Honda’s biggest model stands ready to grab a growing share of the midsize crossover market. Fully redesigned from the ground up last year, the three-row Pilot gained power, features, and interior space. At the same time, fuel efficiency improved.
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2017 Honda Pilot Overview
What's New for 2017
Little has changed for the Pilot’s second season in revised form. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now standard on the upper trim levels. All trim levels can now have a black interior with a White Diamond Pearl exterior.
Choosing Your Honda Pilot
Built on a car-like unibody platform, the Pilot seats up to eight with a second-row bench seat, or seven with the available captain’s chairs. The Honda Sensing safety system, which includes collision mitigation, lane keeping assist, and road departure mitigation, is standard on the upper trims and optional elsewhere.
Front-drive and all-wheel-drive Pilots contain a direct-injected i-VTEC 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Lower-end models get a six-speed automatic transmission, while a nine-speed automatic with paddle shifters goes into the Touring and Elite models.
With the six-speed, fuel economy is estimated at 19/27 mpg city/highway (22 mpg combined). The nine-speed promises slightly better gas mileage: 20/27 mpg city/highway. All-wheel drive reduces each mileage estimate by 1 mpg. Cargo space totals 16.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat, growing to 83.9 cubic feet with second and third rows folded. Maximum volume, including floor space, amounts to 109 cubic feet.
The Pilot comes in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels. All-wheel drive is standard on the Elite and costs $1,800 on all other models.
The EX and Touring promise the best balance of price and features. The Touring boosts the MSRP past $40,000, but brings the more modern nine-speed automatic transmission and a wealth of safety technology.
2017 Honda Pilot Review
First introduced as a 2003 model, Honda’s three-row, eight-passenger crossover SUV was the company’s largest, boxiest offering. That changed with its 2016 redesign. The third-generation Pilot abandoned the squarish profile, in favor of softly rounded corners and curves. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity has been added for the 2017 model year.
Pricing and Equipment
Starting at $31,585 (destination charge included) for the front-drive LX, the Pilot comes in four additional trim levels: EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite. Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine produces 280 horsepower. Depending on trim level, either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission is available; Touring and Elite models get the latter. Front-wheel drive is standard, while all-wheel drive demands an $1,800 premium. A Pilot can have captain’s chairs in the second row, instead of a split-folding bench.
Pilot EX comes with:
- Six-speed automatic transmission
- Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot monitoring camera
- Wide-angle rearview camera
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Tri-zone automatic climate control
- 8.0-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
An optional Honda Sensing package adds a suite of safety features.
- Handling is nicely composed, just about right for a vehicle of this nature. Ride comfort takes precedence, courtesy of relatively soft springing, along with easygoing road behavior.
- V6 engine exerts a strong pull with either transmission, promising brisk acceleration.
- Fuel economy is better than it used to be – the EPA estimates 20 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, and 23 mpg combined (with the nine-speed and front-wheel drive).
- The nine-speed automatic transmission can become uncertain and hesitant at times. It’s operated by a set of buttons on the center console, whereas the six-speed uses a shift lever.
- Steering isn’t particularly sharp, but it’s relaxed in nature – appropriate for a crossover.
- The luxurious cabin includes well-bolstered seats and abundant cargo room. The high driving position should be a bonus for shorter drivers.
- Encased in abundant glass, including tall windows, the Pilot cabin is carefully organized. A vast panoramic roof is available, too, to enhance the sense of basking in natural light.
- Front-seat shaping is practically ideal, while relatively low step-in height helps when getting in and out – even though ground clearance is 7.3 inches. Adults get impressive head and leg space even in the fold-flat third-row seat.
- Despite its ample leg and head space, the third-row seat is near the floor, thus short on leg support. Getting there requires slipping through a narrow space.
- Not everyone cares for the pushbutton shifter used by the nine-speed transmission.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Practical extras take precedence, including bountiful storage possibilities, cupholders throughout, a large console, and cargo well at the rear. There’s even a reversible cargo panel that can hold soiled items properly.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The latest safety features are not included on lower-trim models, but Honda Sensing – a suite of four active-safety and driver-assistance technologies – is a $1,000 option for LX and standard on top trim levels. Crash-test ratings include a five-star overall score from NHTSA and Top Safety Pick+ from IIHS. However, NHTSA gave only a four-star rating for frontal crash – a bit disappointing for a highly-regarded vehicle.
The Bottom Line
The capable, refined Pilot conveys a sense of mature near-luxury, as well as providing welcome space and passenger comfort. Additional features seem eminently sensible as you move up the price scale. Best bet might be an EX (or EX-L) with the Honda Sensing safety-option package a must-have.
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