By Steve & Tamami Laser
How popular is the Honda Pilot? Since it was launched more than a dozen years ago, the automaker has sold about 1.4 million units. After spending a week testing the all-new third-generation model for 2016, we think Honda has created the best Pilot yet.
The Pilot retains its spot as the largest crossover in Honda’s lineup. We previously tested Honda’s best-selling CR-V, which was freshened for 2015, and the all-new smaller HR-V that joined the lineup last year as a 2016 model. With the redesigned Pilot, Honda offers a trio of excellent choices to suit the needs of a wide range of buyers.
Folks who select the Pilot typically need more seats and cargo space than the CR-V provides. The new Pilot offers plenty of room for up to eight passengers in three rows while gaining sleek new styling that sets it apart from its predecessors.
Join us for a ride in the new 2016 Honda Pilot Touring during our test-drive video from CarNichiWa.com.
From the sporty three-bar chrome grille rearward, Honda says that every element of the all-new exterior was designed to make it aerodynamically efficient as well as visually appealing. Our luxurious Touring model was dressed with LED Daytime Running Lights, silver-finished low-profile roof rails, and sharp-looking 20-inch alloy wheels. LED headlights are included with the new top-line Pilot Elite.
Unlike some other crossovers that put style ahead of function, Honda has thankfully retained Pilot’s airy greenhouse with big windows for excellent visibility. Rear styling is a little plain, yet the standard LED brake lights add a touch of drama, especially at night.
In our walkaround video (above), we take a closer look outside, inside and under the hood of the eight-passenger Honda Pilot Touring.
The beauty of Pilot’s new look is more than skin deep. Honda employs materials like ultra-high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium to help reduce weight. While overall length is increased 3.5 inches, weight is reduced by about 300 pounds on upper trim models.
Riding on the automaker’s new Global Light Truck platform, Honda says Pilot’s torsional rigidity is increased by 25 percent. Benefits including improved handling, reduced noise inside the cabin, and targeted high ratings in government and independent crash tests.
While all these changes sound good on (virtual) paper, we’re happy to report that the new Pilot drives even better than before. Under the hood is a new 3.5-liter SOHC i-VTEC® V6 engine with direct-injection that ups output by 30-horsepower to 280 while torque increases by 9 lb.-ft. to 262.
We tested the Pilot Touring with front-wheel drive. Available on all models in a new Intelligent Variable Torque Management i-VTM4™ AWD system that distributes torque between the front and rear axles, and for the first time, between the left and right rear wheels. A new button-activated Intelligent Terrain Management System includes Normal, Snow, Mud, and Sand modes with AWD, and Normal and Snow modes for FWD models.
Pilot LX and EX have a 6-speed automatic transmission. Touring and Elite gain Honda’s first 9-speed automatic. The console-mounted shift lever is replaced with a full electronic, shift-by-wire gear selector for the latter. Park, Neutral, and Drive are activated with the push of a button while Reverse is selected by pulling up on a switch. Steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters allow the driver to manually select gears.
Pilot’s redesigned interior is pleasing to the eyes and fingertips thanks to the use of higher quality soft-touch materials. The sporty leather-wrapped steering wheel on our tester included commonly used controls so drivers can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
The centrally mounted 4.2-inch color Multi-Informaiton Display in the instrument panel is operated with buttons on the steering wheel. The driver can toggle through multiple screens including trip computer functions, safety systems (as equipped), exterior temperature, compass, and turn-by-turn directions for models with navigation.
Our Touring tester included the new display audio system with an 8-inch screen that lets users swipe, tap and pinch to control the audio system, display settings, and other features. Touring has top-line 540-watt audio with 10 speakers and a subwoofer. Pandora® compatibility, SMS text messaging, SiriusXM® Radio and Song By Voice® are included.
Display audio offers simplified smartphone connectivity for easy access to the HondaLink® connected-car system and cloud-based information. The connection between the system and the user’s smartphone is made through the Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® wireless interface.
The HondaLink phone app also makes it easy to use services such as location searches, local weather (is it going to rain this week?) messaging, Maintenance Minder alerts, service scheduling by phone, and access to the Owner’s Guide.
There’s a wealth of information available onscreen including fuel economy. During our week-long test, we scored a little over 19 mpg in the Pilot Touring. Another new Pilot feature is the ability to integrate with Apple’s Siri Eyes Free mode for compatible iPhones using the Talk button on the steering wheel.
Our tester was loaded with safety features. Honda LaneWatch™ is activated when signaling a right-hand turn. As we show above, items that might be in the “blind spot,” like a bike or Toyota Tacoma, are conveniently displayed on the center screen.
Pilot Touring also has a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, Collision Mitigation Braking System™, Road Departure Mitigation System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist System, and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Pilot’s comfortable front seats provided good support with the driver’s seat offering 10-way adjustment on the Touring model. All driver’s seat power adjustments are included in the Smart Entry system that stores a pair of user profile and heat settings for each of the two standard key fobs.
The split-folding second-row seat holds three passengers or long cargo. One-touch walk-in third-row access is included for the Touring. Press a button and the setback automatically tilts while the seat slides forward. Our tester also featured a 9-inch rear entertainment system with DVD and Blu-ray™ disc capability.
For those seeking extra luxury, Pilot Elite has second-row captain’s chairs. While this allows passengers to ride in first-class accommodations, it reduces vehicle seating capacity to seven compared to eight for the other models.
Pilot’s three-passenger third-row seat is a 60/40-split and folding design with three-position reclining. It’s a bit of a stretch to climb back there (for adults), yet once seated we thought the seats were quite comfortable.
The cargo compartment is easy to access on Touring with its power tailgate. The two-position cargo lid (above) allows smaller items to be hidden beneath the load floor. Repositioning the lid to the bottom of the compartment lowers the floor so taller items, like a plant, can be carried upright. Honda says an 82-quart ice chest will fit back there without folding down third-row seats.
There’s 18.5 cubic feet of space behind the third row. Fold down the seat and cargo capacity increases to 55.9 cu.ft. Need to carry more? Fold down the second row and capacity increases to 109.0 cu. ft.
Overall, we really enjoyed our week in the new Pilot Touring. Be sure to put the Pilot on your shopping list if you’re seeking a roomy, easy to drive, and comfortable midsize crossover. Honda did a great job making Pilot an even stronger competitor in this crowded segment.
Our Pilot Touring tester with front-wheel drive has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price of $41,020, and a bottom line of $41,900 with destination. Pilot prices for 2016 start at $29,995 for the base LX and top out at $46,420 for the Elite AWD.
Pilot press fleet vehicle provided by American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (Prices and vehicle information applies to models offered in the U.S. at the time of publication. All information including prices, features and specifications is subject to change without notice by the automaker.)
Story, photos and videos © 2016 CarNichiWa.com