.
  • sethnagasethnaga Posts: 50

    If you are considering buying an MDX, you should buy NOW, because the current rebates are very attractive. I have negotiated 37,800K for a MDX with Tech and power tail gate which is 7200 below MSRP. There is a rumor that Honda may throw in another 1000 to 1500 rebate by 1st of Aug. If that is the case, we are looking at 8000 below MSRP - a killer deal for an MDX

    I purchased a 2007 pilot last year drove it for 12000 miles and sold it last week. While Pilot is good, it performs and looks more like a minivan. I have negotiated RX 350 for 38K, but the model is changing in another 6 months, it does not have 3rd row seat, FWD/AWD is a joke compared to MDX SH drive and you can't operate the Navi while the car in motion. The maintenance cost is also very high.

    No company has achieved zero defects. So few will have issues. We can't base our decisions because some had issues. If you read RX 350 forums, (Rx 350 is the most reliable SUV), one of the biggest issue in 2008/2009 RX 350 model is the rattle noise. Most of Toyotas ride like a boat and do not have personality of a sporty ride.

    However if you are not comfortable with premium Gas, you need to look at others, but you will be trading of the Performance. IMHO currently MDX has the best balance of price. handling, reliability, style and gas millage currently in the market
  • aviboy97aviboy97 Posts: 3,159
    Mazda has the solution for the aux / Sirius Radio / Nav working in perfect harmony. There is a switching box necessary if you are to activate the Sirius radio and you have nav in the car and you still want your aux jack to work. The reason Mazda does not equip the car with it already is because it is expensive, and a small percentage of owners actually have all three systems.

    If you Mazda dealer had any know how, they would tell you this.
  • maltbmaltb Posts: 3,572
    I think he was referring to the full iPod integration, not the AUX input jack. Currently, that can't be combined with SAT but the word on the street is that this will change for '09.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Official Mazda news release excerpt
    New or enhanced for 2009 CX9:

    * Trip computer standard on all models
    * Bluetooth phone capability added to Sport model
    * Sirius satellite radio added to Moonroof, BOSE® Audio Package and Rear Seat Entertainment System Package
    * Auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink® added to Grand Touring model
    * Heated seats and heated outside mirrors added to Sport Power Seat Package
    * Trailer tow preparation standard on AWD

    So it seems that my trip computer complaint has been addressed. The "sub-par electronics" issue might be taken care of with 2009 model.
    "2009 Pilot vs 2009 CX9 vs 2009 Highlander" should be a better comparison.
    Let us know what is new for 2009 Highlander if anyone knows.
  • clairebclaireb Posts: 12
    Well, originally, I was going to buy a Honda Pilot, but I was put off by three things.

    A friend has 2008 model and she says she doesn't like the visibility (blind spots); she has also accidentally knocked her keychain while driving and turned the engine off while driving on the freeway - has happened to her twice now.

    Lastly, I don't like the look of it anymore, I much prefer the CX-9.

    (Personally, I also have to say that the CX-9 is a huge improvement over my old car - Ford Windstar - in so many ways I can't count them - maybe if I was coming from a high end car I would pick at it more, but for me this has so many advancements that to me even the navigation system seems amazing :) )
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Well, claire,
    If money is less of an issue, buy CX9 or Highlander with SmartKey access.
    There is no key to knock of while driving.... :)
    The SmaryKey is such a convenient feature. Once you have it, you will understand.
    SmartKey is not available on Pilot. (Most Acuras don't have it except for RL).
    Unfortunately, SmaryKey is always part of an expensive package. :mad:
  • vrmvrm Posts: 308
    As a 06 Pilot owner, the failure of my air conditioning system with only 51,000 miles and the general arrogance displaying by Honda towards consumers in both customer service and the abysmal design offerings by Honda force me to go elsewhere, I'll either buy the quality offering by Hyundai in the 'Veracruz' or wait for the 4-cylinder Santa Fe in 2010.

    I feel your pain. Does the 2006 Pilot have a documented problem with the A/C system? Or is this an isolated case?
  • nikbertnikbert Posts: 20
    no love for tribeca? is it really that bad...?
  • msammsam Posts: 15
    I considered the Subaru long and hard. It seems to be actually very good. No third row curtain air bags put me off. I was hoping the 2009 model would have it, but from the information I have, that is not the case.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    Mazda has the solution for the aux / Sirius Radio / Nav working in perfect harmony. There is a switching box necessary if you are to activate the Sirius radio and you have nav in the car and you still want your aux jack to work. The reason Mazda does not equip the car with it already is because it is expensive, and a small percentage of owners actually have all three systems.

    If you Mazda dealer had any know how, they would tell you this.

    From reading this and other forums as well as talking with my two local dealers, I don't consider Mazda's dealer-installed solution as good or complete as a factory-installed options for several reasons:

    1) It does not work with iPod integration option. You can use it to get your aux jack to work but Mazda will tell you it won't work with their iPod integration device, so you will be able to plug the iPod into aux but not control it from the screen or charge it, etc.

