The Honda Pilot has been a mainstay of the crossover niche since 2002. Even with the segment's burgeoning popularity and the ensuing scramble by automakers to cash in on the stilted-wagon mania, the Pilot remains a top pick amongst buyers. Why? For the same reasons Honda's other mainstream offerings have been successful – it's intuitive, reliable, well-built, and has a dash of that quintessential Honda ingenuity. Unsurprisingly, those traits all persevere into 2018.
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2018 Honda Pilot Overview
What's New for 2018
There are no notable changes for the Honda Pilot for 2018.
Choosing Your Honda Pilot
Another reason the Pilot sells like hot dogs at a baseball game is because Honda offers so many different versions. With five trim levels, and four of those offering a choice of AWD or FWD, buyers have nine distinct iterations they can choose from. Then there's the options list to consider, which offers further opportunities to turn the straightforward act of picking a Pilot into one with all the simplicity of the Free Bird guitar solo. Specifically, buyers can opt for a rear-seat entertainment system, a navigation system, and the Honda Sensing Suite of safety technologies, which includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning.
Where buyers don't have much of a choice is in the engine bay. All 2018 Pilots come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Honda fanboys will be happy to hear that the classic VTEC variable valve-timing technology is present and accounted for, and newer advances such as direct-injection and variable cylinder management also play a role here. Somewhat surprisingly, no four-cylinder engine is offered, even though competitors such as the Chevy Traverse and Mazda CX-9 do have four-pot power on tap.
The three lower-tier Pilots use a familiar six-speed automatic, but the top two trims – Touring and Elite – have a nine-speed automatic. The FWD six-speed units have an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 19 miles per gallon city, 26 highway and 22 combined, and AWD models return 18/25/21. The additional cogs of the nine-speed boost the FWD Touring's rating to 20/27/23; the MPG of the AWD Touring and Elite increases to 19/26/22 over six-speed equipped AWD models. Speaking of the AWD system, getting power to all four wheels costs an extra $2,000 across the board.
The Elite is far too close to $50,000, and the extra features it comes with are frivolous at best. Because of this, we'd avoid it – you're better off buying an Acura MDX if you want a dressed-to-the-nines crossover built by Honda. We'd also stay away from the LX for the opposite reasons – it's too sparsely equipped to be worth the cost savings. So, which one would we pick? The EX. It combines a reasonable price with list of standard features that'll keep most drivers comfortable and satisfied.
2018 Honda Pilot Review
Looking past its understated design, average fuel economy, and fussy nine-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Honda Pilot offers solid, predictable handling, a well-organized and nicely-appointed cabin, and an attractive array of advanced safety features.
Prices for the Pilot begin at $31,875 for a front-wheel-drive LX and top out at $48,445 for an all-wheel-drive Elite. In between is a bewildering array of trims that can be chalked up to Honda's reliance on distinct models rather than trim-level option packages. Thankfully, choosing an engine is simpler – the only choice is a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with either a six- (on LX, EX, and EX-L models) or nine-speed automatic (on Touring and Elite trims) transmission.
The usual power features are accounted for as well as keyless push-button start, a 5.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, LED brake lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a rearview camera. EX and EX-Ls with Honda Sensing – along with Touring, and Elite trims – come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and road departure mitigation. Honda's Lane Watch passenger-side camera is standard on EX, EX-L, and Touring models, while Elites have blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
Considering the Pilot's family-friendly mission, we'd suggest the mid-range EX-L with Honda Sensing that features easy-to-clean leather seats and additional standard features like a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, three-zone automatic climate control, One-Touch second row seats that electrically move forward for easier access to the third row, roof rails, a power driver seat, heated front seats, satellite radio, and fog lights.
Here’s how we’d build it:
- Model: 2018 Honda Pilot EX-L
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6
- Output: 280 hp / 262 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- MPG: 19 City / 27 Hwy
- Options: All-wheel drive ($1,900), Honda Sensing ($1,000)
- Base Price:$37,735 (including the $975 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$40,635
The V6 offers crisp acceleration and pairs nicely with either the smooth-shifting six-speed or the double-downshift-capable nine-speed automatic that holds gears longer. The ride is soft with plenty of compliance, the AWD system is quick to respond, while the driver-selectable traction-management system provides very good all-weather capability.
At the same time, the six-speed automatic is slower off the line and winds higher at highway speeds, the nine-speed suffers from occasional jerky shifts, and, the suspension seems sloppier with less control over wheel rebound and more noise compared to rivals. Additionally, the steering is also light with little feedback to the driver, fuel economy is only average, while advanced safety features are unavailable on the base model.
Although understated, the Pilot's design still manages to hit the the sweet spot between too dressy and overly macho. It's wrapped around a well-finished interior that takes its design cues from the latest Accord and storage solutions from the CR-V. Seating is supportive, the driving position is high and commanding, and the controls are intuitive. Storage includes 109 cubic feet behind the front row, 55.9 cubic feet behind the second row, and 18.5 cubic feet behind a third row that features enough space for adults.
Minor nits include no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the LX, the lack of a One-Touch second row on LX and EX models, mediocre leather seat side bolsters, and – most glaringly – the absence of a volume knob on the radio.
The Best and Worst Things
The Pilot tempts with a nicely-trimmed cabin that offers plenty of cargo space. We only wish the nine-speed automatic was smoother and the driving experience was more engaging.
Right For? Wrong For?
The Pilot's spacious, well-appointed interior and long list of advanced safety features should entice safety-conscious families.
At the same time, enthusiasts will find that a number of competing vehicles offer crisper handling.
The Bottom Line
Despite middling fuel economy, a finicky nine-speed transmission, and the lack of a volume knob for the radio, the 2018 Honda Pilot's confidant handling, spacious and well-organized cabin, and broad lineup of advanced safety features make it a top choice in its class.
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