If I was in the market for 3-row crossover, the emotional and irrational me would see me charging towards my local Dodge dealer and plonking down the 163 lbs of useless pennies I have lying about the house as a down payment for a Durango SRT. The rational pragmatic me would have me look elsewhere.
With so many options in 2018-2019 in the segment, I can tell you immediately that while the Honda Pilot easily fulfils every possible need any family could every possibly have, I’d venture elsewhere. Specifically, I’d head over to Subaru or Mazda for something a little more novel and advanced powertrain wise. Having said that, the Pilot would come in third, tied with its fiercest competitor, the Toyota Highlander.
For the wiser purchaser of a new family hauler, the latter two vehicles should be at the top of the shopping list and with reason.
The large midsize 3-row crossover segment, like the minivans and pickups, are the last groups of vehicles where function triumph over style. This is a must. While some OEMs might boast about aerodynamics, the fact is that normal humans need to fit in the final row and the boot must hold gear.
The Pilot’s always been an attractive vehicle, looking far more macho than the sum of its parts. The current generation trades a little machismo in exchange for a more dynamic style that works well. The front grille is very close to that of other family members – overall, the Pilot has a very friendly and approachable stature.
The cabin too puts function first. The dashboard is clean, unobstructed by overly fancy gizmos. Nearly all manners of controls are simple and straight-forward. Once up in the trim levels, the volume nob disappears, which is dumb. Honda knows it and has learned as the 2019 Pilot once again is fitted with one. Fit and finish are typically Honda with the usual attention to detail.
The Honda Pilot is a champ in this department. It meets and exceeds all normal family needs – normal, as in 2-3 kids. The boot is brilliant even with the 3rd row in place. There’s just over 500 useable litres of volume back there and best of all, there’s an oh-so useful under-floor storage compartment that’ll fit a small stroller, even a kid’s ball.
When stored, the trunk is massive. The side bins, always accessible, are superb for all kinds of items like shoes, small bags, and the likes. Here, with well over 1,500 of space available, everything fits. Accessing the 3rd when in place is not as easy as in a Subaru Ascent for example, nor is it as comfortable. Legroom is decent however.
Depending on trim, the 2nd row is a bench for three or two captain seats. The tested Touring offers the latter and for baby seats to adults, they are ideal. The same goes for the front perches which are very large. Storage spots, more bins and cubby-holes are almost excessively plentiful. In fact, I’m sure I forgot a pair of sunglasses in there somewhere even after checking three times…
The 2018 Honda Pilot LX starts at $42,500. There are no longer any FWD or stripper version of this large midsize SUV. Standard features cover all aspects, from forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, all the way to Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and AWD with the 3.5-litre V6 engine.
Volume versions are typically the EX and EX-L Navi priced respectively at $44,500 and $48,300. The EX-L Navi includes leather, navigation, a power tailgate, heated 2nd row seats, heated steering wheel and a few more worthwhile items.
As tested, the $53,900 Touring adds the regrettable 9-speed autobox, pointless paddle shifters, 20” wheels, rear cross traffic alert, LED headlights, panoramic moonroof, ventilated front seats, or essentially all nice-to-haves but that are ultimately not necessary. Save $5,000+ and stick the EX-L Navi.
There’s no doubt that the 2018 Honda Pilot, all Pilots since 2003 in fact, are very good to drive. Its long wheelbase, properly sorted suspension and heavily assisted controls make it effortless to drive. The Touring does add acoustic front side glass to the acoustic windshield and thus the cabin remains very quiet even at highway speeds.
The long-serving 3.5-litre V6 is incorporated with all trims. It provides 280-horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. Its greatest claim to fame is how buttery smooth it operates. It’s barely audible, unless seriously pushed, and always delivers. With all trims, save for the Touring, a 6-speed automatic transmission sends power to all four wheels. The Touring gets 50% more gears, and headaches.
The 9-speed automatic transmission does nothing to improve the driving experience. It does not noticeably improve acceleration, if mostly because it can be clumsy when the time comes to get a move on. As for fuel consumption, according to Honda, it bests the 6-speed by 0.3L/100km. This means there’s no difference. And it gets worse.
The electronic gear selector, which comes with the 9-speed, is counter intuitive. I’ve spent well over 200 hours behind the wheel of Hondas and Acuras over the last few years and I’m still not comfortable with it. And lastly, the transmission’s been problematic, sufficiently so to knock down the otherwise very reliable Honda down a few pegs. Once more, stick with the EX-L or, if you need a rear entertainment system, the EX-L RES for $48,300 (no navigation).