2019 Mazda CX-9 vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Both the CX-9 and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, lane departure warning systems and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Mazda CX-9 is safer than the Toyota Highlander:







4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

309 lbs.

509 lbs.

Neck Compression

51 lbs.

73 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

107/424 lbs.

409/517 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Mazda CX-9 is safer than the Toyota Highlander:





Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.4 inches

.6 inches

Hip Force

195 lbs.

348 lbs.


Into Pole


5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

15 inches

16 inches




Spine Acceleration

35 G’s

43 G’s

Hip Force

553 lbs.

829 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the CX-9 the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 62 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Highlander has not been fully tested, yet.


The CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. produces 65 more horsepower (250 vs. 185) and 126 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl. The CX-9’s 2.5 turbo 4 cyl. produces 47 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the CX-9 FWD gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander w/Start/Stop FWD V6 (22 city/28 hwy vs. 21 city/27 hwy).

Brakes and Stopping

The CX-9 stops shorter than the Highlander:





70 to 0 MPH

178 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

123 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

143 feet

146 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the CX-9 has larger tires than the Highlander (255/60R18 vs. 245/60R18).

The CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander SE/Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has standard 20-inch wheels. The Highlander’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The CX-9 has variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the CX-9’s wheelbase is 5.5 inches longer than on the Highlander (115.3 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

The CX-9 Signature AWD handles at .85 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The CX-9 Signature AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.6 seconds quicker than the Highlander LE (26.7 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28.3 seconds @ .64 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the CX-9 has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Highlander (8.8 vs. 8 inches), allowing the CX-9 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Passenger Space

The CX-9 has 1 inch more rear legroom, .3 inches more rear hip room and 2 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

Cargo Capacity

The CX-9’s cargo area provides more volume than the Highlander.




Behind Third Seat

14.4 cubic feet

13.8 cubic feet

The CX-9’s cargo area is larger than the Highlander’s in almost every dimension:




Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)



Max Width



Min Width







The CX-9’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Highlander’s (3500 vs. 1500 pounds).


The CX-9 offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The CX-9’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Highlander’s standard rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the CX-9 Grand Touring/Signature has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Highlander doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The CX-9 has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Highlander.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the CX-9 is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the CX-9 than the Highlander, including $191 less for a starter, $218 less for fuel injection and $649 less for a timing belt/chain.


The CX-9 was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Five/10Best Trucks” for 4 of the last 12 years. The Highlander has never been a Car and Driver “Top Five/10Best Truck” pick.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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