Honda’s Pilot SUV has undergone few changes for 2013 but did receive an electronics upgrade to include Honda’s HandsFreeLink Bluetooth connection for Smartphone’s, USB connections and iPod’s. New too is a redesigned center stack that houses a standard and large 8-inch LCD screen for audio, GPS and rearview camera functions.
But Pilots’ major attraction is its voluminous interior volume that comes close to that of a minivan. Credit for that goes to its love-it- or-hate-it boxy shape with high roofline. Along with that comes a fascia that looks macho and snub, almost Hummer-like. And that’s the reason our son and daughter-in-law passed over it for Acura’s MDX SUV and its classier styling. It was a difficult choice since they already owned a 2003 Pilot that when traded, had 114,000 miles on in. Most of that problem free.
Pilot is offered in LX, EX. EX-L and Touring, the high-end trim model tested. As such, the Touring version has a lengthy list of standard and most wanted features, but also includes 18-inch Michelin tires (LX comes with 17s), roof rails, parking sensors, memory driver’s sears and a premium, 10-speaker sound system. There were no optional charges with the exception of delivery ($830) that added to the vehicles $42,100 price.
Regardless of model selected, they all come with the same 3.5L, 250-hp, 253 lb/ft of torque V6 that along with the standard five-speed automatic transmission, carries EPA mileage estimates of 17 city, 24-highway mpg. The powertrain has a tow capacity of 4,500 pounds for the AWD version and 2,000 pounds for the front-drive model. So aside from being able to accommodate eight riders with its third row seat, Pilot is a also a capable tow machine for owners who want to pull a bass boat, jet skis, ATVs or utility trailer. In other words, looks aren’t everything.
Ingress into Pilot’s cabin requires a mere 20.5 inch step-in while cargo height is a comfortable 30.5 inches. Once in, you’re treated to perforated leather seats that are soft and supportive. As expected of this model, the front seats are heated and included in the base price as is a rear seat DVD entertainment system with 9-inch display and two headphones.
The vertical stack containing audio, HVAC and other controls is extremely busy with buttons and knobs galore that resemble the control panel in a Learjet. The front cockpit is Ridgeline truck-like instead of sedan-like that appears in many of today’s new SUVs and crossovers.
Move to the second and third row seats and that’s where the generous space comes in. With its high roofline, there’s generous amounts of leg and headroom, even for 6-footers. Ingress/egress into the third row seat is a squeeze and suitable mainly for kids.
With the third row seats up cargo space measures 19-inches deep, 48.5 wide and 33 high. Flip the third row and depth extends to 36 inches, and reaches to 77 inches with second and third rows folded for 87 cubic feet. Pilot’s boxy shape affords stowing bulkier items that many crossovers don’t allow. It allows for a myriad of storage bins and pockets for small items. There’s also a spacious bin beneath the cargo floor that measures 36x16x7 for stowing smaller items out of view.
As a large, heavy vehicle that tips the curb weight scales at 4,608 pounds, Pilot handles like a truck but rides like a car. Its weight and height is noticeable when rounding sharp curves and turns. By pushing the VTM4 4WD Lock switch, Pilot is a capable off-roader with its 7.97-inch ground clearance.
While power is adequate, Pilots’ heft can be felt under hard acceleration. With four adults aboard, the engine seems to be working hard during uphill jaunts. While many of Pilot’s competitors are using six and seven speed transmissions for better fuel economy, the 2013 retains a dated powertrain combination.
To its credit, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Pilot an overall rating of four out of five stars and four for frontal crash and five for side impact crashes. And the Institute for Highway Safety awarded Pilot a “Good” rating for frontal-offset, side impact and roof strength. From these ratings comes proof that Honda builds quality vehicles.
To check out the Pilot line, stop by Lehigh Valley Honda on Lehigh Street in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.