ALL NEW, YET MUCH THE SAME
The last Honda Pilot was a rather generic looking SUV. I remember losing my test car one time in a parking lot full of similarly styled sport-utes. For 2009, Honda completely redesigned the Pilot, and you know what, it still looks about the same. The grille and the headlights have been revised, but otherwise, there’s not much difference. The Pilot sports the squared-off look that was popular a decade ago.
In the process of redesigning the Pilot, Honda overhauled the interior, but it gets mixed reviews as well. The dash, in particular, comes in for criticism. The hard plastic components look like the kind that you snap together from a kit. The exposed seams are not very pretty. But it it’s not all bad news, the new gauges are attractive, and the designers relocated the transmission shifter to the dash—a more convenient location.
However, where the Pilot has always shined has been in its capability as a family hauler, and this year it gets even roomier. Honda stretched the overall length and the wheelbase by nearly three inches. The Pilot continues to offer seating for eight, and now there is more legroom in the second and third rows. Furthermore, the second row seats slide forward and aft to accommodate those sitting behind them.
The storage compartment in the rear has also grown in size to 18-cu.-ft., and there’s a 2.8-cu-ft. cargo well beneath the floor. This depression can hold a large box, like a cooler, and a cargo net can be stretched above it to create an upper shelf. For additional storage, the third-row seats fold to create 47.7-cu.-ft. of space, and with the second row down as well, there’s 87-cu.-ft.
Honda offers the Pilot with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. Those who tow a boat or trailer will be glad to know that a trailer hitch, with a heavy-duty radiator, as well as a transmission and a power-steering cooler, are standard. Towing capacity is 3500 lbs. with FWD, and 4500 lbs. with AWD.
Under the hood, Honda still equips the Pilot with a 3.5-liter V-6, but it gets a little more horsepower, now 250, and slightly better gas mileage, 17-23 mpg FWD, 16-22 mpg AWD. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. Honda improved its Variable Cylinder Management system for 2009, so that it can now deactivate two or three cylinders to save fuel, when they are not needed. An “eco” light illuminates on the instrument panel when this system is operational.
The Pilot impresses with its civilized driving dynamics. Although this is a large vehicle, it’s not clumsy. It is easier to maneuver in parking lots than much of its competition. It also maintains a fairly even keel when cornering. The ride quality, both on city streets and on the highway is well controlled and smooth. Power is sufficient to propel the Pilot up steep grades without straining. This is a very competent mid-size SUV.
Pricing for the Honda Pilot starts at $27,595 for the LX, and ranges up to $40,665 for a loaded Touring model. Electronic stability control, a full complement of airbags and active headrests are standard on all models.
Good Ride and Handling