Honda Pilot once ruled but no more

James Raia

The Honda Pilot debuted 21 years ago as the Japanese carmaker’s largest sport utility vehicle. It succeeded quickly as an alternative to its seven-year older and smaller sibling, the Honda CR-V. The Honda HR-V, the smallest of an SUV foursome, arrived in North America in 2015. The Honda Passport, positioned between the HR-V and the Pilot debuted in 1993.

Without exceptions, the vehicles provide customers Honda at its best: value, dependability and strong resale marks. But other manufacturers have infiltrated the marketplace which makes the 2023 Honda Pilot not quite the front-runner it once was. Kia, Hyundai and Mazda, among other manufacturers, offer formidable competition.

The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is a strong SUV choice but it also has strong competition.
The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is a strong SUV choice but it also has strong competition.

Still, the Honda Pilot, newly designed for 2023, is far from a slacker. It’s a solid choice for many reasons.

A five-door crossover with three rows of seating, it shares a platform with the Acura MDX, as well as its stablemate, the Odyssey minivan. The Pilot has a unibody construction and independent suspension and it’s a mixed breed. It drives similarly to a car but also has the strength for towing and light off-road use.

To further expand its off-road capabilities, the TrailSport joins the previous four trim levels — Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite. With competitors looming, Honda changed the Pilot in several areas. It has a revised V6 engine and a new 10-speed automatic transmission. The 2023 model is longer, wider and stiffer than previous offerings and all-wheel drive is available in all trims.

The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is geared toward off-road travel.
The 2023 Honda Pilot TrailSport is geared toward off-road travel.

All trims are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 285 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional — except on the TrailSport and Elite trims on which all-wheel drive is standard.

Despite its overall quality, the Pilot has disappointing fuel efficiency. The EPA estimates range from 20 miles per gallon combined in the off-road-focused TrailSport to 22 mpg combined in the front-wheel drive Sport, EX-L and Touring trims. Some competitors fare better.

Honda’s reputation throughout its lineup is strong and without blemish. But the manufacturer has remained steadfast with its bumper-to-bumper warranty of 3 years and 36,000 miles. One long-standing attraction of South Korean manufacturers is a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

With its TrailSport moniker, Honda has done a lot for the vehicle’s third-generation debut. It’s the first time the carmaker has offered all-terrain tires as standard. The vehicle is equipped with Continental TerrainContact A/T tires sized 265/60R18 and 18-inch TrailSport wheels with inset spokes to protect from most trail and curb rash.

Further emphasizing its off-road learnings, the 2023 Pilot TrailSport includes Hill Descent Control. It helps maintain a low speed while traveling downhill without needing to brake. The system holds between 2 and 12 mph and works on seven percent or greater grades.

Like its still-boxy exterior, the Honda Pilot interior is satisfactory but far from innovative. It offers comfort and roominess for front-seat occupants and the optional second-row captain’s chairs are equally pleasant. Like some competitors, the third-row seats are usable and that’s it. All rows have ventilated seats. While not particularly large, the 50/50-split third-row seats are easy to maneuver.

The Pilot also offers a satisfactory ride, albeit not quiet or always smooth. Larger road imperfections bring strong jolts even at slow speeds, and the overall cabin noise level doesn’t fare well against the noise-reduction efforts among other manufacturers.

Technology features are standard fare, with a subpar rating for the nine-inch infotainment screen. It’s too small for the SUV’s large present. The Honda Accord has a 12.3-inch screen.

Charging options, including a wireless charging pad, are prevalent, a combination of one USB-C and several USB-A ports. Lane-keeping assistance and adaptive cruise are among the industry standard offerings.

The reviewed Honda Pilot TrailSport costs $50,500. It’s a solid vehicle that will likely maintain the carmaker’s strong reputation. But several competitors are better choices.

Article Last Updated: January 23, 2024.

2 thoughts on “Honda Pilot once ruled but no more”

  1. When comparing a Honda to a Kia, Hyundai, Mazda it’s very hard to take your article serious. A journalist just basing the article on the spec sheets and not reliability and resale value when talking about a Honda product.


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