2016 Honda Pilot AWD ElitePosted on February 15th, 2016
Seven-passenger SUV appeals to the driver in all of us
By Nina Russin
Honda has the uncanny ability to make small cars feel big and big cars as much fun to drive as small ones. The third generation Honda Pilot that debuted last year holds up to eight passengers, while surprisingly agile ride and handling.
A 3.5-liter direct injection engine averages 22 miles-per-gallon for the all-wheel drive version, thanks to big overdrive gears on the nine-speed automatic transmission, variable cylinder management and idle/stop technology. A driving range of over 400 miles means that the family will need to stop to stretch before the car needs gas.
The interior is user friendly, with a third row that doesn’t feel like a compromise, seats that fold easily into the floor to expand the cargo area, plenty of bin space for the first two rows of seating, USB ports and power points for every occupant. In other words, the Pilot is a car that busy people with complicated lives can live in.
Base price for the upscale Elite version tested is $46,420 excluding the $880 destination charge. Honda includes all of the convenience and safety features its buyers want so they don’t have to wade through confusing option packages at the dealership.
Standard convenience features include keyless entry and start, leather seating, rear seat Blu-Ray DVD system, navigation, satellite radio, tri-zone climate control, Pandora interface, 115-volt power outlet, panoramic moonroof, LED headlamps, power liftgate, heated side mirrors, premium audio system and real-time traffic alerts.
The upscale Pilot comes with a complete array of active safety features as well, including blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, forward collision warning with auto-brake and a rearview camera with cross traffic alert.
Test drive in Phoenix
Driving in Arizona at this time of year requires patience and fortitude, since most vehicles are from somewhere else. The freeways are clogged from morning to night and erratic behavior is the norm.
Active safety technology makes the difference between collisions and successful evasive maneuvers. The newest Pilot adds solid acceleration, firm linear braking and surprisingly good visibility around the car’s perimeter to handle the situation with aplomb.
At night, LED headlamps provide a longer, brighter beam of light than halogen with less drain on the battery. A convex insert in the driver’s side mirror enables him to monitor multiple lanes to the left when entering the freeway. Blind spot monitoring illuminates LED signals in the A pillars to warn the driver when vehicles in these lanes are passing through his blind spots.
The Pilot’s 280-horsepower iVTEC engine has a flat torque curve, giving it excellent power off the line, while maintaining good passing power at higher speeds. The nine-speed automatic transmission progresses smoothly through the gears without hunting. Drivers who want more aggressive performance can utilize formula-style shift levers on the steering wheel, but I had no problems getting transmission to downshift hard when I opened up the throttle.
Twenty-inch alloy wheels give the Pilot a nice fat footprint for cornering at higher speeds. With 7-1/2 inches of minimum ground clearance, the Pilot has no problems clearing moderate amounts of snow. The all-wheel drive car comes with R-rated all season tires. Drivers living in four-season climates might want to invest in winter tires for best traction in the cold weather.
The car’s unibody construction and four-wheel independent suspension contribute to its silky ride. A MacPherson setup in front and multi-links in the rear do a good job of protecting occupants from road chatter while maintaining a pleasantly firm feel on winding two-lane roads.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Pilot in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior so all three rows of occupants can converse or enjoy the upscale audio system.
The first thing the driver notices upon entering the car is its lack of a gearshift lever. Transmission controls are buttons integrated into the center console. A bin large enough to accommodate a backpack or small laptop computer occupies the area where a traditional shift lever might have been positioned.
Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to control the infotainment system and change gauge cluster information displays with minimal distraction.
Access and egress for all eight occupants is quite good for a high profile vehicle. Second-row seats fold and move forward with a single control to ease access to the back row.
The test car comes with captain’s chairs in the first two rows and a bench in the back. The second-row arrangement eliminates a seating position but adds room for a second center console with storage.
Tri-zone climate controls are a big selling point in climates such as the Southwest, where extreme summer heat will make rear occupants uncomfortable if the controls favor the driver and front passenger.
I appreciated the heated front seats and steering wheel when heading to the trailhead before dawn. On cold mornings, sitting on leather upholstery in running shorts can be an unpleasant experience.
The power liftgate makes it easy to load large cargo into the back of the vehicle. With the third-row seats in place, there’s enough room for the weekly groceries and/or luggage. Families who plan to carry larger items such as bikes or kayaks will want to add external racks.
The Honda Pilot comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, hill start assist, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control and tire pressure monitoring. The factory warranty includes three years of roadside assistance, up to 36,000 miles.
Honda builds the Pilot in its Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant.
Like: A versatile three-row crossover vehicle with an excellent powertrain and high level of active safety features.
Model: Pilot Elite AWD
Base price: $46,420
As tested: $47,300
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/highway2016, Luxury 2016, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Honda, performance, pricing, standard safety