Honda was one of the pioneers of the 3-row midsize SUV when it released the Pilot in 2002. Since then, this SUV has only improved. Known for an adult friendly third row, the latest generation has even more room. The top trims now receive a nine-speed automatic transmission that smooths out the power curve and improves efficiency. So sit back, buckle up, and let your Pilot take you anywhere you need to go.
What has 3-rows, 280 horsepower, and seating for 8 at just a hair above thirty grand? The Honda pilot of course! The Pilot offers a lot of SUV for the money with few negative attributes. That’s a reason why it’s consistently in the top 20 best-selling SUVs. The Pilot does an excellent job of balancing price, performance, and practicality, what more could you need?
The 280 horsepower 3.5 Liter V6 supplies enough grunt to handle city or highway driving. The same power plant powers the Acura MDX, which we admired for its tip top performance. It’s paired with either a six-speed automatic or nine-speed paddle shiftable automatic. The latter is preferable, as the gearing always has power readily available. This Pilot is a little larger than the last one yet offers better driving dynamics, thanks to a stiffer chassis and firmer suspension.
We wouldn’t describe the handling as sedan-like, but it’s a lot better than you’d expect from an eight passenger vehicle. A 6.2 second zero to sixty puts the Pilot toward the top of the pack of midsize SUVs. Fuel economy isn’t bad, the EPA rating is 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The steering wheel is well weighted and responsive, though it’s not the best in the class. The brakes are the one weakness in an otherwise impressive performing package. They function well but are prone to warping which can cause frequent replacement adding up to thousands of dollars. The Pilot performs admirably for what it is, a 3-row SUV. If performance is your top priority in this category, you may want to consider the Hemi powered Dodge Durango R/T.
The cabin quality of the 2016 redesign is significantly higher. Where there once was hard plastic and cheap feeling materials, there are now soft touch, visually appealing materials worthy of Honda’s Acura brand. The infotainment system functions well but can be somewhat difficult to navigate while driving. We’d prefer supplemental analog controls to the strict touchscreen system. Despite this gripe, the system functions well though there is a known issue with fluctuating volume. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard in all but the base trim for those who prefer these interfaces to Honda’s. Seating is one of this SUV’s strengths.
There’s plenty of room for adults in all three rows. The standard configuration seats 8, while the Elite trim seats 7 because captain’s chairs replace the second-row bench. The leather trimmed seats are of exceptional quality, especially models with ventilation. Fold all the seats down for a class-leading 83.9 cubic feet, 46.8 with second-row up, and 16.5 with all rows up. If you’re looking for a quality 3-row SUV to carry your entire family and your stuff, the Honda offers excellent utility with a comfortable and convenient interior.
The Honda Pilot is a rather large SUV that wears its weight well. Redesigned in 2016, the Pilot sports a modern, clean design that doesn’t try too hard. It works! The front fascia features a chrome grille consisting of three bars with the top one extending across the entire front, integrated into the headlights. The effect is impressive. Beneath the grille, there’s a large intake flanked by fog lights in most trims. The lines wrap from front to back at a slight upward angle, giving the Pilot an athletic stance on its 18in or 20in alloy wheels. The LED tail lights are bright and well-designed. There’s a spoiler above the rear window that gives the Pilot a little more character. We think the Pilot looks pretty good for the segment, but the design isn’t as bold as some competitor’s offerings.
Both JD Power and Consumer Reports offer a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability rating, pretty poor for a Honda. The low rating may be a result of the 96 Technical Service Bulletins issued for the 2016 Pilot. Many have not yet received summaries. There appears to be many different noises and chirps arising from various parts of the powertrain, several problems with the audio system, and a failure of the lane keep assist feature in so-equipped models. Further research revealed a few more known issues with the Honda Pilot. The first is a rough idle that may be caused by a faulty idle air control valve but could arise from vacuum lines, throttle body or intake manifold as well. A thorough cleaning and inspection of this entire system should fix the problem.
All year model Pilots suffer from a faulty EGR valve that may become stuck open or close, throwing trouble codes P0401 or/and P1491. This problem will cause rough idle, stalling, reduced fuel economy, vibrations, and other power problems. A thorough cleaning may fix the problem but replacement is recommended. Hundreds of owners of all Pilot models have reported faulty brake rotors. Honda has refused to take responsibility for the design flaw: 250mm width is probably not sturdy enough for the hefty Honda. The result is a shuddering at high speeds and while braking. The rotors will most likely need replacing, costing an average of $500. This is by far the most commonly reported problem with the Pilot. All things considered, these issues are rather minor and we think the Pilot deserves a higher reliability rating than those awarded.
