The Honda Pilot has been a reliable big box of a sport-utility vehicle for years, nothing fancy, but usual Honda quality and solid build.
For 2016 the Pilot is restyled and rounded to give it a smoother more refined look, one that might be confused with Buick’s Enclave. In fact, several folks asked me during my drive if this was a new Buick. Honda’s sales results will tell them if such confusion helps or hurts, but overall the look is an improvement.
That’s what you see on the surface, what’s inside and what’s changed makes the new Pilot more attractive both visually and functionally for large families needing space for their brood.
Overall the Pilot is 3.5 inches longer and rides on a 111-inch wheelbase that’s nearly two inches longer than the previous model. Pilot also has dropped 300 lbs.
The result is a roomier interior with a third-row seat that isn’t as cramped, plus a vehicle with improved ride quality and handling ability. You wouldn’t call Pilot nimble, but the weight loss is noticeable and the steering has been tuned to feel more responsive giving the Pilot better road feel. Not much play in this wheel anymore.
Ride generally is fine, but still can be stiff over sharp road bumps of which we have plenty in southeast Wisconsin. I enjoyed my highway drives across town and the interior is extremely quiet.
Power comes from Honda’s smooth 3.5-liter V6 that now has Variable Cylinder Management. That means when you’re cruising on the freeway it shuts off 3 cylinders to run more efficiently. This is seamless and now that it’s hooked up to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, the ute shifts well and is more efficient.
The engine packs plenty of power. Freeway entry speed is easily reached (280 horses under the hood) and the tested Pilot is rated to tow 5,000 lbs. My Pilot was a dark cherry red Touring AWD model; that’s one off the top-level Elite.
There’s AWD to help come winter, another plus. Pilot’s Intelligent Traction Management system will move between settings for dry pavement, to snow to mud to sand. That about covers it!
I should mention too that the 9-speed tranny is push-button and located on the console, so no gear shift lever. That takes getting used to. You press a button for Park and Drive, but must pull back on a console switch for Reverse. Makes sense that Reverse takes a different action so you don’t mistakenly hit it instead of Drive. Also, if you press the ignition button to turn off the engine when you stop, the ute automatically puts itself in Park. Good thought!
Inside, the test vehicle had a black over tan dash and tan leather seats and door trim with a brushed metal or pewter look trim by the center dash screen and push buttons on the console. There was black gloss trim on the console face and dash, plus a textured black/gray roll-back console storage box cover. Dash buttons also are ringed in blue light; I like that and the entire interior look.
Dash gauges are wide and easy to read with a ring around the tach and speedo that glows green when you are driving efficiently. There’s also an Eco button left of the steering wheel to help the transmission work more efficiently by lowering shift points.
The big touchscreen for nav, audio and rearview camera is easy to use and this model featured a fold-down screen and entertainment system for the second row along with two wireless headphones. Grandkids love this stuff! Pilot also is loaded with electrical hookups, including 5 USB ports and a couple 12-volt outlets.
This Pilot Touring comes with two-level seat heat up front, but no cooling for the seats, which seems odd at this price point. I’d also like to see a heated steering wheel as standard. The seats are mildly contoured and comfortable though, plus easy to slide in and out of. Naturally this being an AWD model its step-in height, or step-out height is pretty tall. The Pilot has 7.3 inches of ground clearance.
The third-row seats split and fold flat easily while the second row seats also fold flat to boost cargo room, which can grow to 83.8 cubic feet. The rear hatch also is powered and there’s a good-sized sunroof overhead.
Other functional points to ponder include a manual tilt/telescope steering wheel, paddle shifters by the steering wheel and sliding sun visors. One drawback inside is the tall emergency brake pedal that sticks up high by the driver’s left food. Wish that could be lowered about an inch as it likes to snag pant legs.
Price? A base LX starts at a somewhat bargain basement $30,875 for a 2-wheel-drive model and $32,675 for the AWD model; both prices include delivery. The tested Touring AWD starts at $43,700, including delivery, and at that is one of the least expensive large utes that will seat eight. This one did not include a heated steering wheel, but at $500 for that option I’d add it.
If you need room for eight riders and desire reasonable comfort at a reasonable price, the restyled Pilot is a good option.
FAST STATS: 2016 Honda Pilot Touring AWD
Hits: Improved looks, spacious interior, third-row seats, good power and handling, decent ride. Comfy mildly contoured seats with two-level heat, plus power hatch and sunroof. Great dash gauges.
Misses: Seats are not cooled, push-button transmission takes getting used to and ride can be stiff on sharp bumps.
Made in: Lincoln, Ala.
Engine: 3.5-liter iVTEC V6, 280 hp
Transmission: 9-speed automatic
Weight: 4,303 lbs.
Length: 194.7 in.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
Tow: 5,000 lbs.
Cargo: 83.8 cu.ft.
MPG: 19/26 (EPA)
MPG: 21.2 (tested)
Base Price: $43,700 (includes delivery)
Dealer’s Price: $40,011
Major Options: None
Test vehicle: $43,700
Sources: Honda, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Mark Savage