The Honda Pilot is a spacious and efficient mid-size crossover. It recently received a mid-cycle update, with highlights including styling changes, interior upgrades and a 25 miles per gallon highway rating for two-wheel drive models.
The exterior alterations were fairly subtle, with a new three-bar grille, more aerodynamic front fascia and reworked halogen headlights and turn signals. Trim levels from the EX benefited from new five-spoke, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Inside, the biggest changes included a larger, eight-inch infotainment display screen along with a refined center console that features a more intuitive layout and a glossy black finish in place of the high-contrast silver used in the previous Pilot. A redesigned instrument panel and larger central storage pocket rounded out the interior changes.
What didn't change is the Pilot's generous amount of interior room: 18 cubic feet of cargo space are available behind the third row of seats, a figure that swells to 47.7 with the third row folded and 87 cubic feet if the second row gets folded, too. If carrying passengers rather than cargo is the task, the spacious second row slides forward for increased ease of access to the third row, which supplies enough knee room for an above-average-sized adult male to fit comfortably.
Honda says it engineered the Pilot for reduced noise levels, pointing to enhanced body seam sealing around the unit-body connection points and re-tuned rear suspension sub-frame mounts as factors that contributing to a quieter cabin. Other NVH countermeasures include body-seam sealants to reduce air leaks, enhanced pillar separators, revised insulation materials and acoustic windshield glass on all models.
Honda delivered on its promise of offering the most fuel-efficient eight-passenger crossover, with the latest Pilot netting an 18/25 mpg rating for two-wheel drive models (4WD-models return 17/24 mpg). The otherwise carryover 250 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 features reduced-friction internals and a few other tricks to contribute to the mileage tally, while a host of other improvements ranging from a variable-displacement power steering pump to improved aerodynamics also help in the economy department. An aging but smooth five-speed automatic transmission handles shifting duties.
An optional Variable Torque Management 4-wheel-drive (VTM-4) system is a good choice for those needing extra traction, but the Pilot isn't intended for serious off-roading.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Pilot comes in four different trim levels, including the LX, EX, EX-L and Touring. Newly standard across all trim levels are a rear view camera, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control, a USB input and a high-resolution information screen.
The LX comes equipped with keyless entry, a tilt and telescope steering column, cruise control, power windows, power door and tailgate locks, an AM/FM/CD stereo system with seven speakers including a subwoofer and Radio Data System, a trip computer and an integrated Class III towing receiver.
The EX adds a tri-zone automatic climate control system, a power driver's seat with 10-way power adjustment, a security system, XM Radio, body-colored side mirrors and door handles, alloy wheels, roof rails, fog lights, an exterior temperature indicator, and a HomeLink Remote System, and more. Honda recently upgraded the EX with features Bluetooth HandsFreeLink (previously exclusive to EX-L with Navi and above models), Bluetooth audio streaming and a new 2 GB CD Library that replaces the previous 6-disc CD changer.
Additional EX-L features include leather-trimmed seating surfaces, heated front seats, a 4-way power front passenger's seat, a one-touch power moonroof, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror and the availability of either the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System or the Honda DVD Rear Entertainment System with a 9-inch screen. The addition of either the navigation or the entertainment system also adds a 115-volt power outlet. Other standard kit includes a power tailgate and an intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) with QVGA resolution, which features an iPod album artwork display and a user-loadable wallpaper function.
The Pilot EX-L with Navigation adds an upgraded navigation system with a higher VGA resolution replacing the previous QVGA display and an internal hard drive that replaces the previous model's DVD-based system. New features include FM Traffic, Song by Voice, rearview camera with a 3-mode display and a Multi-Information Display in the center of the gauge cluster.
The top-of-the-line Pilot Touring includes the Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with rearview camera, a premium audio system with 10 speakers, the DVD Rear Entertainment System, two-position memory seats, roof rails, corner and backup sensors and side-mirror integrated turn indicators.
The Pilot protects its occupants with three-row side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, driver's and front passenger's side airbags, active front seat head restraints and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist. Vehicle Stability Assist, Honda speak for electronic stability control, is standard on all models.
Prospective Pilot owners should also check out the Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Toyota Highlander before making a final decision on a three-row crossover.