The NHTSA offers a 5-star overall rating for the Honda Pilot, the highest possible. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives “Good” scores in all crash test categories and the additional designation of “Top Safety Pick+.” The optional advanced safety features are rated among the best, though not as high as Toyota’s Safety Sense system. The Honda Sensing safety suite is standard on the top two trims and available on all but the base trim for $1,000. We think that’s $1,000 well spent. The peace of mind this advanced technology will bring you is worth the money. We think the Pilot is a great choice for the safety concerned, don’t forget to check out the Toyota Highlander that includes most of these features standard.
None of the SUVs in the 3-row midsize segment are as well-rounded as the Pilot, there are some that perform better in this or that category. For example, the Toyota Highlander offers its superior safety technology standard, but it’s four cylinder engine leaves a lot to be desired in the performance category. Families on a budget who seek top of the line safety should consider the Highlander if they don’t mind nearly a hundred fewer horses.
The Chevy Traverse offers the most space in the class by a landslide, over 20 more cubes than the Pilot. However, it’s considerably heavier, less engaging to drive, and gets abysmal fuel economy. Some may like the standard 4G LTE included in the Traverse, but overall the Honda provides a lot more value. If you’re looking for 3-rows of pedal stomping performance, the R/T trimmed Dodge Durango offers 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque for $42,000 dollars. It’s not a whole lot quicker to sixty despite having 80 more horses at 6.1 seconds, but the sport suspension offers much more responsive handling at pace. The big V8 also pulls quicker when you need power, as it has a broader usable power band. We also love the Durango’s muscle car aesthetics. But the Durango isn’t nearly as practical and doesn’t offer many of the advanced features in the Honda, nor the stellar fuel economy. The Honda Pilot is all the SUV most families will need and there isn’t another SUV in the class that matches its versatile values.
The base LX starts at $30,745 with an impressive list of standard features including a multi-angle rearview camera, push button start, Bluetooth streaming audio, speed sensitive volume control, 5in LCD screen, driver multi-information display, LED tail lights, 18in alloy wheels, and seating for eight. All-wheel-drive is available for $1,800 and back up sensors will set you back $500. The EX trim has an MSRP of $33,180 and adds remote engine start, LED running lights, snow traction management, lane departure warning, auto on/off headlights, fog lights, smart entry, tri-zone climate control with filtration and humidity control, 10-way power driver’s seat, 225 watt 7-speaker audio system with subwoofer, and 8in infotainment screen with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and HondaLink. Honda Sensing safety suite is available for $1,000. All-Wheel-Drive costs $1,800 and backup sensors make parking easier for $500.
The EX-L trim supplies a moonroof, power tailgate, acoustic windshield, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel, one-touch second-row seats, power adjustable passenger seat, leather trimmed seating throughout, and heated front seats. All-wheel-drive can be equipped for $1,800. Both Honda Sensing and Honda Navigation are $1,000 dollar options. A rear seat entertainment system can play DVDs on a 9in screen with removable remote control. The package costs $1,600 and further furnishes second-row sunshades and 115-volt power outlet, presumably used for a gaming console. The $41,820 Touring trim adds idle stop to the engine, a 9-speed shift-by-wire automatic transmission, paddle shifters, 20in alloy wheels, Honda Sensing, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, upgraded mirrors, roof rails, front door acoustic glass, integrated sunshades, courtesy door lights, blue ambient LED lighting, memory driver’s seats, and a 540-watt premium audio system with 10 speakers, including subwoofer.
All-Wheel-Drive will run an extra 1,800 dollars. Lastly, an Elite trimmed Pilot tips the scale at $47,220 and features an intelligent All-Wheel-Drive standard, a multi-mode traction management, automatic high beams, a blind spot monitoring system, cross traffic monitor, full LED headlights, a panoramic roof, rain-sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, perforated and ventilated front seats, perforated heated second-row captain’s chairs, and HD radio. There aren’t any more features to buy, but Honda would be glad to sell you plenty of accessories.