Now in its 14th year, the Honda Pilot has finally come of age. It’s always been Honda’s largest sport utility vehicle, with the word utility translating into big, boxy and boring.
With Toyota, Hyundai and others offering increasingly strong competition, the 2016 Honda Pilot is in the first year of its third generation. It’s sleeker, lighter, more attractive inside and outside and has an array of new standard and optional features.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
As a three-row SUV, the 2016 Honda Pilot is available in five trims, including my weekly driver, the top-line Elite. It’s the only trim with seven-passenger capacity, one less than its stablemates. The reason: Among many nifty features, the Elite has second-row captain’s chairs that give the Pilot an upscale feel.
Standard features on the entry LX model include 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, active noise cancellation, and a 60/40-split folding third-row seat. Electronic features include a five-inch central display screen, a seven-speaker sound system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB port.
Each higher level trim has more features, of course, with the Elite fulfilling the obligation to its name well. It adds 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic high-beam headlight control, a blind-spot monitor with rear cross traffic alerts (replaces LaneWatch), automatic windshield wipers, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs a heated steering wheel and HD radio.
It also has a nine-speed automatic transmission, automatic engine start/stop, additional noise-reducing acoustic glass for the windows, front and rear parking sensors, driver memory settings, ambient interior lighting and a 10-speaker sound system.
All Pilot trims are equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 horsepower. The Touring and Elite trims also steering wheel shift paddles and an automatic stop/start system.
In additional to the new modernized exterior styling, the optional all-wheel drive feature in my test vehicle helped improve what some critics noted as a previous issue — less-than-superior handling. Honda’s all-wheel drive system delivers power to the front and back wheels and between the left and right wheels. It’s apparent with the Pilot’s smooth open road driving.
Further adding to the Pilot’s comfortable drive is the amended percentage of the various body construction metals and its lighter weight. The 2016 Honda Pilot is about 300 pounds less than last year’s model.
As an all-purpose hauler, the Pilot is at its best. The second and third rows in the Elite trim fold flat with a simple pull here and a simply push there. It’s quick, efficient and opens the cargo space plenty big enough for all but a sizable commercial haul.
Rear seat spacious and comfortable.
Lots of high-tech safety features.
Great overall vision.
Superior ease of use second and third row of seats.
Upscale interior materials.
Lots of storage bins, beverage holders, shelves and pockets.
Cumbersome touchscreen system.
Only average accelerations.
Facts & Figures: 20116 Honda Pilot
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 6.6 seconds.
Airbags (6): Standard front, front side and third-row side curtain.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway), 22 mpg combined, nine-speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $46,420.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.honda.com.
Price As Tested: $47,300.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,0000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/60,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage.
What Others Say:
“Whether you’ve always aspired to three-row SUV/crossover ownership, or the prospect is something the demands of a growing family have forced upon you, the Pilot is well worth considering. Almost guaranteed to provide years of reliable, comfortable service to legions of buyers who are (for whatever reason) allergic to minivans, the 2016 Pilot should be a smash hit.” — AutoWeek.
“It’s more streamlined in appearance, more carlike to drive and plusher inside, while the features list swells with the latest technology, safety and luxury equipment. After our first lengthy test-drive, it feels like a class leader.” — Edmunds.
“After a day-long stint behind the wheel, it’s clear that the Pilot debuts near the top of a very competitive class.” — KelleyBlueBook.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Competition is a good thing. Honda introduced the Pilot’s new generation because much of its competition shines. The new Pilot shines, too. It may not be as ’sexy’ as other manufacturer’s offerings, but it has all of the qualities that make Honda vehicles superior choices throughout carmaker’s lineup.”
Article Last Updated: April 13, 2016.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.