Honda engineers somehow made the big, three-row Pilot bigger but lighter than the previous generation, and they incorporated numerous interior features to warm the hearts of drivers, adult passengers and kids. No small accomplishment, that.
My tester was a top-level Elite with all-wheel drive. Elite versions of the Pilot get second-row captain’s chairs (with heat), 20-inch wheels, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a panoramic glass roof.
That’s a very short list of standard features filling the window sticker. Browsing the sticker brings other eyebrow-raising touches, including a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Did I mention paddle shifters? Yeah, I had those too.
On comfort/convenience features alone, the 2016 Pilot Elite stacks up well against luxury-laden SUVs produced by rival manufacturers. And when equipped with the optional front crash-prevention system, the Pilot gets a 2015 Top Safety Pick shout-out from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The IIHS honors are the cherry on top of a long list of other safety perks, including a lane departure-warning system, a brake-assist system and adaptive cruise control.
The tested Pilot was powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 280 horsepower. In most situations, the power plant responded quickly and performed admirably. On steep hill climbs, however, I could feel it laboring, with a fair amount of engine noise snaking its way into the passenger cabin.
Fuel mileage for a three-row SUV is pretty fair at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
Exterior styling on the Pilot is aerodynamic enough to please the eye, but it’s an undeniable SUV at first glance. Interior plugs and ports can handle most of the electronic carry-alongs, including iPads, smartphones and game consoles.
Having tested a string of SUVs of late, I think the Pilot is a worthy competitor in the crowd, and I’m guessing its long-term sales success will boil down to buyers’ very specific personal preferences. With my tester wearing a hefty bottom-line sticker price of $47,300, REALLY liking the vehicle is going to be a top priority in my view.
Likely buyers include families with solid middle-class-or-above incomes, business fleets and urban commuters who spend serious hours on home-to-work runs, longing for those weeks when they can take the family on a long driving vacation, made all the more pleasant with the interior comforts and entertainment features of their smooth-cruising Pilot.
One feature I did not relish on the tester was the automatic “idle stop” feature, which cuts the engine during a prolonged stop. I realize this saves on fuel consumptions, but sometimes, the technology delivered a significant jolt on restart, like getting a firm shove from behind. I don’t know if the size of the vehicle came into play on that, or not. Simply put, I disabled the system with the push of a button, and that needs to be done every time the vehicle is started up.
Otherwise, this new Pilot has the juice to fly high in the sizable SUV segment. I give it a solid “B” grade.