Friday, June 14, 2013

Honda's big deal: A loaded Pilot SUV

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

Sacramento, California – Eight passengers, 12 trim levels, shoulders like a Hummer-Mack truck love child.  Yeah, the Honda Pilot impresses you with its largeness right from the get-go.

Here’s the sweet little secret, however … It’s entirely sophisticated inside, like one of those stretch SUVs you see rolling up to a high school prom.

The hefty Pilot received a serious refresh for 2012, but I finally got to sample the goods only recently.  My ride was a top-of-the-line 2013 4WD Touring edition, starting at $41,270.  And this version is so stuffed with features that the only extra is an $830 destination/handling charge.

They threw everything into this model, and I was still looking for the kitchen sink right up until the moment I had to surrender the tester.  What all was in it?  Do you have 10 minutes to spare?

Here’s the short list of what I’d call above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty STANDARD features: Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and audio features, eight-inch high resolution center display, rearview camera, DVD rear entertainment system with nine-inch screen and wireless headsets, 10-speaker premium audio system, USB audio interface, tri-zone climate control, second-row sunshades, power moonroof, power tailgate and on and on and on …

Ye gods, throw in more than a dozen top-tier safety features and a half dozen more driver-assist technos, and you almost feel like you’re getting a break at 41K and a fraction.  Can I pay for the floor mats?  Really, I’m feeling guilty.

OK, the styling is boxy and brutish, and you figure it gets about 300 yards to the gallon, but you’re seriously mistaken.  Fuel mileage is actually pretty good in this sizable SUV segment, 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

It drives “big” but not uncomfortably so.  Interior noise was minimal, steering was light and responsive and body sway in the corners was decidedly light … much lighter than what I’ve felt in smaller rides.

A 3.5-liter V-6 is rated at 250 horsepower, and that accounts for a little bit of the gas savings.  OK, some probably will long for more power, but Honda long ago figured out that more of today’s buyers are thinking dollar savings over muscle building.  I’d say the power plant provides “just enough” for what most will be looking for out of the vehicle.

Loaded up and driving uphill, yes, you need to mash the gas pretty deep to get satisfaction. But just think of all those dollars you’re not pouring into the gas pump, right?

The Pilot is sort of the antithesis of what Honda is right now, a champion builder of fuelish, smallish cars.  But the Honda folks also recognize that demand for a beefy SUV still exists, the better to serve large families rolling on frequent road trips and kids’ athletic teams needing to transport equipment and future all-stars.

Given what else is out there in this segment, the Pilot ranks well near the top.

1 comment:

  1. I've seen so many of these, or maybe I'm just on the look-out. I like them much more than the previous versions, as well. I have a 2004 CRV and would like to stay with Honda (been driving a Honda for 20+ yrs) for my next car (something a bit bigger). You've tipped my decision just that much closer to the Pilot. Thanks!