Video Review: Honda Pilot Is Useful Like a Van, but No Longer SquareDec 3rd, 2015
No longer looking like the box it came in, the new Honda Pilot totes the family with more refinement. Taking cues from its sibling, the popular CR-V, the Pilot now sports more curves.
By TOM VOELK/DRIVEN on Publish DateDecember 2, 2015. Photo by Tom Voelk.
Since its debut as a 2003 model, the Honda Pilot has pretty much looked like the box it was shipped in. But now, Honda throws a curve with the third generation — there’s no square anywhere. Squinted eyes will see a vague resemblance to the CR-V. Smart move on Honda’s part; the Pilot’s little sister is the best-selling crossover in the United States.
With three rows, the Pilot’s biggest crossover competitors are the Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer. And I do mean big. These rigs are replacing minivans for many families, even though vans are more useful.
The Pilot can be ordered with front drive, which starts at $30,895. The only biblical natural event not experienced during my week in it was locusts, so the Elite model’s standard all-wheel drive was welcome. The weather was so bad during my test that I actually used the mud and snow drive modes. There’s no mode for locusts.
Slightly larger but some 240 pounds lighter now, the Pilot is quick. On dry pavement, the dash from 0 to 60 miles an hour should take about seven seconds. And while the outgoing Pilot suffered from road noise, this new generation is much more hushed.
Every Pilot gets a smooth 3.5-liter 280 horsepower V6 with 262 pound-feet of torque. Lower trim levels shift with a 6-speed automatic with a normal gear selector. The two top models have a push button-activated 9-speed with paddle shifters. I find the niner to be occasionally indecisive. Its button operation takes getting used to.
Body movements are well controlled, but the Pilot feels large — minivan large. It’s comfortable, not sporty, with steering effort on the light side. Visibility is excellent, partly because the Pilot rides high. Again, like a van.
Great technology like radar-assisted cruise control is standard on the Elite. So is Lane Keep Assist, with cameras reading the road stripes. If the Pilot wanders out of its lane, the system gently nudges it back and vibrates the steering wheel. It doesn’t beep, so passengers won’t be alerted to sloppy driving.
Fuel economy is up by about 2 miles per gallon, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which rates the all-wheel-drive models with the 9-speed at a combined 22 m.p.g.
The interior is more airy and upscale, though it should at $47,320 as tested. Front chairs in the Elite are heated and vented; the steering wheel is warmed. The large center console top with its midcentury modern design is a solid perch for a purse. Inside, five iPads could be stowed. Adjusting the sound system volume with a touch surface is frustrating. A knob, Honda, give us a knob.
The Pilot can seat up to eight, but the Elite is capped at seven. A few passengers found the midrow seats flat. They get rump roasters, though, and children can hook any media device up to the ceiling-mounted display. More important to the parents? A simple touch slides the seats forward for easy access to the third row.
Row 3 is mounted low to the floor, meaning knees are high. There are belts for three, but I’d keep it to two.
Some competitors activate power lift gates when someone simply stands close to it for a few seconds or waves a foot under the bumper. The Pilot makes you use the latch, which is less handy with full hands. With the third row raised, the Pilot has space for three suitcases or a decent-size cooler. The load floor is reversible from carpet to quick clean plastic. With both rear rows folded, there is an enormous amount of room
Pilot owners tend to be loyal. A new sense of style, refinement and fuel efficiency should make this the Pilot more popular, most likely at the expense of Honda Odyssey van sales.