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Honda Pilot

The direct competition for the Honda Pilot includes the Toyota Highlander, Mazda CX-9, and GMC Acadia. These vehicles seat up to eight and appeal to families that try to escape the minivan stigma. The Pilot has always been known for decent power, easy maneuverability, above-average fuel economy, plenty of interior comfort, and overall versatility.

More on the Honda Pilot
Honda Pilot Origins

Once upon a time, the Honda Pilot set the rules and kind of created the midsize SUV crossover. Since then, the crossover market has rapidly expanded to include a large number of choices and a great many buyers. As something of an originator, the Pilot was the clear-cut leader in its class. Over time, that has changed. It underwent a major redesign in response to the growing competition. After that the Pilot lost its number-one standing with buyers in this vehicle class, but it still represents a good automobile from a respected maker, known for reliability and higher resale values.

The post-redesign Pilots have some perceived downsides, although that may just be a result of finally having many other models for comparison. Used models, especially from the first generation design, remain desirable and offer a great value. Later models have to be measured against year-by-year competition and valued accordingly. The Pilot does occasionally win awards, including family car of the year.

About the Honda Pilot

When the Pilot debuted in 2003, it came in three trims: LX, EX, and EX-L. A little while later, Honda added the Touring package. The EX includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, while the EX-L adds a powered sunroof, a power liftgate, and a back-up camera.

Every type of Pilot uses the same 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 250 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic remains the only available transmission.

All in all the different trim levels of the Pilot do not show a lot of exterior differences. It stays consistent across the board when evaluating appearance, performance, and gas mileage.

The Pilot offers a spacious interior with lots of room for adults and many little spaces for specific types of storage. The maximum cargo capacity measures 87 cubic feet. This affords about as much space as a family reasonably needs to bring along any type of gear or goods.

As far as interior trim goes, the LX comes with a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, full power accessories, and a seven-speaker audio system. The EX includes a power driver’s seat, Bluetooth, tri-zone automatic climate control, and satellite radio. The EX-L upgrade adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, and an iPod/USB audio interface. The top-level Touring model includes a 10-speaker audio system, a rear entertainment system, and a navigation system optional on the EX-L. Buyers can opt for a 20-pound load capacity cargo net.

Some second-generation models have a confusing dashboard control layout. That aside, the interior of the Pilot gets rather high marks for its space, comfort, and tech gadgets.

Few model years are marred by bad brake performance and lower fuel economy. For the most part, any model year of the Pilot will have decent to above-average fuel economy for its class. Handling remains solid and responsive enough. While the models offer acceptable acceleration, they don’t compare well with the competition. This recalls the classic trade-off of greater fuel economy for less power. Though it should still handle itself well in almost all traffic situations.

The ride tends to be rather firm and occasionally bumpy. The interior noise level appears to be higher than most of the competition.

In terms of safety, the Pilot receives good scores for front, rear, and side impact crash tests. Like many taller cars in the SUV class, it receives only a marginal score for roll-over safety, so drivers need to be mindful of turns and general cornering when driving the Pilot.

Honda Pilot Features

A restyled grille, bumper, and headlights mark the 2012 models. Interior-wise, the 2012 features a reorganized dashboard, a new appearance for gauges, and more color uniformity among the various trim panels.

The EX and EX-L trim levels gain Bluetooth streaming audio, and the available navigation system adds FM traffic information, 15GB of music storage, and a higher-resolution screen.

Gas mileage also improves slightly with the addition of a few mpg in both city and highway driving situations.

Honda Pilot Evolution

The first-generation Pilot debuted in 2003 as Honda’s first midsize crossover SUV with a third-row seat. 2006 saw some minor exterior changes, but the model stayed pretty much the same until the second generation came out in 2009. The 2009 to 2011 Pilots have some performance problems, notably with poor braking and less than impressive fuel economy. Newer models show improvement.

Select a Honda Pilot Year

2013 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The 2013 Honda Pilot offers great fuel economy and passenger comforts.

2012 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

Most noticeably, the Pilot receives a new grille and foglight placement for 2012, as well as chrome strips on the doors. Inside, the Pilot is quieter thanks to double-glazed glass, clearer gauges, piano black center console trim instead of silver, and overall improvements to reduce road noise and harshness. Fuel economy also improves.

2011 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The all-new second generation Pilot made its debut in 2009 and remains unchanged for the 2011 model year save for expanded availability of Honda’s satellite-linked navigation system on the EX-L model.

2009 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

Honda certainly became one of the leading car manufacturers over recent decades.

2008 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

Honda has most certainly become one of the leading car manufacturers over recent decades.

2005 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The Honda Pilot is designed for drivers that want the power, ruggedness, and cargo capacity of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), but the comfort and features of a family vehicle.

2004 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The 2004 Honda Pilot is a midsize crossover SUV capable of seating seven or eight passengers.

2003 Honda Pilot

SUV, Utility/Offroad

The Honda Pilot debuts as a brand new vehicle for 2003.

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