DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD
Honda’s Pilot eight-passenger crossover SUV got a mid-cycle freshening last year, with a front-end restyling and interior upgrades the most notable changes. So it would be expected that there would be few further changes for 2013.
That, would be an incorrect assumption. While there are no major differences from last year, Honda has taken advantage of new electronic technology to upgrade the standard equipment level of all 2013 Pilot models. If there is nothing apparent from outside, look inside. A redesigned center stack houses an eight-inch “intelligent Multi-Information Display” (hereafter referred to as the i-Mid) that is used by a now-standard rearview camera and other systems. Tri-zone automatic climate control with humidity control and air filtration should keep everyone inside more comfortable. Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® and streaming audio add convenience when paired with an appropriate mobile phone, and standard USB connectivity and a 2GB CD library add further entertainment opportunities.
Best of all, the Pilot is still one of the most economical large SUVs, especially in 2WD form, with EPA estimates of 18 mpg city, 25 highway, and 21 overall. Subtract one mpg from each for 4WD, and your driving style will make that vary even more, but note that performance and ability are not sacrificed, as all versions have a 250 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 so merging and passing won’t be critical problems. And if you need to tow, 2WD models are rated for 2000 pounds, with 4WD capable of 4500.
The LX is the price leader, starting under $30,000 in 2WD form, and has all the basics, including three-row seating. EX adds fancier trim. EX-L means leather and a sunroof, among other enhancements, and the availability of the navigation system package or the rear-seat DVD package. Touring means everything and more — both navigation and the DVD system are included. So there is a trim level for every customer need or desire, and plenty of accessories for further usefulness, including attachments for skis, snowboards, surfboards, kayaks, and bicycles, roof boxes for extra storage, and even a tailgate tent. Something for everyone!
Which explains why I see so many Pilots on the road. Usefulness and versatility and copious interior space, plus good power, brakes, and handling will please people. The 4WD Touring that was last week’s test vehicle is more fully-equipped than most, but the LX has all the basics for those on a budget. With its smooth and quiet ride and a commendable lack of body motion, it’s comfortable and maneuverable. A 19 mpg average for the week was good for a large SUV, and I saw up to 23 on the highway, at real highway speeds.
APPEARANCE: With flat surfaces relieved by strategic sculpting and gently-rounded edges and corners, the current Honda Pilot is still as close to being the box it came in as is possible for a two-box crossover. No complaints — boxy means excellent interior space and space utilization. The bright grille, with three horizontal chrome crossbars, is the most apparent difference from previous second-generation Pilots. Black plastic cladding, long an SUV styling device, surrounds the lower perimeter — but that under the front is much less “skid plate” than for aerodynamic management, improving economy and stability at speed.
COMFORT: Inside, even at premium Touring level the Pilot is a middle-class vehicle with no pretense toward social climbing. Which means it’s plain, pleasant, and functional, with honest plastics and no blatantly artificial “wood”. Seating surfaces are leather, and the front seats are both power-adjustable and heated. And firmly comfortable. Width is greater than height, which can make for tight parking — but pays off in interior space. And means that three adults can comfortably fit in the second row, and three kids or small adults in the third, although two would promote more peace. Note to potentially combative rear occupants — the sunglasses holder up by the inside rearview mirror doubles as a convex mirror so the driver can keep tabs on any sibling rivalries.
The steering wheel adjusts manually for both tilt and reach, and has audio, cruise, and information system controls. The main instruments are directly in front of the driver and well-shaded against glare. The shifter is placed on the center stack, conveniently close to the steering wheel. Another anti-glare hood tops the center stack, shading the i-MID screen in Pilots without the navigation system, or the nav screen for those so-equipped, such as the Touring. It has a typical Honda interface, a large knob with rotary collar, surrounded by well-marked buttons for various main functions. Audio choices are AM, FM, and XM radio, plus all common CD formats and a jack and USB port.
With a 60/40 split to the second and third rows, cargo versus passenger configurations abound. The front console is huge, with storage and cupholders under a rolling cover. The main console box has the audio connectors, and 12VDC and 115VAC/150W power connections. There are plenty of other, smaller, storage spaces in the cabin, including a locking glove box. Interior room is enhanced by mounting the spare tire outside and underneath. A space-saver “donut” is stock, with a full-size spare available.
SAFETY: Honda takes safety seriously and builds all its vehicles to be as safe as possible. So an “Advanced Compatibility Engineering” front structure is used to maximize occupant protection and minimize under- or over-ride during collisions. Full airbag protection is standard, front, front side, and head curtain, with front passenger occupant sensing. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist and electronic brake-force distribution ensure quick, consistent stops, and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control keeps the Pilot stable in uncertain circumstances.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The enhancements to the second-generation Pilot’s unibody structure did more than improve safety. They also helped improve its ride and handling qualities. For a vehicle that’s close to SUV behemoth class in size, the Pilot is surprisingly agile and light on its feet, with minimal body roll when cornering, or when accelerating or braking hard. Its wide track helps there, as does a well-tuned, fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension.
PERFORMANCE: Although the 2013 Pilot’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is basically the same as used since the first generation debuted, and it has the same ultra-low ULEV-2 emissions rating, it got a number of and changes to add power and efficiency when the second generation arrived. Compression is up to 10.5:1 from 10, still on regular unleaded, and 4WD models get a lightweight magnesium intake manifold and active noise-control engine mounts. More importantly, the latest iteration of Honda’s Variable Cylinder Management system, intimately tied into the i-VTEC variable valve lift and timing system, is used to deactivate two or three cylinders as power needs demand. Meaning that while cruising at a steady speed and low throttle, as many as half the engine’s cylinders won’t be using fuel. At that point, a green “eco” lights up on the dash, conditioning the driver to save fuel by keeping the light on. Dr. Pavlov would be proud… Of course, firing on all six and moving quickly, fuel consumption is commensurate with power production. Which at 250 horsepower (at 5700 rpm) and 253 lb-ft of torque (at 4800) is more than merely adequate and can merge the Pilot into traffic or tackle steep grades with ease. The VTM-4 automatic four-wheel drive system operates in familiar front-wheel drive mode most of the time, and sends power to the rear wheels as needed for traction. Both the VCM and VTM-4 systems operate transparently.
CONCLUSIONS: Honda’s Pilot crossover SUV combines space with space efficiency and good manners plus strength for towing.
SPECIFICATIONS 2013 Honda Pilot Touring 4WD
Base Price $ 41,270 Price As Tested $ 42,200 Engine Type aluminum alloy SOHC 24-valve V6 with i-VTECÂ® variable valve control and Variable Cylinder Managementâ„¢ Engine Size 3.5 liters / 212 cu. in. Horsepower 250 @ 5700 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 253 @ 4800 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 109.2 in. / 191.4 in. Curb Weight 4608 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.4 Fuel Capacity 21.0 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P235/60R18 Michelin Primacy mxv4 m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink Ground Clearance 7.97 inches Drivetrain transverse front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 17 / 24 / 19 0 to 60 mph est 9 sec Towing Capacity 4500 lbs. OPTIONS AND CHARGES Destination charge $ 830