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  • 2019 Honda Pilot Elite

    Posted on December 28th, 2018 ninarussin

    Go-to vehicle for active families

    By Nina Russin

    2019 Honda Pilot Elite

    This year Honda refreshes its Pilot three-row crossover with new front and rear-styling, upgraded infotainment and active safety features. With available all-wheel drive, the Pilot is a good candidate for families living in four-season climates as well as those who find themselves traveling along unimproved roads.

    With seating for up to eight passengers, the Pilot can transport the soccer team to practice on weekends, or with seats folded flat, have plenty of room inside for stashing bicycles, skis, snowboards and camping equipment. A hands-free power tailgate on the test car makes it easier to load up the larger items.

    Roof rails come standard on the Elite trim model tested for adding a rack or carrier up top. However, the car’s high profile makes it pretty-hard to mount a bicycle: most cyclists will prefer a hitch-mounted arrangement.

    2019 Honda Pilot

    Pricing for the base front-wheel drive Pilot starts at $31,450 excluding destination. The fully-loaded all-wheel drive Elite starts at $48,020.

    Convenience features include leather upholstery, premium audio system with Blu-Ray DVD, 4GLTE hotspot, CabinTalk- a feature that enables the driver to communicate with rear occupants via the car’s rear speakers, satellite and HD radio, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, 20-inch alloy wheels, panoramic moonroof, LED exterior lighting and more. Final MSRP including the $995 destination charge is $49,015.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2019 Honda Pilot Elite

    Over the past week I drove the Pilot around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley cities as well as a section of the Gila River Indian Community to the south. The 3.5-liter engine, paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission delivered surprisingly good fuel economy- 24 miles-per-gallon for the test drive- while offering up plenty of power both off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto the highway. Honda’s variable cylinder management system automatically deactivates half the engine cylinders when the extra power isn’t needed: for example, steady-state cruising. The feature is virtually invisible to the driver and contributes to the Pilot’s excellent fuel economy.

    Engineers re-tuned the nine-speed automatic transmission on the upper trim level models (base models still come with a six-speed automatic). Some reviews have criticized the unit for hunting, but my limited experience behind the wheel was quite good: the unit downshifts solidly during hard acceleration, but under normal driving conditions, I noticed no hunting or shift shock. A push-button system replaces the traditional shift lever, leaving room in the center console for additional storage.

    2019 Honda Pilot Elite

    Honda Sensing is the automaker’s suite of active safety features that now comes standard on all trim levels. It includes adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Since distracted driving seems to be the norm these days rather than the exception, it’s nice to see these features becoming more widespread and affordable. The lane keeping assist system on the test car did seem a bit hyper-sensitive, especially in a construction area where it misread seams in the road and odd bits of paint as lane lines.

    Standard blind spot monitoring is a great feature for a vehicle of this size and high profile, making it easier to weave through dense traffic and be aware of lower profile passenger cars. The LED lighting produces longer beams of light than traditional halogen with less drain on the battery.

    The electric power steering system produces plenty of assist at lower speeds for good maneuverability. Power folding mirrors eliminate the possibility of parking lot dings. At higher speeds the steering has a pleasantly heavy feel, but on-center response is rather numb.

    A MacPherson front and multi-link rear suspension does a good job of soaking up the bumps in the road without making the vehicle feel floaty. Ventilated front and solid rear rotors stop the Pilot in solid fashion on a variety of road surfaces.

    Visibility around the vehicle is good thanks to its standard rearview camera with cross traffic alert and the blind spot monitoring.

    Versatile interior

    2019 Honda Pilot Elite Interior

    Honda has a reputation for uncluttered, functional interiors; the Pilot follows in this tradition. I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view and plenty of lower lumbar support. Both the thin-film-transistor gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.

    Most infotainment features are intuitive to use. I was happy to see a separate knob for volume control on the audio system. It would be nice of designers would add a separate tuning knob as well rather than having the driver click through controls on the screen.

    The standard WiFi hotspot on the Elite model is a great add-on for owners who do a lot of traveling, especially in areas where cellphone reception might be sketchy. It also makes it easier for families whose kids want to bring their tablets and computers on board.

    One of the Pilot’s biggest perks is its spacious cargo bay. While it’s possible to stuff a road bike inside almost anything by removing the wheels, it’s much easier on a vehicle of this size: making it easier to protect the bike(s) against the elements or theft in urban areas.

    Standard safety

    The Honda Pilot comes with six airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, LED daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring, and Honda Sensing active safety features. The Elite model tested comes with blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert and navigation with real-time traffic updates.

    Honda builds the Pilot in its Lincoln, Alabama assembly plant.

    Like: A spacious, versatile three-row crossover with excellent engine power and fuel economy and a high level of standard safety features.

    Dislike: Numb on-center steering response, most noticeable at higher speeds.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Honda
    Model: Pilot AWD Elite
    Year: 2019
    Base price: $48,020
    As tested: $49,015
    Horsepower: 280 HP @ 6000 prm
    Torque: 262 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/highway

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