The Honda Pilot is a stalwart of the suburban family and has been for more than 10 years. The second generation, now five years old, still holds its own compared to some newer competitors because it delivers a well-executed cabin with three-row seating.
It seems as if it might be time for Honda to do a makeover but none appears on the horizon and that’s OK because the Pilot uses a proven formula that places function over glitz. Safety and convenience features found on some competitors, such as a blind-spot monitor, heated steering wheel, ventilated seats, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control, are not available. They probably will be on the next generation, whenever that is.
The boxy styling has never been my favorite, but once you slide inside it becomes clear why the Pilot has been such a successful vehicle. The squarish shape creates space for people and things. The front seats are perfectly contoured, the upright seating position enhances visibility and wind and road noise are not intrusive. The 109.2-inch wheelbase yields easy maneuverability in tight confines such as shopping center parking lots.
The Pilot is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive, in LX, EX, EX-L (with leather) and Touring models. Prices for the 2014 models begin at $29,670 for front-wheel drive LX and top out at $41,420 for the all-wheel-drive Touring model with navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system.
I drove the top Touring model from Honda’s press fleet, and it had a power liftgate, sunroof, heated leather seats, heated outside mirrors, acoustic windshield, three-zone climate control, premium audio system, voice-activated navigation system with rearview camera and a rear-seat entertainment system. All Pilots have Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free use of cell phones and an MP3 player interface.
Honda calls the Pilot an eight-passenger vehicle but that’s assuming one or two of them are children. The third seat will accommodate two adults as long as the trip is short. Cargo space is somewhat limited when the third seat is up. There is a hidden storage space under the cargo floor.
The instrument panel has a simple package of light-faced gauges that were easy to read in all lighting conditions. The center stack houses a full array of buttons and knobs for controlling audio and the three-zone climate control that is part of the Touring package. Knobs and buttons may seem a bit dated these days, but I like their simplicity. The navigation map is displayed on a nine-inch screen set deep into the instrument panel so it isn’t affected by glare.
The gearshift lever is mounted on the dash just a few inches from your right hand when it is on the wheel.
The engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that has 250 horsepower. The engine’s variable cylinder management shuts off two or three cylinders when conditions allow. The transition is seamless. A small ECO light is the only indication that cylinders have been disabled. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the mileage for all-wheel drive at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highway.
The five-speed automatic transmission is dated. Most competitors have six- or eight-speed automatics.
Honda’s all-wheel-drive system directs power to the wheels with the most traction. That means that the front wheels get most of the power in regular driving, and the rear wheels receive power as conditions dictate. A switch on the dash locks the system into four-wheel mode for driving in snow, mud or other slippery situations.
Maximum towing capacity is 4,500 pounds for all-wheel drive and 3,500 miles for front-wheel drive.
The Pilot is assembled in Lincoln, Ala.Price
The test car’s base price was $41,420. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $42,250.Warranty
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.