2016 Honda Pilot Elite Review
Came from the bottom, the bottom, to the top of the pops.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: October 1st, 2015
The previous-generation Honda Pilot was looking pretty old by the time it was retired last year; it resembled the Ridgeline, a vehicle that hadn't been on sale for a little while. However, Honda's currently in the midst of revamping every single crossover it makes, and introducing a couple new ones, as well - first came the refreshed CR-V, followed by the all-new compact HR-V, and the third corner on this tri-corner hat is the all-new Honda Pilot.
Based on the same platform as the Acura MDX, the three-row Pilot was drawn with a far more contemporary pen, adopting style cues from across the lineup on all sides. It was also given new powertrain options, one of which leads to some damn surprising fuel-economy numbers. It's big, it's comfy, and it positively blows the competition out of the water when you take into account the reasons that buyers pick these up in the first place.
Before you even start looking at the details, a quick glance at the Pilot's interior reveals its greatest strength - available space. It's huge. There's plenty of glass, both on the sides and above the seats, and thinner pillars give the interior a very airy feel. Even the third-row is positively large, with enough room for grown adults to sit comfortably - something that the competitors, like the Toyota Highlander and the Hyundai Santa Fe, can't exactly match. Whether the third row is up or down (and it's a super-simple process to change that state), cargo capacity is ample for a large family.
In terms of its looks, the new Pilot's been thrust headfirst into the 21st century. Honda's single-screen infotainment setup dominates the center stack, with physical switchgear for the HVAC controls and heated/ventilated seats (standard on our Elite-trim tester). The center-console storage behind the cupholders is positively immense, large enough for either a purse or a very small baby (not recommended). The gauges are all-new as well, and they're very simply laid out, with a screen between the speedo and the tach, and a digital speedometer up at the top.
Our only complaints about the interior are a lack of physical volume/tuning knobs (the wheel works, but using the touchscreen to tune and change volume is a really distracting hassle) and the weirdness of the push button transmission. The latter you'll get used to quickly, though; that said, it's hard to storm off in an angry hurry by daintily pressing buttons instead of slamming a shift lever.
Honda has truly reinvented the Pilot's exterior. No longer does it resemble a body-on-frame pickup truck (although the upcoming new Ridgeline will probably resemble this Pilot ...); now, it looks like every other sleek crossover on the market. That's not a bad thing, especially when it's combined with HR-V-style tail lights and the single-piece light-grille combination that gave the CR-V some proper fashion cred. The exaggerated size of the front end makes the vehicle as a whole appear smaller than it actually is, which gives the Pilot a tightness that other large SUVs lack. If you don't like chrome, don't worry; it's only used in small, tasteful amounts.
On the Road
The last Pilot drove like a truck. This one drives less like a truck, but there's no hiding this car's physical grandiosity. The steering, which is way too light, keeps some of that truck-ness alive, but let's be honest - you know what you're getting into when you buy a big car like this. Nevertheless, the Pilot performed admirably on Chicago's tight side streets. The suspension does a good job of absorbing most bumps, leaving you with a smooth ride that's only amplified by our tester's choice of drivetrain.
We haven't had a chance to test the Pilot with anything but the nine-speed automatic, which is only available on the top trim levels. However, the nine-speed is an excellent transmission on its own, and Honda should really consider applying it across the lineup. It's smooth at any speed, seamlessly upshifting; downshifting does take a little time, but when it comes, the 280-horsepower V-6 delivers a nice growl at wide open throttle and the Pilot will most definitely hustle down the road. When it came time to park, the standard parking sensors and backup camera made that job a breeze, even in more confined areas.
In terms of fuel economy, the 9AT really delivers here. The EPA estimates 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway, and those numbers are easy to achieve, even without using the Econ button, which makes downshifts and knee-jerk decisions to accelerate very, very difficult. Stop-start helps keep gas guzzling to a minimum, too.
Our only quibbles with the driving experience are potentially subjective; what we experienced might not exist on other Pilots, so it's up to you to test-drive the car to make sure of this. We had some weird noises pop up during drives; the suspension liked to make very loud pssh noises over larger bumps, something we haven't heard in a new vehicle in quite a while. Also, at highway speeds, the HVAC blower vents seemed to make their own wind noise, altering the interior's otherwise quiet demeanor. Weird, for sure, but not necessarily indicative of the whole lineup, so it's just something to keep in mind.
Otherwise, the Pilot stands out amongst its competitors with ample third-row room, cargo capacity, and fuel economy. The Kia might look slightly more upscale, and the Hyundai might deliver a few more features for a slightly lower price point, but the reliability and functionality that made Honda great is definitely here in the Pilot. It's a great crossover for larger families on the move.
Specs & Price
Engine: 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V-6
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Power Output: 280 horsepower / 262 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 19 city / 26 highway
Base Price: $46,420
As Tested: $47,300 (incl. $880 destination)
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Honda Pilot, click here: 2016 Honda Pilot.