Honda might not have the softest interior plastics in the business, but this is one of the most functional interiors among SUVs. There are ample cubbyholes and covered storage opportunities up front, along with a 12-volt power port in the dash and another 12-volt plug plus a 115-volt power outlet in the center console. Storing, and powering, multiple cell phones wasn’t a problem and the cup holders fit a wide variety of beverages ranging from a coffee cup to plastic water bottles. Everything was very intuitive to use and the storage spaces are right where you want them.
I tested the Pilot’s towing abilities with my pop-up camper over a long weekend. The 3.5-liter V-6 is rated at 250 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque, which was more than adequate for the 2000-pound trailer. Even while towing, shifts were imperceptible other than the change in exhaust tone. The Pilot had no problem maintaining 70-80 mph on the highway with the trailer in fifth gear, only dropping to third or fourth gear on the bigger hills in northern Michigan. It was an ideal companion on this particular journey.
My only complaint about the Pilot’s driving experience is the numb and overboosted steering, but that’s a very common trait in this segment. Otherwise, the Pilot fit all of my needs and wants during my long camping weekend.
It sounds like my Honda Pilot experience was nearly identical to Phil Floraday’s. The Pilot isn’t particularly stylish, nor powerful, nor luxurious, but its all-around competence and unparalleled practicality make it stand out in the crowded family crossover segment. It may be a silly reason to love a car, but I’m charmed that there is a pocket, cubby, or bin for whatever you might want to stash away — phones, books, maps, snacks, sunglasses, cups, bottles, or wallets. Notice the dashboard tray in front of the passenger, the cubbies above the map pockets, and the clever center console with a massive bin, a shallow tray for pens and loose change, and two perfectly sized cupholders.
I also hitched the Pilot to a trailer, though my load was a larger and heavier double-axle, twelve-foot U-Haul. With an estimated 3000-pound weight out back, the Pilot comfortably merged onto highways and effortlessly maintained its speed. Only when I added another 700 pounds of cargo — nearing the Honda’s 4200-pound capacity — did the Pilot feel burdened by its load. The Pilot’s abilities are well-suited for the suburban family that wants to haul a boat a few times a year, a small camper on holiday weekends, and a utility trailer as needed. And as someone who tows maybe three or four times a year, I love that the hitch hides behind a seamless body-color panel in the bumper when not in use.
Attention to detail manifests itself in unimpeachable driving manners. The Pilot boasts a comfortable ride, decent body control, a well-calibrated transmission, and a stout engine. The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee can be had with more power, flashier infotainment systems, or off-road hardware, yet I can’t say I missed any of that while driving the Pilot. Instead, Honda’s no-nonsense approach to usability and polished driving manners makes the Pilot the novelty in this segment.
Eric Tingwall, Assistant Editor
Louisivlle Kentucky Honda Dealer