    2) Based on many postings here and on other Mazda user sites, it sounds like a lot of Mazda dealers are not experienced in adding this switch without side-effects, such as screwing up the bluetooth functionality (fixable but with a lot of hassle). There are numerous posts of Mazda dealers indemnifying themselves before ordering and installing the switch for their customers -- i.e., they refuse to warrant that it will work and will charge the people whether it does or not, so it is at the customer's risk. This is no better than buying an after market product from any third party place. That may be fine for some, for for others like myself it is not worth the hassle or risk.

    3) There is another known issue with the Mazda wiring that requires you get an additional 3rd party module to fix the ground wire causes static when charging the iPod at the same time as playing it through the aux.

    4) Even with all this, the display options for Sat and Aux data is limited, with truncated song titles, etc.

    Again, I am not dissing the CX-9. Great vehicle. And some people may not prioritize this user tech and entertainment control. But for those of us that do, the after-market fixes just aren't as good as what is offered in some of the competition right now. If cost was the issue, they could have made these fatcory options like some others do. It seems like they just opted for a cheaper base radio / electronics package in general (i.e. only one port shared with aux and sat) which requires more complicated / less comprehensive work-arounds.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    SmartKey is not available on Pilot.

    The '09 Pilot I test drove had a smart key (i.e. keyless/proximity ket entry and start). I assumed it was an option in the GT model I was testing and not a dealer add-on but I didn't ask...
  • msammsam Posts: 15
    Nice improvements on the CX9. Somewhere I read that it may also have a direct injection engine thereby improving fuel economy. Are you aware if this is the case?
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    Apparently direct injection engine is not on 2009 model of CX9. I don't think Pilot or Highlander engines are equipped with direct injection either.
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    > The '09 Pilot I test drove had a smart key (i.e. keyless/proximity ket entry and start). I assumed it was an option in the GT model I was testing and not a dealer add-on but I didn't ask...

    Are you sure? I can't find such reference even at
    Also not in their official news release.

    BTW, there is no GT model for new Pilot. Did you mean CX-9 GT (Grand Touring) model?
    Pilot has Touring model, which is their top of the line. It comes with traditional remote entry only. (according to their website)
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    I wonder if anyone has in-depth knowledge of the 3 different AWD systems on Pilot, Highlander and CX9. Pros and cons of each?

    Mazda does not spend many words on describing their AWD system. "Active-torque split" is all Mazda says about it. The system can distribute torque from 100%F-0%R to 50%F-50%R.

    In addition, people who opt for 20" wheel on CX9 better know that Mazda does not recommend putting tire chains on them (due to rubbing). So, if you live in an area where you need tire chains in winter even with AWD, you better skip the GT model
    or swap out the 20" wheels with dealer for less expensive 18" (same style) ones.
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I meant the Touring... Like I said, I didn't ask if it was factory or a dealer add-on...
  • citivascitivas Posts: 144
    I am not an expert on AWD/4WD systems, but I can tell you there is an extensive discussion on it for the Highlander AWD in that section of this forum. There is a thread dedicated to it. The consistent rap from otherwise happy owners is that it isn't very good and some have been disappointed by the performance in snow, etc. The Honda by comparison seemed to have an ability for the user to force-engage it which the Toyota didn't. I haven't read or seen much about the Mazda's system.
  • nxs138nxs138 Posts: 481
    Based on many postings here and on other Mazda user sites, it sounds like a lot of Mazda dealers are not experienced in adding this switch without side-effects

    When I bought my CX-9 back in February, my bluetooth didn't work, which irritated me to no end. However, the dealer already knew about the issue (something about the install of Sirius radio at the port, which screwed something up, a sort of splitter is required), and fixed it right the first time, and while they were at it installed the switching box I had bought for free (i.e. I was not charged for labor). Now to your point, there are earlier posts about dealers not knowing anything about the switching box, but I believe this is mostly a non-issue by now.

    So it all depends on the dealer, I've had nothing but good experiences. Heck, I even called Mazda Corp to send me a Zoom-Zoom sticker, and not only did they send me the sticker, they also sent me a $5 Starbucks gift card!

    If the 2009 models get the whole trip computer thingy, I wonder if I could retrofit that into my 2008....
  • cericceric Posts: 1,092
    From what I read and what I experienced, if you have a Mazda, I would recommend you to go to independet Mazda dealers for repair/service, not the Ford/Mazda combo ones. The former tend to be more knowledgeable about Mazda vehicles. After all, Ford and Mazda aren't exactly the same vehicles.

    Honda and Toyota owners don't have such issue since they should all be independent AFAIK.
  • ch1rravuch1rravu Posts: 14
    Many Toyota dealers these days call themselves Toyota/Scion dealers. So, solely Toyota dealers may not hold true these days, but considering the volume and prior knowledge, betcha those dealers are just as capable of servicing Toyotas just as fine prior to Scion arrival.

    Have anybody compared Navigation systems among these vehicles ? How well they do, how user-friendly these are, and how often company releases map-updates @ reasonable price ?

    We have a GARMIN, and are very happy with it, except for the power cable hook-up we oughta do each time we board vehicle (because we take the unit away with us each time we get off)

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