The Honda Pilot is a somewhat boxy throwback among the increasingly more streamlined world of midsize crossover SUVs. It seats up to eight with its standard third row, and its dimensions offer a lot of usable cargo space for the family.
Appearance: The tall-and-square Pilot won't win any design awards with an almost vanlike appearance. (We think it looks better in a darker color such as our tester's Dark Cherry Pearl.) The top-level Touring trim did have some accents such as chrome side molding, chrome exhaust tips and 18-inch alloy wheels to break up the blandness. The rear liftgate was electronic, and the rear glass opens independently, which is handy.
Performance: We both found it to be a gas guzzler. Peter drove it to Walt Disney World with a full tank and had to gas it up for the trip back. Even with Variable Cylinder Management, the 3.5-liter V-6 gets an estimated 20 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway) for the all-wheel-drive model like our tester, but it seems even less than that in real-world driving. The Pilot's transmission felt at times like it was hunting for the right gear. About that transmission, it's still 5-speed in a 6-speed-and-more world. The V-6 puts out 250 horsepower, which we found to be barely adequate. On the highway, the Pilot's boxy design translates into the driver feeling every gust of wind. (One particular gust caught Lyra by surprise and made for a grab-the-steering-wheel moment.) Also, the Pilot seems to lag on safety features. No blind-spot monitor for a vehicle this size? Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Pilot a "poor" rating after testing that included its Small Overlap Front crash test. A couple of positives: The Pilot has an 8-inch ground clearance and a compact-for-its-size turning radius.
Interior: The boxlike design does lend itself to more cabin space. The Pilot can seat eight, even with adults in the third-row seats. Both the second and third rows fold flat with up to 87 cubic feet of cargo space. Elsewhere, the Pilot's cabin seems a mix of pleasant design and some not-so- pleasant hard plastic. It gave us the impression that the competition has passed it by. For example, we liked the minimalist appearance of the black-on-white instrument cluster, but the tiny trip computer screen below the speedometer seems positively Pong-like in its display. A backup camera with three views is now standard, which is a necessity. The shifter is on the dash, which leaves lots of storage space on the lower console. The Pilot has a lot of storage nooks, including a tray above the glove box. There is a high-resolution 8-inch Intelligent Multi-Information Display, but the controls are far down on the console and can be a reach.
Our 3 favorites
Ground clearance: It would come in handy during our summer storms.
Cargo: Fold-flat space is easy to access.
Backing up: A rearview camera is standard.
Seats: Plush and comfortable leather.
Windshield washer: Very powerful jets blast away dirt.
Storage: Lots of handy bins and nooks for all of your stuff.
The bottom line: The Pilot should get some consideration as a minivan alternative, but this crossover seems grounded in the past.