Honda Pilot Models, Review, Prices & Specs
You’re looking for a new mid-size SUV. Maybe your family has expanded, and so, your ride must too. Or perhaps you’re looking for something with serious towing potential, but have no desire to buy a pickup truck.
It sounds like you need a Honda Pilot. Sure, it lacks the green credentials of the Tesla Model Y, or the unapologetic luxury of a Chevrolet Tahoe, but there’s a lot to love about this humble mid-ranger.
Read on to find out what makes the Honda Pilot one of the best mid-size SUVs on the market, how much they cost, and how to get one of your own.
Understanding the Honda Pilot
Americans are notorious for their love of big cars, and prior to 2003, Honda didn’t have much that could compete with the truly gargantuan SUVs and trucks produced by the domestic giants. The CR-V, although formidable in many ways, couldn’t compete with the Tahoe or the Ford Expedition. You could say the same thing about the Honda Passport, too.
And so, it conjured up the Honda Pilot. It distinguished itself from its stablemates with a clean-sheet design aimed squarely at North American consumers, although it has since gone on to enter other markets.
First, let’s touch on the interior. Unlike the CR-V and Passport of 2003, this came with enough room for three rows of seating, although, admittedly, the rear seats were fairly stingy on the personal space front. Ramping up the capacity wasn’t much of a challenge for Honda, with the Pilot sharing the same underlying platform fundamentals as the luxurious Acura MDX, as well as the Honda Oddessy Minivan.
And the Pilot concerned itself with performance, understanding that American consumers use their vehicles for work and personal reasons, and thus must be able to handle dirt trails as competently as the school run. To accomplish this, Honda insisted on a four-wheel drive drivetrain by default (although later introduced a front-wheel-drive option), and provided a powerful 3.5L V6 engine across all trims.
Since then, the Pilot has gone through three generations, and countless facelifts and model year updates. The most recent generation — the third — hit forecourts in 2016, and includes the latest 2022 model year, which is on sale now, with deliveries expected towards the end of the year.
Over time, Honda has stuck to its guns, keeping the fundamentals of the Pilot consistent. Its winning formula sees performance and size combined with a fairly reasonable asking price, allowing the Pilot to undercut similar SUVs on cost, if not on sheer horsepower or extravagance. There are obvious compromises, certainly, but on balance, they’re easy enough for most people to swallow.
Meet the Newest Honda Pilot
The 2021 Honda Pilot feels far removed from the inaugural model. Whereas the original had a fairly boxy, utilitarian aesthetic, the latest-and-greatest has a more aerodynamic and contemporary look.
It’s still big, with a length of 194.5-inches, but Honda has at least managed to improve upon the Pilot’s historically dismal levels of fuel burn. The 2022 model achieves 22MPG combined for the front-wheel-drive model, while the all-wheel-drive version isn’t too far off, with a combined EPA rating of 22MPG.
Sure, that’s hardly Prius-levels of efficiency, but it’s pretty solid considering the inaugural 2003 Honda Pilot eked out a dismal 17MPG combined.
Honda is still in the process of cementing its line-up, and there are still a lot of ambiguities about the final offering, particularly when it comes to the entry-level model. The company has jettisoned the EX and LX trims in favour of a new base offering, which has yet to be formally unveiled.
It has, however, unveiled the mid-to-high range configurations of the Honda Pilot, starting with the EX-L trim, which retails at $39,060. There are some noticeable improvements to driver and passenger comfort here, from a radically upgraded infotainment system, to the inclusion of 10-way power seating on the driver’s side.
As was the case with the 2021 model, all trims come with a nine-speed automatic transmission, as well as a decently powerful V6 engine, delivering 280 HP and 262lbs of torque. This will allow you to tow some modest loads, although will most prominently come into play during day-to-day driving, with acceleration and handling likely to be excellent.
While the more premium trims don’t deviate from the lower-end in terms of performance, there are nonetheless a handful of luxury touches that set them apart.
The Elite and Black editions, which use a four-wheel-drive drivetrain by default, replace the cramped eight-person seating with a seven-person configuration, with the middle row touting “Captain’s Chairs.” This is also an option on the Touring model.
Each of the aforementioned premium trims come with a rear entertainment system, while the Elite and Black options also include perforated leather seating, which should prove slightly more comfortable in warmer climes.
What do the Experts Say?
While the upcoming 2022 Honda Pilot is a bit of an unknown quantity, and it’s impossible to judge it on its merits before its release, things are a bit more encouraging when you look at the previous 2021 model year.
Writing for Car and Driver, motoring journalist Eric Stafford praised the nimble driving experience offered by the 2021 Honda Pilot, as well as its comfortable interior and fuel efficiency. He was, however, less complimentary about the “dorky” exterior.
These points were echoed by MotorTrend’s Stefan Ogbac in his 2021 Honda Pilot review, who honed in on the SUV's handy little touches, particularly its multiple hiding-holes for personal items and bags. “Clever storage solutions like the gigantic center console bin and underfloor cubby in the cargo area also add to the Pilot's appeal as a family vehicle,” he said.
“Open the Pilot's door, get inside, and you'll find a cabin emphasizing function over form. In fact, in some ways, it looks and feels more like a minivan than it does a crossover SUV,” added JD Power’s Christian Wardlaw.
“[Storage] is seemingly everywhere you look. For example, all four of the Pilot's door panels have shelves and bins carved into them, and there is a large storage area underneath the cargo floor behind the third-row seats,” he added.
The Honda Pilot has evolved over the past two decades, and the latest generations are competitive with similarly-sized vehicles when it comes to things like interior comforts and stylings. But the fundamentals haven’t changed. The Pilot delivers the practicality of a minivan, but comes with a bolder personality, thanks to its engine and drivetrain underpinnings.
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All prices are based on vehicle availability and pricing as of
August 16, 2021
Pricing shown is not guaranteed and does not include taxes or other product fees.