Like its popular brethren, the CR-V, Odyssey and new Element, the Pilot completes Honda’s best-buy SUV and van line. And like any of those offerings or anything else in Honda’s arsenal, it’s hard to find serious fault with the Pilot.
Introduced in late 2003, the Pilot replaced the Passport and it shares the same basic chassis and powertrain as the MDX, the complementary choice from Honda’s upscale Acura division.
My test drive for the week was the top of the line’s EX L 4-door wagon that includes both a navigation system and second seat DVD entertainment system. With those additions, the Pilot further enhances its position at the forefront of the midsize SUV ranks that include the Ford Explorer, Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander.
The three Pilot models all offer a V6, 255-horsepower engine paired only a 5-speed automatic transmission. The HP total represents an increase of six percent from the 2004 model, further adding to the vehicle’s status among the quicker midsize SUVs. It has a 0-60 mph test rating of 7.9 seconds.
Further performance areas for the Pilot are all at least average or above. The driver sits “tall” in the vehicle, so steering and handling are fine for the car’s type. But it should never be mistaken for anything other than a SUV with cornering limitations.
Braking is strong and the standard all-wheel-drive system seems well-suited for trails and in inclement weather conditions.
Like other Hondas, controls and instrumentation as well as styling and indoor space are thoughtful and styled simply. The automatic shift lever is located behind the right side of the steering wheel and doesn’t block access to other controls. But it’s also too easy to shift in and out of transmission settings.
The pilot is an eight-passenger vehicle, with little compromise. The second and third-row seats each comfortably seat three passengers. Although unused during my test week, second and third-seat passengers can view DVDs from a screen that pops down from the second-seat ceiling. Headphones are stored in a map/accessory compartment behind the driver’s seat.
All three Pilot models have a long list of standard features: tilt steering wheel, cruise control, 60/40 split folding second and third seats, power mirrors, windows and doors locks, remote keyless entry and AM/FM/CD player, among other items. The EX and EX-L models include a six-disc changer, steering wheel radio controls, automatic-off headlights and allow wheels. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, power sunroof and heated power mirrors are standard on the EX-L model only.
Despite its best-buy status, the Pilot does have two less-than-spectacular considerations: curtain side airbags are not available on any model, and its fuel rating of 17 in city driving and 22 in highway use is fine for its category but hardly an economical plus.
Nevertheless, the Pilot overall is an ideal family vehicle. It’s spaciously designed, practical and fits well in the Honda family known not only performance and reliability, but for a strong position in the resale market.
Safety Features — Front side airbags, antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, rear-obstacle detection system. tire pressure monitor, rearview camera.
Fuel Mileage — 17 mpg (city), 22 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles.
Base Price — $34,120.